Saturday, October 27, 2007

Smile You're On CCTV

Uhoh, looks like Bryan's off on another mission of national, nay planetary importance - and on a Saturday. He works too hard. Slow down, Bryan, say No...
Meanwhile, this is from the Daily Mail, which I know is unlikely to commend it to many of you out there, but it is excerpted from a book, by a good journalist, and it is at least interesting. The growth of surveillance in recent years really has been one of the biggest changes to our national life, and yet it goes largely unremarked, and most people seem to find it reassuring if anything. Are they right no to worry? It does suggest a touching faith in the good intentions of those running these systems. Should we apply Lenin's Who Whom analysis to this? Should we, with the government identity card still looming on the horizon and ever more cards carrying ever more information becoming available and being heavily sold (e.g. the ever-expanding,soon to be compulsory, Oyster phenomenon in London). All this and CCTV everywhere - all but impossible, as Clark's piece demonstrates, to evade. This cannot, surely, be a healthy state of affairs. At the very least it creates the infrastructure for state (in broad terms) oppression. Is it anything more than good luck that the state at present isn't particularly oppressive (tho becoming more so)? We'd be rash to assume this is going to last, wouldn't we?
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  1. Below from Nietzsche's Human ALl Too Human:

    Socialism is the visionary younger brother of an almost decrepit depostism whose heir it wants to be. It desires a wealth of executive power, as only despotism had it; indeed, it outdoes everything in the past by striving for the downright destruction of the individual, which it sees as an unjustified luxury of nature, & which it intends to improve unto an expedient organ of the community...It desires the Caesarean power state of this needs the most submissive subjugation of all citizens to the absolute state, the likes of which has never existed. And since it cannot even count any longer on the old religious piety towards the state, having rather always to work to eliominate piety, it can only hope to ecist here & there for short periods of time by means of the most extreme terrorism. Therefore, it secretly prepares for reigns of terror, & drives the word "justice" like a nail into the heads of the semieducated masses, to rob them completely of their reason(after this reason has already suffered a great deal from its semieducation), & to give them a good conscience for the evil game they are supposed to play.
    Socialism can serve as a rather brutal & forceful way to teach the danger of all accumulations of state power, & to that extent instill one with distrust of the state itself. When its rough voice chimes in with the battle cry "As much state as possible," it will at first make the cry noisier than ever; but soon the opposite cry will be heard with strength the greater: "As little state as possible."

    We might superficially say, the modern states of Europe, the US, etc are not socialist, but this is blatantly superficial. With the aid of technology, exactly the kind of broad process that Nietzsche described is occuring, while people's reason is robbed by other technologically aided processes.

  2. Thanks Andrew. I hope you're wrong.

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  4. Please translate for me, Nige. What the hell is the 'Oyster phenomenon in London'? You're not being followed by mollusks, are you? If you are, I feel for you. Hard critters to give the slip, especially those bloody limpets.

  5. It's a London thing Chip - a card devised (I'm pretty sure) by Mayor Ken. Like a debit card for travellers on the Tube, bus and, soon, much of the rail network too - you slap it on a sensor pad and it charges you the fare. Also means they can track your movements around the London area - it's how they traced the Bishop of Southwark's erratic journey after the Irish Embassy reception last Xmas at which he most emphatically did not get drunk (tho, being the Bishop of SOuthwark, he felt obliged, as part of his duties, to climb into someone's car and throw the contents out of it). It's now being adapted to serve as a Visa card and phone charge card as well. I may be wrong but I view all this as sinister.

  6. It's a science problem, imho, though some might call it mad science. The prevailing opinion seems to be that if the science/technology exists, then ipso facto it must be morally OK to use it. In this regard, the state's use of CCTV is really no different from, say, Google reading your emails or mobile phone outfits reading your text messages in order to bombard you with advertising. They do it because they can. We need tough new privacy laws, I think, but fat chance of that. Also, it would help if some of the undoubtedly fine, ethical minds around would stop dilating on global warming and similar masses of hot air and apply their abilities to sorting out this breakdown in relations between citizen and state, and administer a thrashing to the horrible weevils that inflict it on us.

    A last hope is that an officer will successfully sue his/her police force for the stress - sorry, unbearable mental agony - involved in having to watch endless screens of CCTV showing such depravity as a man attempting sex with a bicycle or someone chucking a cocktail sausage at a neighbour, which seems about the only way to get busted these days. This might encourage the police to ditch some of the tech and return to the place they should never have left - our streets.

  7. Whatever the truth of CCTV surveillance cameras, this is not about data protection or the invasion of privacy, it is about the fundamentally synonymous roles of sociopathic behaviour and democgraphic escalation. Precisely because criminal growth and sociopathology are linked to the valume of the national population, the only answer to endemic delinquency is more cameras and plenty of them.

    Cramped conditions feed the malaise.

    Demographic figures are facts, and the absence of a forensic theory to include them does not make them any less real. Nor does it permit one to ignore specifics or to confuse the root-cause with ever increasing legislative coercion. The fact of the matter is, that random population growth impacts directly on everything, including the invasion of a personal boundary and the denial of primary needs, while attempts to encourage a mature debate about rising population levels are almost universally met with accusations of “prejudice” or the increasing need for economic augmentation.

    The constraint of demographics is the one law humanity cannot break!

    Clark’s piece is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing - talk about missing a great opportunity to say something constructive.

  8. Thanks Nige. That explains a lot. I'd previously thought the Bishop of Southwark was tracked by a covert periwinkle.

  9. Does the Bishop of Southwark get free oysters or does he have to use his own? Does the Bishop of Southwark get to keep anything he finds in a car he climbs into or is he only allowed to throw things out of it? What mishief is the Bishop of Norwich permitted?

    While I remembered this story being mentioned here earlier this year, I could not remember the bishop's name, so I looked him up in Wikipedia and ran across this final line:

    He also stated that he was very worried that he still could not account for three hours of the evening in question, and was undergoing medical tests. Dr Butler gave the Thought for the Day on the same date.

    Indeed. Wish I'd heard that one.

  10. There's a documentary Suspect Nation well worth watching here.

  11. Cameras are only as good as the people watching them. Even in pretty high security places, i doubt a vigilant watcher is stationed to observe each camera's feed 24 hours a day.

    They're more useful in retrospect, e.g. AFTER a bomb was detonated in a railway station, they can trace the bomber's movements.

    They of course are useful in many ways that we'd all be grateful for. But consider something like this:

    A man & a woman, for whatever reason, refuse to pay their taxes. They come under duress. Someone blogs about this; said blogger is arrested. (apologies for huge url, can't seem to compress it to a hyperlink)

    An isolated example in a much scarier society than England's, but it seems the way the wind is blowing.

    People who say 'the innocent have nothing to hide!' and 'if you're not planning to stop paying your taxes or to blow things up, why worry?' are missing the point. The point is that at any time the G may, at its own pleasure, extend the prohibitions to include things i do want to do, like read whatever books & blogs i please, and write (within reason) as i please. If this seems ridiculous, consider the plethora of states that have banned such activities in the past and present.

    Indeed, read a few history books and it becomes apparent that most states have at some point banned things we would, retrospectively, regard as harmless if not actually benign.

    If the visible growth of CCTV had led to a drop in street crime, i might be a little less worried. But it hasn't. It doesn't seem to make any difference at all.

  12. And by the way, my blog just received a visitor from Virginia, after posting this comment. i only get about a dozen viewers a day.

  13. And just now the dog was looking at me. The dog is called 'Charlie', as in C for CIA.

    Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.