Earlier this week, my colleague and co-founder of this blog, Paul Taylor, published a post highlighting the role of the media in propagating misconceptions of veterans’ mental health. In yet another example of the media influencing the average citizens’ perceptions of current events and hot topics, a study was recently released identifying George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as the only literary reference used to help explain NSA surveillance, a hot topic in the media over the course of the past year.
The problem with this, as Noah Berlatsky points out in his recent article published in The Atlantic, is that the United States is nothing like the world George Orwell created in his classic novel. Berlatsky says,
“Perhaps a more central problem with using Orwell, though, is that Orwell imagined not just a totalitarian state, but a totalizing one. The Party in 1984controls everything and watches everyone. People have no rights, no power—even language and metaphors themselves are officially vetted by the state machinery. This isn’t the world we live in, and, as Solove says, it’s not the world we’re “heading toward” either. Most people, most of the time, are not directly confronted with a police state.”
Berlatsky continues to explain that using Orwell’s work to explain NSA spying is an example of “distortion by metaphor.” This is, in my view, one of the most accurate phrases I’ve heard in recent memory to describe the media’s role in influencing the public’s misperceptions of hot topics in the news. As Berlatsky explains, we are not all equally targeted, this is not an issue of liberty, but one of justice. NSA data is not going to be used against the average, middle-class citizen; it is going to be used against those who are already marginalized and oppressed.
I encourage you to read the article in its entirety here.