“…The invisible webs of Comus [Communications U.S.], drawn taut and singing with tension as Prowlers policed the roads of the nation, sifting the population man by man through psycho-polling research. They kept the electronic computers humming day and night, straight around the clock.”
Catherine Lucille (C.L.) Moore (1911-1987) wrote those words sixty years ago in her dystopian novel, Doomsday Morning (1957).
The novel is filled with ideas familiar to us today — a militarized police force, domestic surveillance and data collection, routine retina and fingerprint scans, and the shaping of public opinion through controlled media.
A remarkably accurate vision of our world in 2016.
The World of Doomsday Morning is Stagnant
Moore’s novel is placed in the early part of the 21st century. Although we don’t have an exact year, careful hints suggest a date on or near 2003. It’s a sane and stable world, set up by an American dictator, named Andrew Raleigh. Raleigh took power after the “Five Days War.” The war’s name suggests an Atomic War, as it was thought, at that time, that a nuclear exchange would be devastating and quick, leaving a surviving population in shambles but salvageable, at least in part.
“To hold the country safe, Raleigh had had to hold it rigid…The young men and women with new ideas had to be controlled. No matter how high they might test…if they could threaten, even latently, the social order Raleigh and Comus were founded on, then they must never receive training or acquire skills….”
Our hero is Howard Rohan, a washed-up actor who’s become a Cropper, an indentured migrant worker dropped to the lowest level of American society. Rohan used to be someone important and the Secretary of Communications remembers him. The government plucks Rohan out of an alcoholic stupor to do a job for them.
To the people of that world, Comus represents stability and safety. There’s food and alcohol available to everyone, as well as housing, although with the Croppers these needs are minimally met.
A police presence is ubiquitous, as are visual reminders of President Raleigh, who is considered a benign, larger-than-life figure. But Raleigh is old now, and sick. His death is imminent. Will his surveillance state survive him? High-level Comus officials refuse to be thrown under the bus when Raleigh dies, they’ll secure Comus’ future at any cost.
Predictably, there’s an underground movement with plans to bring freedom back to the United States. The rebels have a device called the Anti-Com, which is secretly being built somewhere in California. We don’t learn what the Anti-Com is until the very end of the book, when it blows the country wide open.
Rohan is used by both sides, the government and the rebels. Eventually, he figures out which side he’s really on and that he cares more for freedom than his lost status.
Did Moore have a crystal ball, or what?
In the 1950’s, as today, there are checks and balances in the Western world to prevent the rise of despotic surveillance states.
Here are two big ones:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
- Article 12 — “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
- Article 18 — “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
- Article 19 — “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
- The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
- The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.“The ultimate goal of this provision is to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary governmental intrusions.”
Governments aren’t supposed to intrude upon their citizens’ freedoms, and in the 1950’s people believed this to be true.
Quality science fiction writers, like Moore, speculate on the future. Many times, they’re off-base. But not this time.
Are we living Doomsday Morning?
In this short video, “Who Really Rules The United States,” Edward Snowden discusses his reasons for becoming a government whistleblower. He claims to have seen government programs of mass surveillance and data gathering, conducted by people who were constitutionally-protected.
But Snowden’s not the only one claiming that the government’s monitoring and controlling the people of the United States.
There’s a lot of discussion in the alternative media about clandestine data collection, mainstream media being corporate or governmentally-controlled, terror events which may or may not be false flags, rigged financial markets, and even impending marital law. There’s a great deal of concern about terrorism and civil rights disturbances on American streets, as well as an ever-growing militarized police force. In 2016, we’re seeing an unprecedented presidential campaign which would be funny, if the potential results weren’t so dire.
If the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were thrown out, a media-controlled and manipulated police state might evolve, similar to the one shown in Doomsday Morning.
Stop this bus! I want to get off
At the end of the novel, the Anti-Com is set off by the rebels. The weapon’s clearly meant to be an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or “radioflash” bomb. The Anti-Com immediately disables all communications networks and sets up a resonating feedback loop which keeps them from functioning, ever after. Anything that uses electricity stops dead, including cars and planes, which fall from the sky.
The rebels have people spread out across the country and are set up to help the shocked and waking citizenry.
Rohan contemplates the future in the last pages of the novel. “A new world lay ahead. All I could be sure of was that it would be a harsh world, full of sweat and bloodshed and uncertainty. But a real world, breathing and alive.”
The artificial controls of Comus are broken and Americans are yanked awake, suddenly freed from their Comus-induced, sugar-coated slumbers.
Moore presents a dystopian world that is not appealing, but which we seem to be approaching, quickly. All that’s lacking is a limited nuclear exchange and a charismatic president.
I’m not suggesting this in humor but rather, in concern, as there’s also talk on the internet of World War III between the US and China, or Russia.
Personally, I don’t believe it’ll come to that. But Moore’s book describes a pretty convincing scenario about what might happen if it did.
I’ll close with another quote, this one from John Adams, 2nd President of the United States.
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”
Think carefully about your rights, no one has the authority to take them from you.
Comments are welcome.