Somebody's watching you.
Actually, a growing number of people are watching you.
But you can't see all of them.
That's because many of them are watching - or will soon be watching - you through a proliferating array of "security" cameras.
No, this trend hasn't reached the intimidating level of those "Big Brother is watching you" posters of George Orwell's "1984."
Still, when Isle of Palms City Council's Public Safety Committee approved the purchase of video surveillance cameras Wednesday (see story, Page A4), it took another small step in Big Brother's march toward keeping his eyes on all of us all of the time.
Knowing that others can increasingly observe - and frequently record - our movements is chilling.
Knowing that they can permanently store scenes of us in our swimming attire is embarrassing.
Then again, websites with camera views of local beaches, including the Isle of Palms, do show helpful evidence of when the surf's up - and down.
And before investing too much angst in the specter of local surveillance cameras, near or far from the seashore, ponder the much larger menace of the National Security Agency's "collection" of Americans' electronic communications.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly stressed that the NSA's massive gathering of those phone and computer records doesn't mean it's listening to or reading them. And two weeks ago, he proposed supposedly reassuring changes to that domestic spying scheme. Under his new plan, the NSA would no longer grab such "metadata." Instead, the government would need judicial approval to access those communications from private companies. Congressional leaders sound receptive to the president's idea.
You also shouldn't expect any lifetime guarantee of confidentiality for anything that you write - and even call up - online.
Last month brought more reports about lots of companies buying lots of records of which websites you frequent - for marketing purposes.
In other words, you're not just being watched on the road, at the store, in the parking lot, at the park, at the beach and elsewhere. You're being watched, in effect, on your so-called personal computer - and your not-so-smartphone - as you surf the web.
Back to big-government Big Brother:
Lindsey Graham, our state's senior U.S. senator, delivered this unsettling, unconvincing defense of the nosy NSA last June on Fox News:
"I'm a Verizon customer. I don't mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don't think you're talking to the terrorists. I know you're not. I know I'm not. So we don't have anything to worry about."
Two months later, Graham told CNN that while he would support some reforms to the NSA's surveillance, "if you want to gut it, you make us much less safe, and you're putting our nation at risk."
So what about the risk of government using the terror threat as a blank check for ever-rising intrusions on our lives?
Graham is right about most important stuff, including Benghazi, immigration, judicial confirmations, entitlement reform and the need to at least occasionally craft bipartisan solutions to national - and international - problems. He rates a third Senate term from S.C. voters this year.
But Graham's wrong to pitch rampant NSA spying on Americans as an indispensable - or even effective - weapon against terrorism.
And though that big shot is OK with the NSA spying on little shots, he sounded mighty peeved about allegations that another federal agency spied on federal lawmakers.
Last month, after Senate intelligence committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., charged that the CIA snooped on her panel, Graham said: "This is Richard Nixon stuff. This is dangerous to the democracy."
Yes, it is.
But so is Big Brother's big reach on regular folks.
At least Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans), aka the title character of the new cinematic blockbuster "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," recognizes that constitutional peril.
As Rogers tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) after realizing that SHIELD (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, not the dynamic World Wrestling Entertainment trio know as "The Shield") is abusing basic rights under the pretense of national security:
"This isn't freedom. This is fear."
And we have more to fear than being overexposed by surveillance cameras at the beach.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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