It’s 2018. What a time to be alive. I’m going to argue that we have created a science fiction nightmare not even Harlan Ellison or Philip K Dick could’ve imagined. This feels an awful lot like choir-preaching, but I don’t think even those nodding their heads from the pews have considered the full implications of this monstrous Panopticon we inhabit.
Our first example is the world of social media, in which show-trials of public opinion can be commenced on finding ancient Tweets or Facebook posts, regardless of how old they are. This is particularly worrisome since the age of the person when they made the initial comment is no longer sufficient to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even being a young black Heisman Trophy winner isn’t enough to keep frothing lynch-mobs of outraged white liberals at bay when they find “homophobic” Tweets you sent out at age 14. If you make the same exact error while committing the crime of being a white baseball player, expect to submit to the full force of the Inquisition and get hauled off to the Thought Reform Clinic.
The totalitarian absolutism of this situation is such that conceivably, anything you have ever said online over the course of your entire human existence could be used against you. Being a child at the time, saying something in the heat of the moment, making an honest mistake, none of this is exculpatory. You can now be tried and convicted for things that occurred years before you were born, for a single statement your father made three decades ago.
If you’re criminally charged, it’s possible to be convicted of premeditated murder based on posting a meme months before the incident if it reflects the sentiments of a long deceased comedian. I don’t wanna beat a dead horse here, but sharing an image millions of normal, everyday right-wingers were giggling about does not establish any criminal intent. What if your Google history shows you watching the previously hinted Bill Hicks “Step on the gas” bit before you accidentally hit a pedestrian 10 years later? If the prosecution uses this against you, can you prove you aren’t guilty of murderous wrong-think? You laughed one time at an “edgy” comedian joking about running over an old woman with a baby carriage, that means you’re a murderer! Puritans could never have dreamed of a system this adept at finding heresy and sin.
The new precedent is, any online participation you have ever engaged in at any time in your life could be used as criminal evidence against you in ways you never would have considered. This is a totalitarian surveillance state of such nightmarish, dystopian proportions that it can hold your entire life and the lives of your forebears under a fucking microscope until it finds something to throw you into the gulag for. You cannot even begin to prepare for the possible manifold paths to your own unemployment or destination in a prison cell.
The counter to this is that one could simply not use the internet, a difficult proposition in the Current Year, but even if this momentousness feat were achieved, there is another problem:
Even if you had zero online presence, which you obviously don’t since you’re reading this article, other people can simply film you and edit it as evidence against you. Right now an outrage mob is howling for the head of a Columbia University Student after he drunkenly admitted to “loving white people”. He didn’t post this on social media, this was filmed on a smart phone, probably by the sort of person who would antagonize an intoxicated hapless youngster into saying something “controversial”. Even if you aren’t voluntarily providing material for the frothing bands of dysfunctional “resisters” hoping to report you to the authorities, they will just forcibly collect the “evidence” themselves.
There is simply no escape, there is no defense.
This is the intolerable, paranoid dystopia you live under. Make no mistake, being in open warfare with visible enemies bunkered down in trenches opposite from you and bullets whizzing over your head is less stressful. At least you know who the threats are and what weapons they have at their disposal; being in a police state where citizens collect evidence and inform on each other means every single moment is potentially occupied by another spy looking to put a knife in your back. This is not a sustainable set of affairs for any society and history shows there’s eventually a major course correction. You don’t get political stability when the citizenry is nervously sweating about being getting fired for a drunken YouTube comment. You now live under something worse than previous authoritarian regimes because of the combination of technological advancement, the deputized fellow citizens, and a system of espionage so complete it can scour any part of your history, potentially even genetic ancestry, until some “damning” factoid is uncovered. Do you think the sorts of people that howl for the erasure of historical monuments and demand reparations won’t eventually petition for your dismissal from a job because you had a distant ancestor who owned slaves?
This is so much worse than you could ever realize and it gets nastier every single day.