I remember it very clearly. I read international newspapers, because by mixing and matching their various viewpoints and biases, you came closer to the truth. I remember an uproar the day before: a new survey showed that we were the third largest threat to world security; those of us without a sense of irony took to the streets and rioted.
The next day the news was gone. It wasn’t on the radio or on the television; in fact, there were reports on both stating that the survey had been propaganda, a European Union smear campaign planned to cause dissent and dissidence. The saavy among us knew the government controlled the airwaves, and through them indirectly the news heralds, and climbed online. And there we found that the world had shifted beneath our feet.
The BBC’s web site was still there, but their radio feed was conspicuously missing. Reuters was alive; even the Australian papers were there. But there were no stories critical of our government to be found. Not current, not ever. Nothing on Google. And nothing about the survey- no, that’s not right- there was nothing about the survey from yesterday.
There were stories from today debunking the survey as a Zionist plot, lies to tempt us into closer cooperation with the New World Order/United Nations, provocation from the Armenian Church, a signal that the Pope was finally starting the Apocalypse, or that it was merely the opening salvo in another military crusade. Within a week, government rhetoric stepped up about a planned invasion by foreign powers, corroborated unthinkably by the foreign news agencies, even the popular international blogs. Military recruitment reached record numbers. Education, social and medical spending were all slashed in favor of military spending.
Most people went along with it. There were those who did not. At first, they were loud, and angry, perhaps even vicious, organizing lectures and meeting at campuses and in public squares. But one by one the speakers disappeared. They were replaced by the quieter dissidents on the internet, on blogs and in forwarded email. But for all their attempted anonymity, the internet dissidents went quiet, too, until all that was left was the clean buzz of an inoffensive, ineffectual information highway.
But it wasn’t just the speech that went away; most days I didn’t need to say I wanted to shoot the President, I was content to just be entertained. But slowly, one thing at a time, adult material disappeared as well. First it was the fetishes, the dwarves and the fisting and the feces, followed quickly by the sex then the softcore then the nudity. And one by one the dirty words went away, starting with the f word then the s word, then the c word and the b word and the d word all in one day, until a search for dog crap returned no results. A search for Paris Hilton only comes up with video of her being sent to jail, which I supposed was her shining moment anyway.
But I remember it very clearly, the mistake that landed me here, with you, in this dank little cell a floor below the rapists; it was a Google search for a word I was struggling to remember the meaning of: democracy.