“Paranoia strikes deep,
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid,
Step out of line, the man come and take you away.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica announced recently it will cease production of its print version and continue as an on-line version only. I have mixed feelings about this. I understand the finances of the decision, but it makes me just a trifle nervous. It makes me nervous because the day after I heard about that, CNN reported that US Attorney General Eric Holder has approved more extensive surveillance powers over normal guys, regular citizens. Guys like me.
Oh, come on! Am I the only one who sees the connection here?
Books represent knowledge and knowledge is power. (Not all books, of course. Some are mindless garbage, only good for throwing at the cat when she’s chasing the dog.) If the Encyclopedia Britannica becomes an on-line-only entity, what about future dystopian “cleansing?”
I know what you’re thinking. If you’re old enough to remember humorist James Thurber (1894-1961, co-author, with E. B. White, of the book with the greatest title of all time: Is Sex Necessary?) you’re thinking poor old Jameson is becoming more and more like Thurber’s aunt, the one who believed electricity “leaked out” of the plugs. Peculiar. That’s the word you’re groping for. But just stay with me for a moment. Hear me out.
You and I and practically everyone else have won the Nigerian super-lotto (without even buying a ticket!). And you and I and practically everyone else live in danger of having those winnings and, more to the point, our lives’ savings stolen from us by anonymous internet sharks in the Ukraine or Pakistan or China. Or wherever. Consider the Zeus virus. Consider the Stuxnet virus and how it became a pipe-wrench in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Consider that merely by writing these words, I have activated an automated computer surveillance program housed in a former bakery in Santa Clara, and that every word I now type is being monitored and screened and analyzed for its hidden meaning, for its secret messages and intricate codes, for impurities, for chemical traces, for controlled substances, for blood stains, for exceeding the speed limit. Google and Amazon and others track our interests and purchases; why not Big Brother?
If all knowledge is housed in the precarious and vulnerable realm of cyberspace, and books—like sex—become unnecessary, whoever controls cyberspace controls knowledge. And if someday a particular ideal or concept or activity—like sex—is deemed dangerous or undesirable or unhealthy, why, all our controllers have to do is hit the delete button and allow for a few generations of brainwashing to take effect, and presto! Compared to the efficiency of that kind of mind-control, Fahrenheit 451becomes positively medieval, and some hacker in Boston or Bahrain or Beijing or Bangladesh will rule the universe.
If only I had taken a course in computer programming!
In the meantime, I am selling my books on-line, so please download them ASAP. Before they get censored, because you know government agents are scrutinizing every line.
Of course, maybe the government agents like my books. Maybe they’re getting caught up in the story. Maybe they like them enough to boost sales. Maybe they’ll write a sizzling review…