Dr. O. J. Graham
So, George Orwell’s “ Thought Police” in his classic book 1984, are here. Senator Larry Craig was recently arrested by the police on symbolic interactionism. This surely, is a precedent—that humans can now be arrested, not for what they said or did, but on what their symbolic language, as interpreted by another, meant. I, for one, was totally ignorant of the symbolic signs that this police acted upon. Was the Senator aware that his hand as seen by the other occupant in the next toilet stall could be interpreted as “lets have homosexual sex?” If indeed, the Senator even dropped his hand down to pick up something off the floor or whatever. The Senator could have been sabotaged—set up. After all, it was the interpretation of his symbolic language by another—not even one person’s word against him; and there were no witnesses. It seems today, we do not have to say anything—we just have to appear to think it—according to another person’s perspective/interpretation.
Another recent case in point is when the president of American Atheists, Ellen Johnson objected to the minute of silence established in Texas schools instead of prayer. Ellen Johnson went on CNN with anchorman Pagliarulo aired on the Glenn Beck’s program on August 9, 2007, 19:00ET and demanded that the one minute of silence be banned because they may be praying in their minds.
Plainly, Ellen Johnson is another Orwellian Thought Police. Reference must be made of the Thought Police in Capital form because they have become an institutional reality—no longer characters in Orwell’s book—they are here!
Is the public sleeping? These two incidents are setting a very dangerous precedent, and instead of even considering banning the one minute of silence in the schools, we, the people should be banning anyone setting laws against what we may be thinking much less arresting us for it?
Unfortunately, Senator Craig pleaded guilty. But guilty of what? That he indeed moved his hand in a certain way? Or that he was indeed consciously and deliberately using symbolic language and was positively aware that he knew it meant: “Hey you, in the next toilet stall, let’s have physical homosexual sex right now?” What will happen when next I put both hands behind my back? Will it have meaning to someone looking on? And will their perspective/interpretation of that meaning result in an accusation as to what I meant, and my subsequent arrest? Are we now going to be dragged through Courts based upon what our symbolic language meant to another? Is this something else to panic about in this day of terrorism? So, the next time a kid uses his hands to pretend he is throwing something in the air—he could be accused of throwing a bomb—not the baseball he is imagining Dad is getting him for his birthday.
Sociologist George Herbert Mead, was intrigued by symbolic interactionism in human society and wrote a few papers about it. The idea was followed through later by Herbert Blumer, and others; and in time became one of the major perspectives of the discipline of Sociology. Mead went as far as saying even the use of symbols on a flag could shape the behaviour of individuals and consequently shape a society. Blumer says of Mead’s theory, that symbolic interactionism is not what a person says or does but the meaning of what he says or does and this is according to another’s interpretation. In writing about Mead, Blumer admits in his monograph George Herbert Mead and Human Conduct, that Mead's theory was not easily understood at that time. But like George Orwell (alias Eric Blair), Mead was ahead of his time. However, the predictions of both these writers can be seen in our society today. So, if Mead were alive today, he would be pleased to see that at last some of us are beginning to connect the dots. On CNN’s program The Round Table aired Saturday, July 1, 2007 the moderator referred to the Senator Craig’s incident as “soliciting sex in a public washroom.” Well, if this is so, then any woman wearing a mini-skirt or putting her hand near her heart could be interpreted as “soliciting sex on the street.” Is this really an accurate statement or even reasonable?
In fact, the immediate question that needs to be addressed is, are “we the people,” going to sit by and allow the Thought Police to run/ruin our careers and our lives? It is no longer a matter of freedom of speech but freedom of thought. Are we missing this? Is this another legacy we plan to leave the next generation? No freedom at all—not even to think or move our limbs in the privacy of a toilet stall? How dangerous is this—to all of us?