Generally speaking, I’m not very political. But the current “If you see something, say something” Homeland Security campaign creeps me the hell out. I can’t help but think about the old Soviet and eastern bloc informant system, which was pretty heinously evil.
As a social phenomenon anonymous letters were a frequent occurrence in the USSR during the period of mass political terror. These were the years when physical destruction of the opposition and prosecutions of “enemies of the people” helped Stalin consolidate his dictatorship. Bloody “purges” accompanied by constant appeals for “vigilance” and the eradication of complacency in the struggle against wreckers (saboteurs), spies, and “internal” counterrevolution created through the entire country an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. Many Soviet Citizens in constant turmoil over the threat to their freedom and their lives, turned to informing as a means of self-preservation by proving their “reliability.” They were no more amoral in their attitude toward society than society was toward them. Informing was then extolled as a “moral duty” of the Soviet ctiizen.
Anonymous letters were written not only by those who retained their belief in the rectitude and infallibility of communist ideals but also by those who, by victimizing as many others as possible, hoped to stay safe; and by those who were seeking revenge against personal enemies among their acquaintances and colleagues. Zemtsov, Ilya. Encyclopedia of Soviet Life, pp13-14.