Big Brother is watching – be careful what you say

Nasser bin Ghaith, a decorated former air force pilot from a prominent Dubai family was one of the five activists arrested. Al-Arabiya

The Arab Spring was the result of many different factors and each country had its own and separate root causes.  The issues in Libya were not the same as those in Egypt, nor are the issues the same in Tunisia as they are in Syria – and with today’s pro-Assad demonstrations it is not quite certain Syria is even going to end up as part of the Arab Spring in the history books.  Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan have all flirted with their own version of the Spring.  Every country has its unique problems and conditions that led common citizens to unite and demand change.

Although the specifics were different in each country, there was a common objective in all the countries, including Israel; a desire for economic and political freedom. Young and well-educated people are frustrated that they can find no place in today’s society nor any hope for the future.  There was another common ingredient in all of the countries – the Internet and social media.  The demonstrators have all used the Internet to organize demonstrations and spread their beliefs and demands.  The use of the Internet to organize is not limited to the Middle East – the “occupiers” in the United States are using it, the rioters in England also did.  Of course, that is not new, but beginning with the demonstrators in Cairo the Internet has become much more important and significant in all cases of social criticism and disobedience.

Because it has become such a powerful tool, governments are stepping up their efforts to keep it within the bounds of control of the state.  Unchecked, the Internet and all social media represent a threat to social order – conversely left unchecked government control of social media threatens freedom of speech for all citizens.  Pick your side carefully and be prepared to defend it – because it is a battle that will be fought many times in the coming years.  I suspect no country will escape the fight and no government will feel safe nor any citizen feel completely free.  The battleground is very new and very important.

It concerns me for obvious reasons, I want to be free to express my opinion. But there are subjects that may always be restricted; for example, once before 9-11 you could make jokes in the airport or on an airplane – but not now.  Regardless of how silly some procedures may be at times, the civil servant “checking you out” has all of the force of the federal government behind them and you have no protection or rights against his actions.   Last week a woman with a headscarf was taken off a plane for saying into her cell phone as she was hanging up, “I have to go now.”  The flight attendant thought she said, “it is a go now.”  Panic ensued and the woman was arrested.

It will get worse; like this story from the United Arab Emirates, which may sound as if it could not happen here – it could happen anywhere.  And as the young people in England will tell you, when it feels threatened any government will take protective measures.   And that means restricting your ability to speak your mind and it also means turning the technologies against you.  Welcome to the wonderful world of the 21st century, a marvelous world of amazing technologies.  But, as George Orwell warned lo those many years ago – “be careful big brother is watching.”

UAE authorities arrested five bloggers in April on charges of attempting to undermine public order and opposing the government. … The five accused are also blamed for criticising the government on Emirati websites. The trial has been postponed until October 23 after the five defendants failed to appear in court. They allege that they have been mistreated in prison.  Most of the proceedings have taken place behind closed doors. …Human Rights Watch dismissed them as “more a political theatre than a trial.” Al-Arabiya, 10-12-11


1 Response to “Big Brother is watching – be careful what you say”

  1. 1 Scott Ezell December 12, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Be careful what you say. Big brothers watching you. Sound kind of familar? Ever heard of cold war Russia? Thats where were heading and/or are already at. Pretty soon well have to show our papers so we can get around.

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