In Praise Of Big Brother: Why We Should Learn To Stop Worrying And Love Government Surveillance

1897 words - 8 pages

Part I:
James Stacey Taylor's article, "In Praise of Big Brother: Why We Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Government Surveillance" begins reviewing the concept of "Big Brother" as it was originally presented in George Orwell's 1984. The Big Brother started off as a fictional character in 1984-- a dictator of Oceania within a totalitarian state. Set within a society in which everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens, the people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” (Wikipedia) . Taylor goes on to explain some examples of recent surveillance technology and how it is applied in lives today. An interesting note and comparison between today’s technology and that of the telescreens in 1984, is that people could be sure that they could not be watched by Big Brother’s telescreens by going out of the cities into the country, where they only had to take care that their conversations were not monitored by hidden microphones (Taylor 227). He contrasts the two, highlighting the fact that “Such an escape is not impossible, for spy satellites can be used to monitor people wherever they go” (277). From there, Taylor perpetuates the framework for his position on the Big Brother notion. Taylor argues that, "rather than opposing such an expansion of surveillance technology, its use should be encouraged -- and not only in the public realm" (227). Taylor’s argument presented in a more formal construction is as follows:

i. If is ever morally permissible for the State to secure information about past events, then it is morally permissible for it to do so through the use of surveillance devices.
ii. It is morally permissible for the State to secure information about past events.
:. Therefore, the State is morally permitted to use surveillance devices.

Consequently, Taylor concludes with that, given this, the State is in principle morally permitted to place its citizens under constant surveillance (228). This only reaffirms his thesis that the “State should place all of its citizens under surveillance at all times and in all places, including their offices, classrooms, shops – and even their bedrooms” (227). To support his conclusion and to quell alarms at the notion of constant surveillance, Taylor reiterates the point that, “in certain circumstances, it is morally permissible for the Stat to secure information about past events” (228). He gives a few criminal trial examples to saturate this claim, such as the State being morally permitted to compel witnesses to testify about past events; however, if the State can only use hindsight to decide what information it is morally permitted to have access to, becoming clear only after the fact what is relevant to solve a crime or judging mitigating circumstances. This brings his argument full circle, showing a situation in which the State could use preemptively gathered information through surveillance retroactively, making it...

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