Opinion | When ‘Big Brother’ Isn’t Scary Enough - The New York Times
Très bel article sur les métaphores utilisées pour exprimer la surveillance de masse. Quand « 1984 » n’est pas le plus adapté.
Seven decades after the publication of George Orwell’s “1984,” “Big Brother” remains the go-to metaphor for surveillance, big and small. “Fried onion meets 1984,” read the header of a Wired article on Outback Steakhouse’s surveillance cameras. “China’s Cryptocurrency Plan Has a Powerful Partner: Big Brother,” a New York Times headline announced last month.
As surveillance technology grows more complex, it outpaces public understanding of the threats it poses. The future of surveillance looks far more expansive and invasive than the Big Brother metaphor can capture. Where we’re headed, we’re going to need better metaphors — ones that accurately capture the diffuse, discriminatory and often secretive nature of both government and private surveillance.
When we talk in simple terms about complicated topics, metaphors are tremendously helpful. But they can often carry with them an implicit solution: If something is an “enemy,” it must be defeated; if something is “cancer,” it must be eradicated; and so on. Precise metaphors can lead to appropriate solutions, while imprecise metaphors can lead us to the wrong course of action (or to apathy).
In “1984,” Big Brother never actually appears. Rather, he is the figurehead of a totalitarian political party that tries to break citizens of their free will, partly through warnings of persistent surveillance. “Big Brother is watching you” goes the (sinister) refrain. While chilling, this doesn’t quite capture what we’re up against today. In Orwell’s Oceania, citizens don’t also face the threats of privately funded drones, for example, or apps that spy on them, or police lineups containing their driver’s license photos. In the real world, we face a panoply of surveillance threats that go beyond even the most frightening coordinated government surveillance. Big Brother captures only a slice.