Something to Hide: Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Booksellers Foundation, American Library Association, for Free Expression, and PEN American Center have published a toolkit explaining how to hold events designed to raise awareness of the dangers to free expression from mass surveillance.

The resource, called “Something to Hide,” can be applied to settings as varied as universities, bookstores, libraries, and home living rooms. It includes tools for action, background on the mass spying programs threatening Americans’ privacy, and a sample script that borrows from books, poems and film such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, and Liu Xia’s Rant.

This public education program is meant to help people think more deeply about why privacy is valuable, about the implications of government surveillance for the freedoms of speech and expression, and about what we might do to protect these liberties.  It aims to provoke reflection on the impact of an invasive surveillance apparatus on the creative process.

Modeled on a series of events first organized by the ACLU and PEN American Center, the “Something to Hide” program counters the oft-heard slogan that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” Through the words of Langston Hughes, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, and more, “Something to Hide” underscores why constant surveillance, an affront to human dignity and imagination, should worry us all.

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