The panopticon is a hypothetical surveillance and control system first imagined by philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the eighteenth century. It’s envisioned as a tool to control the behavior of a large number of people with as little effort as possible. Here is one description:
“The panopticon is a disciplinary concept brought to life in the form of a central observation tower placed within a circle of prison cells. From the tower, a guard can see every cell and inmate but the inmates can’t see into the tower. Prisoners will never know whether or not they are being watched.”
Essentially, the panopticon would function in a similar way to the two-way television sets in George Orwell’s 1984. Orwell described the function of the television sets this way:
“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment . . . you had to live . . . in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”
In the past few years, we’ve created a live panopticon–and the Far Left are the ones running it. The panopticon is cancel culture. The guards are the cancelers, an online mob that exacts brutal punishment on those whose sins they can see. You can find story after story of decent people losing their livelihoods for the sin of deviating from Far Left orthodoxy.
Here are a few examples:
- In 2020, trans writer Isabel Fall was outed and forced offline after she wrote a short story that critics said was transphobic (Fall published under a pseudonym).
- Recent college graduate Griffin Green was fired from his software company for the crime of making fun of bodegas (no, really).
- Bestselling children’s author Gillian Philip was fired from her publisher for changing her Twitter handle to include #IStandWithJKRowling.
These punishments function in part to cow other people who might otherwise be inclined to deviate from approved opinion in similar ways.
The prisoners in this panopticon are ordinary Americans, whose online activity can be viewed at any time by pretty much anyone (including the guards) and who self-regulate in order to protect themselves. A New York Times poll found that “Fifty-five percent of respondents said that they had held their tongue over the past year because they were concerned about retaliation or harsh criticism.”
Read More: Cancel Culture: The Digital Panopticon