The world will remember its past. The people will scream phoenix, and let slip the dogs of war.
The central point in Scream Phoenix is a simple one: when privacy and individuality are controlled, one must do wha it takes to win them back — whatever the costs. In the world of my story, there is no such thing as privacy on the internet, and there hasn’t been for over two decades. This means young people have grown up in a world where they know nothing different, and those that remember are growing old. The elimination of privacy was a measure taken by many governments in the developed world as an answer to a massive global conflict that happened three and a half decades before the story takes place. Hacker-terrorist groups working together were able to launch missiles from silos all over the world, killing millions instantly. This act started a five year long conflict to eradicate the groups and was used as an excuse to push strict internet privacy laws, and to institute harsh punishments to deter any such acts from reoccuring. By the time Scream Phoenix takes place in 2075, hackers are seen as the biggest public enemy. Initially these reforms were met with overwhelming support in the wake of such a tragic conflict, but reality soon set in; one’s private life would never be the same as an increasingly authoritarian government eliminated the ability to lead one. Information availability is limited and all internet activity is monitored and regulated by the government. People have gotten used to such a world by the time my story takes place, but change is on the horizon.
The privacy and quantity of information we are currently accustomed to is a world long gone in Scream Phoenix. The story primarily narrates a secret meeting of conspiring hackers over the VirtualNet, which is a virtual reality internet invented some decades before the story takes place. As the meeting progresses, their goal becomes clear to the reader: they will hack into Russia’s missile network base of operations in an attempt to show the world these laws do not work. In this context, the title has a very powerful message; the culture of internet privacy and mass information destroyed by government regulation will be reborn like a phoenix, and the people will scream out for it. Society has become disillusioned to the true implications of the post-war laws, and the time is ripe to seize the moment.
Much like in Dave Egger’s The Circle, the world of my story has a culture defined by the absence of privacy. This absence means that nobody truly leaves a private life on the Net; rather, everyone is closely monitored. The advent of the VirtualNet in Scream Phoenix made many strides to make the internet more efficient, accessible, and information more free flowing. However, this invention also made the hacker’s job much easier. This became clear with the global conflict a few decades prior to the story. The governments of the developed world in my story and the company in The Circle share a basic principle: privacy is antithetical to the desired social cohesion. This principle is brought up in a different context in Egger’s novel; The Circle believes all information should be free and available, and privacy negates this belief. In Scream Phoenix, privacy and the largely unrestricted availability of information meant that hackers were free to do what they wish; this was undoubtedly the central argument of many nations pushing for the controversial reforms.
While each story introduces the concept of anti-privacy in different contexts, the result is the same; social control. The Circle illustrates a culture of social control by pioneering a culture defined by absolute openness of one’s private life. This becomes the basis of what is acceptable to do and what is not. The world of Scream Phoenix shows social control with government oversight of all internet activity, limiting information, and by circulating propaganda. Thus, while the motives are different, a similar social sphere can be delineated.
The absence of privacy in The Circle means people have their actions limited by a cultural basis of what is socially acceptable; since one’s private life is open, a restriction of beliefs and actions that go against the consensus is a very real issue in that culture’s social life. In effect, this is essentially cultural oversight. Government oversight of one’s private life in Scream Phoenix similarly deters certain actions and discourages certain beliefs that are associated with threatening national security. This strict regulation by governments informs a culture that initially valued the absence of internet privacy to keep the peace and create safe social cohesion, but these perceived good intentions quickly soured as they catalyzed the rise of a top-down authoritarian society. Both stories provide interesting commentary on the effects these changes have on social life and government: the absence of privacy in the digital age necessarily means a loss of personal decision making and creates a society with pervasive social control. In The Circle, social control is achieved by a cultural hivemind that voids individuality and places strong emphasis on overseeing what is socially acceptable. In Scream Phoenix, social control is achieved by limiting available information, and by regulating and monitoring all internet activity. Thus, while each story has different methods and concepts, the effects are very similar.
Appendix & Information
P.A.B.S. – Personal Assistant to a Better Society
- Invented after the war. The only way to connect to the internet
- Mandatory for each household; connected to a security system for monitoring
- Rudimentary AI that can report suspicious activity and shut down if necessary
VirtualNet – New form of the internet; the user is immersed in a virtual reality. Made information more accessible and hacking much easier.
- Requires a special helmet to connect
- Only accessible via PABS
- If accessed outside of security system, all activity off the grid; extremely hard to accomplish
Hacking – Most prevalent form of terrorism in the world of Scream Phoenix.
- Basis for justifying all strict regulations
- Harsh punishments if caught: prison without trial — in some cases death, depending on the act
- Seen as extreme and serious social deviation; practiced by very few, but still very threatening and potent