July 14, 2005
Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes
Why are we so quick to allow the construction of massive networks of cameras (and now microphones) in our cities? I'd argue that they're fairly well useless. They certainly didn't save the lives 50+ people that died in the horrific Muslim terrorist bombings of 7/7 in London. Secure beneath the Watchful Eyes? Well, only if you equate security with death.
Although it's true that they're currently pursuing one terrorist(18-year-old Hasib Hussain) based on CCTV footage, I'm not really clear how significant this is. If a person is willing to detonate himself, then there's not really much a camera can do to prevent that. He could stand there and wave at the cameras for hours before triggering the explosives. What difference would it make? Hasib Hassain made, essentially, a tactical mistake by going into the city. But there's nothing to stop them from only sending in the suicide bombers in the future.
Although it's questionable whether the cameras made anyone more "secure" on the day of the 7/7 bombings, they do defintely eviscerate one's sense of privacy. I don't think anyone really likes being watched. It's creepy. Although it's true that the cameras are in public areas, I still think people have a right to "public privacy" or "public anonymity".
This is a concept that most people don't grasp, because it's not intuitively obvious to the casual observer. So, the soccer mom's don't get it right away. But consider when you're driving down the highway. Do you drive differently if a cop pulls onto the highway immediately behind you and follows you for several miles? Of course you do. It's unnerving, and, in all liklihood, you'll drive much worse because you know you're being monitored.
Cameras don't blink, and it's not polite to stare. If someone was staring at you in public, most people would think it rude, to the point of confronting them or challenging them. Where I come from, unwarranted staring could easily provoke violent confrontations, and often did.
To turn it around, try to get some CCTV cameras set up in city hall, the county offices, or in the police headquarters. This is public property, why can't we put cameras in there? Because the watchers don't want to be watched.
So, if you think about it, people really don't want to be monitored, even when they're in public, and this is easily demonstrable.
Not that it matters really. It's clear where we are headed. More cameras. More crime. Less rational thought applied to public policy. More bombings. More technology. Less comprehension.
Posted by Peenie Wallie on July 14, 2005 at 11:29 AM