The Corner

U.S.

Self-Imposed Orwell

There is no sinister, government-run mass-surveillance system watching our every move. The vast majority of us chose to carry around smartphones with cameras, and some of us chose to livestream so much of what we see, whether it’s dramatic or not. Big Brother isn’t watching; the mob is — at least when a particular moment is pitched to potential viewers as dramatic and demanding attention.

There is no sinister, government-run system for punishing those who say or do controversial or unpopular things. Groups of often-anonymous individuals on social media take it upon themselves to enact their vision of justice — demanding the identification of anyone seen acting controversially on social media videos, declare them “guilty of hate crimes,” and demanding “action” against them.

There is no state pressure needed to get private institutions to turn against suddenly ostracized individuals. Employers will quickly fire anyone who they deem to be a sufficient public-relations headache. Publishers preemptively warn authors that they will not stand by them if they become “the subject of public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals.” In the face of sufficient social-media outrage and negative press coverage, churches and religious schools will publicly promise to contemplate expulsion. Local officials with no jurisdiction over any particular affair will welcome “a tidal wave of condemnation.”

There is no state-run system for collective punishment; there is instead individuals calling for all colleges to express skepticism about any applicant from Covington Catholic High School.

No hostile foreign power had to invade to impose these conditions upon Americans. No sinister cabal took control of the reins of our government. No one tore up the Constitution and imposed martial law or suddenly announced a new regime of seemingly random spotlighted surveillance and draconian social punishment for deviating from the mob’s amorphous definition of acceptable behavior. Groups of not-particularly famous, not-particularly powerful Americans chose to impose this new system upon all of us.

I guess the Libertarians were right after all: Individuals in the private sector really can handle a lot of tasks traditionally handled by the government.

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