Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doesn't Anyone Read Orwell Anymore?


I think Fred Reed (U.S. Marine combat vet, Southern redneck, intellectual, adventurer, expat, wordsmith, journalist, bon vivant, and truly conservative social critic) drew a bead on this nonsense last year with this column. Here's a few lines about his dismal trip to Washington, DC:

Meanwhile, things get loonier on the street. I went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore from DC by train and, so help me, they’re doing the same garish security theater on trains that they do at hairports. Cops and German Shepherds everywhere. To buy a freaking commuter-rail ticket, you need a photo ID, and they type heaven knows what into a computer.

Okay, suppose I show up at the Obedience Training window with my suitcase full of Semtex, buy my ticket with my own ID or any ID with a balding ugly mutt on it—they barely look at it—and blow the 9:07 MARC to metallic sawdust. After the fact they assemble my shards, check the computer, and determine that It Must Have Been Fred. This miraculously brings the dead back to life. Bet you didn’t know I had such powers.

None of it makes sense, except as Pavlovian conditioning. Every few minutes a tedious recording plays in stations saying to call some number if you see suspicious behavior. Blah blah blah. No one pays the least attention. No one writes the number down. Has anyone ever called it?

“Uh, I want to report suspicious behavior.”

Voice, annoyed at having the Redskins game interrupted: “Yeah, what?”

“Well, there’s like, this guy, he has a funny looking raincoat and he keeps, you know, looking around, and I think his left hand is twitching.”

“Uh…yeah. Tell him to stop twitching.”

“What if he, you know, blows up or something?”

“What am I, your mother?”

I don’t get it. Something is happening to this country. It still has a lot going for it—friendly people, great diners, good blues, country bands, widespread availability of illegal drugs. But the government is out of control. Everything is illegal and watched. It’s getting so you can’t shoot cats from a car window with a twelve-gauge any more. Who wants to live in that kind of world? We’ll probably be overrun by cats, drown in them.

Today I went to the Hill to see the new Visitors Center. As usual, cops everywhere, squad cars parked on sidewalks, steel stop’em-cars plates rising from streets. People don’t seem frightened, but the government is, or pretends to be.

The Visitors Center turns out to be underground at the Capitol. It is said to have cost $761 temporarily deflated green ones and has the mental fingerprints of Albert Speer all over it: It’s huge, drab, squarish, monumental without even being imposing, with the √©lan of a K-Street office building.

I don’t get it. This is the country that produced Peggy Lee and Tampa Red and the ’fitty-sedden Chevy, the country that spits techno-whizz golf carts onto Mars just like it was even possible, that brought the hamburger to gorgeous bejuiced perfection and invented most of the modern world. It’s the home of sand-lot baseball and Little Peggy March and BB guns and Tasty Freeze. It is, in a phrase, one fine place.

How did it sink to being a proto-Soviet surveillance state that builds vast awful Visitor Centers in the style of a Hitlerian mauseoleum? You can’t go to the john without a photo ID anymore. Something ain’t right.


Ewe said...

Fr. Hollywood,
You are assuming by your post title that people actually read anymore.
Fr. Bibliophile

Larry said...

I was sure this was a spoof but it turns out it's from the extremely creepy LAPD website


I was sure at first THAT was a spoof but after digging around I could not find any sign that it was, it seems the creepy totalitarian crap there is for real. I'm going to drive AROUND LA the next time I pass through SoCal. Please tell me these sites are elaborate hoaxes and I don't live in Oceania, I don't recall moving there but looking around I seem to be there...

Mike Keith said...


I can't believe the US beat us Canadians to it mind you. Apparently in the UK the CC TV cameras are everywhere.

Matthias Flacius said...

While I share you general feeling about this I would like to give a contrarian position.

There are still people who want very much to cause great harm to American citizens. Is it not analogous to a neighborhood watch for criminals to be vigilant about looking for possible terrorist activity?

I believe it is a real possibility that a terrorist group could set off a massive bomb or atomic weapon in our country. How should we deal with such a potential action?

As to the quoted comments, do you not think the U.S. Capitol needs security? I like to think that if someone had been more vigilant in government and as citizens we might not have had OK City in 1995 or the other terrorist actions by Muslim killers.

So I will watch, I will report activities that seem suspicious. If I see my neighbor buying inordinate amounts of fertilizer and diesel fuel I might say something to someone. If there's an investigation and they've done nothing wrong, then it won't matter.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Matt:

A better approach might be to find out why we are a terrorist target to begin with.

I would also keep Benjamin Franklin's warning about pitting safety against liberty in mind.

As for me, I'd rather live free with a risk of being terrorized by a foreign enemy rather than live a slave with the certainty of being terrorized by a domestic enemy.

When we live lives of fearful paranoid nanny-state big-brother snitchery, bin Laden will have officially won.

I mean, we've gotten to the point where unruly flight passengers and those who buy too much cold medicine are charged with federal crimes under the Patriot (sic) Act. I just don't feel safer knowing that people can't carry a Swiss Army knife with a 2 inch blade into the local courthouse.

I believe the questions to be asking are "cui bono?" and "Dude, where's my country?"

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Bib:


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Larry:

Truth is stranger...

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mike:

And even with Big Brother watching everything and everybody in the UK, it is still racked with crime and violence. I guess at least it can be on TV now...