During the 1990's, the term "thought police" was used as a colorful euphemism describing academic administrators and allied activist mobs who roamed the halls of higher education imposing the dictates of political correctness upon college campuses across the nation. However, in this new Post-9/11 era we are constantly being told about, that phrase too takes on a whole new meaning.
Use to be in authoritarian police states the oppressed could find a degree of comfort by retreating within themselves to the solace of their own thoughts. That is a luxury that even Americans will no longer enjoy if certain individuals in government and industry have their way.
Science fiction often speculates about the ability to read the human mind. The Vulcans on "Star Trek" have their mind meld. On "Babylon 5", there is a government agency, known as the Psi-Corps, staffed by telepaths who use their extrasensory abilities for various intelligence, law enforcement, and conspiratorial activities. These disturbing methods of distracting information could be well on their way to becoming reality.
NASA, in conjunction with the airline industry, is developing a device capable of reading the thoughts of passengers by measuring brain waves and correlating this data with that of certain emotional states and frames of mind. Don't dismiss this story as the ravings of militia men obsessed with black helicopters or an ufologist with his head stuck in a cropcircle. This information comes straight from the pages of the August 17, 2002 Washington Times, a reasonably reliable journalistic outlet.
The ranks of the empty-headed who cheerfully support any curtailment of liberty so long as it is wrapped in the pseudo-patriotic pretensions of preventing terrorism might not mind having the most intimate corners of their intellectual recesses probed by the likes of airport security. But if these simpletons believe this technology will remain locked behind the security counter, these scanners might not have much to detect when it comes to these dullards.
For if devices can be devised to decipher the psychological emanations associated with terrorism, there is nothing preventing this technology from being used to detect other states of consciousness as well. For example, radical feminists obsessed with sexual harassment could be alerted whenever a flirtatious manager stole a glimpse of that comely secretary in the cubicle next door (these feminists, on the other hand, would likely be so hideous in appearance and shrill in personality they'd never cause anyone to set off the alarm).
More disturbingly, this technology could be used by the government to impose a monolithic set of beliefs. After all, one can't very well keep one's contrary opinions to himself when the powers that be insist upon rummaging through them like last year's tax return.
Revelation 13:12 says of the False Prophet, the Anti-Christ's chief economic and religious stooge, "...and he causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast (KJV)..." This is further elaborated in verse 15 which reads, "...and cause all who refused to worship the image [of the first beast] to be killed."
Lord only knows (quite literally) that not everyone who shows up at church is in a worship frame of mind. Likewise, just because someone, say, knelt before this said audioanimatronic or virtual reality image, without a way to objectively quantify what's transpiring in someone else's mind, it would be impossible to determine if they were merely doing it to preserve their own lives, out of a sincere adoration of evil, or simply lost in their thoughts wondering whether they left the coffee pot boiling back at the house. Sound far fetched? Scientists have already mapped those parts of the brain active during what's perceived as religious experience.
One doesn't have to be a prophecy enthusiast to be concerned about the oppressive potentiality of this technology. Mihir Kshirisagar of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Washington Times, "A lot of people's fears of flying would send those meters off the charts. Are they going to pull all those people aside?"
With the prospects of having to drink their own breastmilk or to strip-down to who knows what to tantalize airport security, it's only natural there's going to be an undercurrent of hostility seething within the bosoms of those forced for whatever reason to endure air travel. And declaring airports to be places where thoughts regarding terrorism and feelings of anxiety are not allowed ensures that is what passengers will think about entering these transportation hubs. Just try not thinking about pink elephants when admonished not to. Leave it to the government to misunderstand the dynamics of human nature.
If this technology catches on, it is possible to conceive of a future not unlike that depicted by this summer's blockbuster "Minority Report" with scanners on every corner ascertaining the mood of pedestrians as they walk by to see if they live up to some arbitrary standard of happiness. Before long, those in authority would be able to weed out the naturally disgruntled, claiming they could not afford the time to distinguish those who channel their dissatisfaction into acceptable forms of disagreement from those prone to nihilistic violence.
William Lind of The Free Congress Foundation jokingly remarked we ought to be relived that the suspected Shoe Bomber possessed only combustible footwear instead of an exploding suppository or we'd be forced to remove more than our shoes as we were wanded by security. Now seems authorities want to go poking around parts of the individual that ought to remain as private.
Immediately following the September 2001 attacks, President Bush stood before the American people calling for the noble undertaking of ridding the world of terrorism for the purposes of preserving freedom. But if even the very thoughts in our heads are no longer ours to keep to ourselves alone, are we truly free? Seems this battle may have been lost before it ever really began.
Copyright 2002 by Frederick B. Meekins