I remember when I was a kid hearing stories of surveillance in places like East Germany and the USSR and they haunted me. The idea that the government had an ever watchful eye trained on the citizenry just seemed insane and a horrible way to live.
One of the big differences between us, “the free world,” and the communists (I was told) was that we didn’t have a Stazi or a KGB. Our government didn’t fear its own people. We were a free and open society. We were a free people.
However, though we do not live in anything like East Germany (Thank God, and may we never) there is no disputing that we live in a less free society today than just a few years ago. The fact that an increasing number of writers in this country are censoring themselves is not a good sign.
And the heat goes up just another couple of degrees…
(From The Intercept)
Writers living in liberal democracies are now nearly as worried about the government watching them as their colleagues in countries that have long histories of internal spying, according to an international survey conducted by PEN, a literary and human rights organization.
Brave writers have historically stood up to even the gravest threats from authoritarian regimes. Conversely, there have always been some who willingly censor themselves.
But the online survey of 772 self-selected respondents in 50 countries nevertheless indicates that the mass surveillance programs disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are chilling freedom of expression – in some cases, nearly as much as in countries the U.S. considers repressive.