It’s a brave new world we live in. In London a unified network of very powerful surveillance cameras track everything everyone does. People watch the watchers to ensure that the cameras are not being abused. In areas of Colorado and California police officers are now being required to wear camera systems that allow them to video record their interactions with individuals. And, across the world there is sudden war on amateur photography in public being waged by plastic badged security guards. The limitations to recording video have decreased to the point that total universal surveillance is now almost a defacto standard simply through organic growth. The only limiting agent at this point is the quality of video culled by this visum populi. Some argue that the elimination of privacy is the ultimate safeguard against exploitation.
I wonder about that. Mormon missionaries tend to work in teams when in foreign lands, the reason is to watch each other and ensure that neither has a lapse in faith. Or in short, everyone is watching everyone else and ratting anyone out who tries to escape. This has proven pretty damned effective. Even when someone does decide during a crisis of faith to make a run for it, they can be intercepted by a higher ranking missionary and convinced not to do so. Pretty soon the paranoia that is so pervasive in seminal texts such as Orwell’s 1984, become a very real part of ones life. What value is there in curbing crimes if it comes at the expensive of creativity and risk taking? In today’s society, many people are now adopting a somewhat bizarre habit of censor in everything they do. I know many people who simply do not like to be photographed at all. When someone is accused of a crime today, their facebook or other online web presence is suddenly held to the scrutiny of wary hacks looking to sensationalize their stories. Employers regularly use online presence as a vector by which they can gauge whether or not an employee poses a security risk. And of course we are all judged by our peers, our families, and our neighbors based on what actions we are immortalized performing on various sundry sites. We are all at far greater risk today, than ever before in our human history, of having every failure, mistake, and wantonly bizarre action recorded and made available directly to the people we interact with, and rely upon daily. We are now slaves to responsibility, and so much more.
Everyone on this planet has at some point played hooky. Be it in college, or at a job, somewhere we’ve all ended up staying out late during an especially good party, or visiting friends we had not seen in years, or just plain taking a day off to see a ball game or a parade. We’ve all done it. There’s always been a risk you’d be caught, but generally you get away with it. Today, thanks to twitter and facebook and social networks it doesn’t take much to track the comings and goings of co-workers and subordinates. Many people have faced disciplinary actions or lost their jobs based solely on the data culled from these resources. Politicians and famous people have faced the vitriolic hatred of tabloids and fringe lunatics because of photographs taken in public places. Recently the governor of NY was photographed at lunch with an intern sparking speculations of scandalous affairs. And, still more recently an NYPD police officer with all of a few days on the job was caught tackling a bike rider during an activist ride through the city. Officer Pogan is now facing prison time for being caught in a lie in his report, due entirely to the submission of third party video evidence provided to the court.
Yesterday I said on twitter, “Any person that would prosecute someone for filming a police officer in a public area, is not an American.” I still stand by that statement 100%, but there is some grey areas here that I think should concern us all. As I said before, when you are constantly under scrutiny you lose a lot of options. And without a doubt constant video surveillance of police activities would hinder their ability to accomplish their end game objectives. Bad people, will be able to continue to do bad things, and police will fall victim to legislative bureaucracy as lawyers haggle and second guess every frame of every recorded event with 20/20 hindsight. A lens is always a filter, and seeing only the slice of reality available to a camera does not an objective perspective make. Recognizing that in future legislation is essential, not only in protecting the rights of victims, but also in protecting the rights of police officers and other would be defenders of their actions ( mistakes or not ). However, the lens is brutally accurate in recording the things it can record. It provides a degree of certainty to everything it does capture. And that is utterly valuable in protecting police officers and suspected villains alike. Conflicting testimony can be put to rest with the review of video evidence. Accidents, failures, and other catastrophic events can be dissected to prevent future problems and to identify the legitimate causes. And, great moments in history can be preserved for years maybe centuries to come.
And that last one is touching on the real point. In the United States, we have the inalienable right to pursue our happiness free of the oppressive tyranny of our government by default in everything that we do. When laws are enacted they are done so to serve the public interest and protect the rights of the people. Sometimes we limit freedoms of some to avoid infringing upon the rights of all. This happens. But what we don’t do… is we don’t censor the actions of our police. We don’t arrest people for looking on as a man is beaten, or a house burns, or a young girl dies from a gunshot wound inflicted upon her by the police. The freedom of press is clear. And today, our press RELIES HEAVILY on the primary source contributions of people with cell phone cameras, and video recorders. The freedom of anyone to photograph to their hearts content in public is assured. And anyone who would suggest otherwise, simply does not understand what it means to live in this country. They don’t understand the meaning of the constitution, or what our forefathers fought and regularly died for. They don’t understand the basic principles of civility and society upon which all this amazing world is based. They are fools. And, more than anything they are not in any real meaningful way an American. In their world Neda does not have a face, and the violence a world away is nothing more than a fiction.
Certainly I am not comfortable knowing that the next time I go down to park and practice my light saber moves with a sawed off broomstick I could end up famous not for my technical contributions, or kindness, or anything meaningful but merely an extraordinarily entertaining fool. But you know what? If that’s what I am, so be it. I’d rather be judged based on truth than on fiction even if it’s only part of the truth. And everyone dons the the idiots hat at some point in their life. Hell, Shakespeare delivered his best work through the mouths of idiots.