Nice look at this issue in the LA Times.
Of more than 520 American writers surveyed, 16% have avoided writing or speaking on what they consider controversial topics, and 11% “have considered doing so.”
I think part of it is the ridiculous power imbalance. Writers know better than most that having any player with so much easily-available information is ripe for abuse, as scandalettes like LOVEINT have proven. Doubly or triply so when oversight is cloaked in secrecy, which breeds corruption. Anyone even loosely familiar with cyberpunk/technothriller fiction (not to mention actual news coverage) has visions of early morning armed raids resulting in the seizure of all computers, tablets, routers, phones, pocket calculators, remote controls, coffee makers, extension cords, and so on–equipment never to be seen again. Makes you really think about your disaster recovery planning, especially if you assume, as most people now commonly do, that pretty much every online backup service is compromised and could at a minimum be frozen on a moment’s notice.
Think about how many important pieces of fiction have crucially pivoted on controversial topics or stances. Sucking the lifeblood out of that would be a huge blow to our culture. I worry about this often, though selfishly more about how it affects me personally.
Enough that when I’m working on a piece of cyber-satire, I have a pervading sense of someone looking over my shoulder. I write notes to the faceless handler(s) who are poring over mountains of keyword searches. For example:
It feels a bit weird to be writing this piece of satire, knowing who might be reading it as I go. I keep backups of things on Dropbox, and have at one point used AT&T as an internet provider, so you’ve pretty much got me covered. I apologize to any analysts who get to trawl through my rough-draft fiction that has to be triggering all kinds of keyword alerts.
Since you’re wondering, none of the people here are based on particular individuals, though if I’m doing my job right, they should seem familiar to native Silicon Valley dwellers. I also tend to avoid particular companies as satirical targets. Any code names I refer to here are completely made up, or widely available via Google searches, or both.
I have no particular insight into any classified anything. I merely read the news, know a bit about technology, and have a good imagination for how things could go. If you have questions about any of this, I’m happy to talk. Let’s grab a beer some time. Please don’t knock my door down and scare my children.
Your harmless, law-abiding citizen,
And yes, I’m fretting over even posting this on my blog.