“Is Big Brother watching?”

Not that many years ago, the idea of video cameras filming just about everywhere — on streets, in stores, in parks, on school buses — would have drawn quotations from George Orwell’s 1984:  “Big Brother is watching.”

But I have not heard any objections of the kind for years now.

Indeed, today’s conviction of the younger brother of the two terrorists who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013 may be the pivotal turning point in favor of even more cameras.  Without video cameras rolling the entire time, the two might well have gone undetected, perhaps to attempt yet another act of public mayhem.  Only by splicing videos from all up and down the area of the finish line were the brothers singled out and eventually identified.

Almost every night on the news, there’s a video of a burglary at a store — with the public being asked for help in identifying the perpetrator.

I remember in the earliest days when videos were first being installed in grocery stores, reading a newspaper columnist whose main concern was:  “Where do you go to itch that uncontrollable itch if you’re being watched everywhere?”

It’s laughable now to think that this was the extent of concern over the loss of privacy.  Today, when we are in a public place, we have learned to expect that we are being taped.

That is, we have learned balance — what we’re willing to give up vs. what protection is needed in a new setting of not just shop-lifting and burglary but terrorism.

It makes me wonder about Edward Snowden.  Some individuals under cover of night erected a statue of Snowden in a park in New York City.  He was being hailed as a hero.  Government authorities had the statue removed as soon as the ploy was discovered.

Is he a hero?  I’m no extremist when it comes to asserting that the government is always wrong — the dissident is always right.

I wish he would return to the states and take his chance in a court.  He would have any number of five-star attorneys eager to take his side.

The case would be about exactly this matter of balance.  In an age of terrorism, what are we willing to give up vs. what is going too far?


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