EUGENE, Ore. — Somebody is watching me is a “feeling” that many here in the Eugene area mention when standing in a line at a local store, or some county or other government building.
“It’s very strange to see so much surveillance going on around here,” quips Eugene local Rich says while pointing to numerous cameras in the downtown area that “are looking at me right now.”
Rich also explains that such massive surveillance is “going on just about everywhere these days and people sort of take it for granted. They don’t speak of it because it’s the elephant in the room or something around Eugene right now.
Big Brother in the Eugene area is no joke, but very real, say locals
In American cities today police and others use cutting-edge technology that’s linked into surveillance cameras that watch the citizenry; that’s not the case, however, in a suburb of Eugene called “Deadwood” where hundreds of locals shun “anything and everything electronic” and live “off the grind” so as to protect themselves from a 2011 version of “Big Brother.”
While the small neary hamlet of Deadwood (outside of Eugene) is an exception to the rule — of a community being wired to the teeth with thousands of cutting-edge surveillance cameras that watch both the city and its citizenry — there’s the other end of spectrum in New York City that boasts more than 2,000 security cameras on the streets with plans to add another 1,000 cameras so every corner of the Big Apple is watched on massive surveillance screens inside the New York City Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit that’s described as the “most sophisticated in the world.” Because New York City is a terrorist target, officials say such mass surveillance is needed. But citizens in other parts of the country now wonder why they’re on camera 24/7.
Massive surveillance efforts now happening in every community in America
Surveillance is defined as “the monitoring of behavior, activities, or other changing information, involving people.” Experts say surveillance is “sometimes done in a surreptitious manner,” such as the surveillance camera that are hidden in stories and shopping malls.
Here in Deadwood, a retro-Sixties community of self-proclaimed “free thinkers,” there’s no sign of anything that’s tied to what locals call “the grid.”
“We never use credit cards, or the Internet that’s tied to a service provider. We don’t watch TV or download anything. We are off the grid simply because we don’t appreciate being watched by so-called government groups because we view the 24-hour surveillance that’s going on over in Eugene and other areas as a ‘disease of society,’ and we don’t want to be infected,” explained Errol, a longtime Deadwood resident who also referenced George Orwell’s novel “1984.”
Surveillance comes from the French word for “watching over.” Since the publication of “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” in the September 1949, there have been people such as Errol and others who believe Orwell’s enigmatic “Big Brother” who runs a totalitarian state is a warning to Western civilization that the fiction of 1984 is happening now in 2011 with the rise of the “machine” (technology) and a society that ruled by those who want to wield total power over its inhabitants.
At the same time, Homeland Security reminds Americans that we live in a time of global terrorism and America is still fighting a War on Terror. Thus, the Patriotic Act is needed to protect citizenry, and that’s why there are so many surveillance cameras “everywhere” these days.
In turn, the society that Orwell describes – where “everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities” – feeds those who “live off the grid” because they view today’s massive surveillance in America as akin to Orwell’s phrase “Big Brother is watching you.
In fact, since the publication of Nineteen Eight-Four (1984), the term “Big Brother” has entered the American lexicon as a synonym for “abuse of government power,” particularly in respect to civil liberties and is often cited when referring “mass surveillance” that’s now become part of everyone’s life in America and most European countries today.
New York City surveillance needed in a time of terrorism
A CBS News “60 Minutes” TV program on Sept. 25 revealed that New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly is very serious when it comes to mass surveillance.
When asked what message Kelly has for potential terrorists during Sept. 25 “60 Minutes” interview, New York City’s top cop said: “If you see the movie ‘Casablanca,’ and you have Humphrey Bogart talking to Colonel Strasser. And he says that he would advise the Nazis to think twice about invading certain parts of New York City.”
Kelly then quotes Humphrey Bogart: “Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade,” and then adds the message today from New York City to terrorists is “Stay away.”
“Kelly has built something else that most New Yorkers never see. It is nearly impossible now to walk a block in lower Manhattan without being on television. There are 2,000 cameras, and soon there will be 3,000 – all of which feed into this control center housed in a secret location,” stated the Sept. 25 “60 Minutes” report by adding that such cameras amount to a “$150 million surveillance system that monitors the cameras and all those radiation detectors. A powerful computer, using artificial intelligence actually watches all of the cameras at once and it knows if a package has been left in one place too long.”
Surveillance cameras in stores means you’re always being monitored
We don’t notice it, but we are surrounded by security cameras that are most especially conducting surveillance at shopping malls around the country, according to National Security Agency (NSA) testimony before Congress in wake of 9/11. Those in the know with deep technical knowledge of surveillance say just about every major community in America today is being watched.
In turn, those who live in nearby Deadwood say “the rise of America’s surveillance state happened quickly after 9/11, and it’s growing more powerful into a ‘Big Brother’ each and every day.”
At the same time, one of the main themes that emerged from the 9/11 attacks say NSA officials was a need to “connect the dots” about where the enemy is and what the enemy is doing. Increased and even invasive surveillance was viewed as the solution, states congressional from NSA and other American think tanks on how the country could increase security to prevent future attacks.
Those in Congress who are concerned about the rise of America’s surveillance state insist that they are defenders of civil liberties and worry that modern technology will allow surveillance by just about anybody in this country to go “un-checked.”
The result is covert surveillance that’s moved from government institutions and banks, to your neighborhood shopping mall, state surveillance experts in their testimony before Congress.
“I was surprised to go into our security area and be able to use our camera to zoom in close on a shopper that, perhaps, we suspected of committing a crime. I could even read the brand off one lady’s glasses, and see her credit card,” says Seth who works at the busy River Valley Mall in Eugene.
Seth also notes that the mall’s surveillance system has been upgraded in recent years, and its “state-of-the art.”
Living off the grid in Deadwood, Oregon, means “Big Brother” is not welcomed
“In the near future, both private and governmental total information systems will monitor every aspect of our lives. A central computer will remember where we go and what we buy, the e-mail we write, and the books we read,” writes the famed writer John Twelve Hawks in his “Traveler” series that topped the New York Times bestseller list for three years straight.
Twelve Hawks, which is an alias per the writer lives “off the grid” somewhere in the southwestern part of the U.S., is revered here in the “Deadwood, Oregon, Commune Community,” as it’s called in this western suburb of Eugene.
An alias is a false name used to conceal one’s identity.
“Each attack on privacy is justified by the pervasive culture of fear that seems to surround us and grow stronger every day,” states Twelve Hawks in a brochure that’s used at one of Deadwood’s post-Sixties communes on why there’s no Internet, TV or cable service.
“There’s a real fear that unless we remain off the grid, the so-called ‘Big-Brother’ will be watching us, and we can’t deal with that,” says a Deadwood resident who also goes by an alias.