|By Clyde Lewis
Electronic eyes have become a part of our existence. Cameras are everywhere to record crimes and to monitor traffic. You know where the cameras are now, or do you? Police agencies will realize that criminals will know where cameras are and so in order to wage a stealthy alternative there will be millions of hidden eyes watching you. That is when you will have no other alternative but to conform to new laws and new ideologies. With any luck this will all backfire.
For the moment I am going to sound like a constitutionalist, lone nut, militia mentality, conspiracy minded, foiled hat wearing, paranoid, patriot by giving you the 4th amendment to the constitution:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Now I know that the MTV crowd has only stopped at the first amendment because they only have heard about it on TV when someone wanted to censor 2 live crew back in the eighties.
Welcome to the year 2000 where we have learned that the first amendment is now a privilege and that our speech must be guarded. Wake up and realize that for as much yelling and screaming we did for the abolishment of parental advisory stickers, people are now demanding that television and video games need to be looked at for content and triggers that can send little Johnny into a Ritalin induced shooting spree.
Which leads us to the second amendment (right to bear Arms for those following along) which of course is being whittled away because of a few people who are not very bright and should turn the guns on themselves to save Darwin the trouble.
The third amendment says literally that no soldier or government official can be required by law to live in your house in times of peace or war ---
They can't live there but they might be able to peek in from time to time.
That is if we tinker with the fourth amendment. Technology already has it's foot in the door, just enough to start the ball rolling for zealous politicians to begin tinkering with laws and constitutional safeguards.
It is argued that has been tinkering with fourth amendment rights because it seems that "big brother" is sticking his nose in people's private lives.
However it is not like we haven't opened the door to it. We have allowed innocent cameras to be placed strategically in places of business, and city streets in order to record possible crimes that are committed in these areas. We also have resolved that these cameras are necessary to show us how bad traffic is on any given day.
Be honest with yourself, do we really need a camera to tell us that traffic is bad in the same areas where chronic back up of automobiles takes place every day in the same place?
Photo radar has replaced police officers in some areas. All over Europe there are cameras placed strategically in areas that snap the photo of motorists that fail to stop at red lights.
You probably have not realized that you have appeared on camera at least once every five minutes in any given day.
Take a look at a typical day-
You wake up, shower, and get dressed.
You leave your home and get on the highway.
There you are monitored and checked by cameras and photo radar. These cameras in some areas are able to zoom in on you and read your license plate number.
You then pull into a convenience store to get gas. The pumps have a camera strategically placed so that your license plate number, make and model of your car is registered in case you even think about stealing gasoline.
You walk towards the store realizing that you are short on cash. You go to your ATM to withdraw money. Your face ends up on camera and the time and amount of money you have withdrawn is also recorded.
You enter the store; you grab a cup of coffee, and some breath mints. You walk up to the cashier and you pay the amount due. At that moment you are secretly video taped and then you leave.
You go back on the highway and then you are once again on camera. The eyewitness news helicopter is also videotaping the highway and you end up on the morning traffic report sandwiched between the weather and Martha Stewart's tips on how to make toilet brushes out of pine boughs.
You end up at the office where a security camera is at the door. Once again your image is on video. There are also cameras strategically placed in backrooms and in some rare cases cameras are in copy machines to make records of what is being copied or faxed.
After work you need to do some grocery shopping. You go to a store where every Isle is being monitored for shoplifters. Your image once again is on video. Networks of cameras are everywhere. High tech surveillance is the byproduct of a paranoid age where everyone is suspect. If you have ever wondered if you are being watched the answer is yes and this is not counting the several computer cameras that are placed like Easter eggs throughout your city.
Surveillance blankets in cities used to be the civil scourge that existed only in Communist countries. It was twenty years ago that the U.S. would point out check point areas in Russia and East Germany as being the product of a country whose leaders have nothing but contempt for civil liberty.
Now in places like Britain it has become common place for one million closed circuit TV cameras to be in use, one for every 60 people. In the United States the use of closed circuit monitoring is becoming just as common.
It is the argument that these cameras are necessary in prosecuting criminals. It can be said that cameras have helped law enforcement find and identify people who have committed crimes, however there seems to be the temptation to not only use the footage to get their criminal, but also use it as propaganda.
It has opened the ugly can of worms known as "Fly on the wall" journalism where eavesdropping and covert video taping has become titillating entertainment for networks who want to capture the moment and replay it over and over to satisfy the voyeuristic appetite that exists in the United States.
There has been a successful run of videos that are being sold that depict "live" action car crashes, rescues, back room sex, hostage situations, and much more that the public is lapping up like dogs.
The Fox network gave us COPS, a show that was pure "Fly on the wall" propaganda for police. This program beamed into our homes car chases, gun battles, and even a corpse here and there to make it interesting. While the public is glued to their sets watching the other guy get pummeled for telling a cop to screw himself, we have virtually forgotten how this type of exploitation may or may not shape and mold our belief systems about crime and the police themselves.
While watching reality programming like COPS I can see that an easy way to commit suicide is to strap a bomb to my chest, take hostages, kill one or two, and then point a semi-automatic rifle at a SWAT team.
I can shoot up my high school and end upon the cover of TIME magazine.
I can see that an easy way to be famous is to dismember my girlfriend, throw her in the trunk and end up with my graduation photo on "Americas Most Wanted."
However I never hear about those programs when blame is being thrown around after a mass shooting at a McDonalds. Why? Because those programs have the seal of approval from law enforcement.
It is law enforcement who condones intrusive usage of cameras on people for the sole purpose of deterring criminal activity. However it seems that it is not deterring anything. With it's arrival "fly on the wall journalism" which shows citizens against cops, may be breeding an unhealthy attitude about where we stand in the eyes of those citizens who are paid to serve and protect us.
Think about the timeline of mass shootings and the coincidental arrival of this form of "big brother" voyeurism.
Is it healthy for a family to sit in front of the television and be entertained by three gunmen on a city street shooting motorists? Have the cameras on every street corner, in every business, and in every police car, given us the message that crime is running rampant and that we need tighter controls in this country?
If reality is hopeless, then will those who believe that there is no hope, have no fear?
I believe that the message that is sent with these fly on the wall shows is that police officers are always the "good guys" and that common people are always suspect.
The camera that has been placed on the corner and in the workplace has in some cases replaced judge and jury. Convicting people by public opinion rather than by a trial of their peers.
Throwing away another right of civil liberty.
The event that thrust the world into the video trial age was the Rodney King beating. It came at a time where we were not used to the power of private video surveillance. We learned many things about the power of the watchful eye.
We learned that large sums of money can be made from snooping. We learned that even video evidence can be ignored. We also learned that once it is ignored it can trigger rioting and looting that starts the ball rolling into territory, which once again can televise the disintegration of American society.
It showed us that police officers dressed in black wielding weapons are the good guys out to control those who protest against injustice.
This was evident in the recent demonstrations that were held in Seattle against the World Trade Organization. The country was divided on the message that was being sent out to television networks. A group of anarchists broke windows and destroyed buildings. The cameras were pointed in their direction because it looked more interesting to the eye than the peaceful demonstrators dressed as sea turtles being abused and being held at gunpoint to send the message to fall in line or be shot.
We are now beginning to understand that the cameras are showing only what a certain group of individuals want us to see and not what actually is being seen.
With stiff media competition everywhere we turn, the sick and twisted result of the watchful eye is that your image can be used against you out of context.
It also can be used without your permission.
Such is the case of Tonya Harding. While the nation has already formed opinions about the bad girl ice skater that was involved with the maiming of a rival skater Nancy Kerrigan, a recent domestic dispute between her and a boyfriend resulted in the playing of a 911 tape on network television.
Tonya said in the beginning of the call that she did not want her personal call aired on the network news. Her request was ignored and her right to privacy was also negated. The call was played over and over again reinforcing an adverse public attitude about her personality. It had been years since she was in the public eye and the media had targeted her for exploitation. Regardless of what you think about Harding, it was evident that she was in the crosshairs of someone in the editing room of a major network.
The ability to rebuild your life is difficult when everything is video taped and micromanaged by a small group of individuals who observe and then show over and over again the actions of people being less than perfect.
A system that allows security images, and taped 911 calls to be used, as titillating entertainment must ascertain the grey areas and consequences that are exacerbated by the increasing use of video or audio footage in news programs.
This may be the reason why we are losing confidence in the government's ability to find sound and resourceful ways to deal with real criminals instead of those who fit a "visual" criminal profile.
This could undermine the very purpose for having these cameras and surveillance equipment in the first place.
Security cameras are being proven to reducing crime and acts of vandalism. However in those rare cases where we see a criminal act taking place on television we tend to project that crime is running rampant.
When the Columbine shootings graced our screens, it sparked a number of knee jerk armchair analysts stating that they knew exactly what motives were and why these two young men were shooting their classmates. Looking back at all of the speculation we can see that none of it applies when the cameras showed the two boys walking through the library. The masked gunman wore no masks. They were not dressed in black trench coats, and they were not listening to Marilyn Manson.
It was also evident that being on television was more important to one of the victims of the tragedy as his phone call was placed to a television station and the call was played live on the air. After 15 minutes of shooting someone got the idea that the boy should take cover or hang up and call 911.
Months later, video footage was shown at a law enforcement seminar in Texas. CBS rolled cameras on the footage and immediately it wound up on the Internet and in homes all over the country.
A number of individuals criticized the media for releasing the video footage of the two boys, however it did not stop the magazines from posting photos of them, it did not stop the media from showing the footage because the people would lap it up.
It is annoying to hear people complain of a "big brother" state when they demand that "big brother" methods be used to get that execution style shooting on the news by dinner time.
The big brother state that the paranoid have continued to worry about has arrived. It arrived when the public's "right to know" was replaced with "the media's right to exploit."
It's not entirely their fault because they are merely doing their job. Especially when a public will unwittingly contribute into the bread and circus mentality by having a steady diet of watching people being caught in the act.
With the arrival of more digital TV channels and Internet television there will be many hours of vacant airspace to be filled. What will the outcome be of the future?
If the big brother mentality continues the future will be filled with all kinds of "real TV" programming. This time it may be more brazen.
With big money media groups realizing that reality programming has some value channels will be devoted to broadcasting images that no one else can get.
For example, there have been many programmers in countries such as Holland and Germany that have made being a side show attraction profitable for some people. It has turned into large ratings, and has also created a debate about human rights.
The Orwellian type "Big Brother" television program turns cameras on ten volunteer captives 24 hours a day. Audiences watch five men and five women, aged between 22 and 37, on a private RTL2 channel. This type of programming is becoming trendy in Europe.
This is where fiction becomes reality when movies such as the Truman show, and Ed TV show us the "everyday" man trying to cope with being watched and toyed with by a corporate entity. While the Truman show becomes a metaphor for man's relationship with his creator and whether or not life is just a huge show, ED TV is the epitome of how a corporate big brother can exploit a human being caught in the act of being human. The idea of being scrutinized and studied casts and eerie shadow of doubt regarding privacy in the future.
However in Germany the future is now.
With 28 cameras and 47 microphones trained on the group, we are able to see how people can be reduced to "lab rats" living in isolation in a prefabricated house near in the western city of Cologne. German television watchers look at these people trying to live without a telephone, television or newspapers. These TV stars live like the Amish, and must cut their own firewood, bake bread, till the garden and take 90-second showers. Viewers are spared pictures of the ten people using the toilet.
A fifty-minute edited version of their lives is broadcast every evening. The ten TV recluses, selected from 20,000 applicants, hope to win a jackpot of 128,000 Euro-dollars if they can hold out in the place for a determined amount of time. The winner will be selected by the viewers who will vote on the guinea-pigs' performance every two weeks.
Needless to say that Civil liberties groups and the clergy consider this type of programming appalling and have been lodging protests from the beginning.
A camera at every corner, at every step can give way to exploitation if money can be made, and human dignity is thrown aside in lieu of a fast buck.
The camera lens has put many people in the crosshairs, from royalty to the poor. It is inescapable. While we can shake our heads at Europe for their zeal in monitoring it's public places, we must take a look at what we have to look forward to here in the United States where the camera has it's stealthy presence in our everyday lives.
By the year 2002 it has been suggested that cameras will not remain stationary. Soon remote cameras will be used to get that once in a lifetime Kodak moment. The technology is already available and it is waiting in the wings to be used.
These cameras will be remote controlled and will literally be like a fly on the wall. These small Remotely Piloted Vehicles or UAVs (Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles) will eventually carry small video cameras and will fly in those hard to reach areas like a business or a yard. These vehicles will be used by law enforcement so that patrolling can be more efficient.
Cameras such as these have been placed on small blimps at basketball games to get close up shots of audience members cheering for the home team.
However the future microcams will be more sophisticated and durable so that they can be used in hazardous areas.
News organizations will be able to use these small aircraft so that they can get into dangerous areas where a human cameraman would be in danger. For example if a hostage crisis were going on a remote camera could be positioned inside the room so that we could get a front row seat. A war zone could be live in your living room right where the soldiers are firing their weaponry.
It has also been rumored that stealth blimps have been used as surveillance platforms in big cities. Many are claiming that the various UFO sightings as of late are in reality, these camera platforms that not only are equipped with electronic eyes, but also carry a squadron of black helicopters that can be dispatched at a moments notice where civil unrest, or criminal activity is taking place.
Oh the power of the watchful eye in the hands of the power hungry elite. Their lives will be as simple as pushing a button and watching their armies maim and kill, and their enforcers detaining and threatening civilians.
My prayer is that it backfires on them and with any luck, people who are fed up will fight back. Some are doing it now and are being persecuted and labeled for their technological "treason."
The use of such technology can bite the hand that feeds it. Governments are realizing that the employment of such technology could virtually undermine the grotesquely convoluted elements of their various propaganda/misinformation and promotional campaigns.
Soon the Seeing Eye could be turned on officials and we would realize that even those who tell us what to do have secret meetings with hookers and do under the table bribes.
That is why you are hearing the screaming of limits to our technological abilities.
The Internet itself has been involved in openly divulging information that the chosen "news" filters have neglected to report, such as lies about the war in Yugoslavia and the President Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair.
Many news authorities now are playing catch up to the likes of Matt Drudge and others that are net savvy and have a journalistic sting.
Janet Reno has once again put on her McCarthy mask and has resolved that technological insurgence paranoia will deliver a quick response from the people to eliminate anyone or anything that might undermine those implausible lies that have been spun so well by a power hungry elite.
Government is realizing that a technological runaway train is heading towards them and they are wanting controls over the cameras and the internet.
That is why we are seeing monopolies being created while others are being denounced because they are not government friendly.
George W. Bush the man that many "conservatives" are rallying behind believes that the Internet needs a overhaul because he has seen websites that reveal some of the things about his character that he does not want you to see.
Senator McCain another ornery politician who wants your vote is not Internet friendly either. After the scare mongering about predators and cultists lurking on the net McCain was one of those "rational" and "intelligent" bureaucrats that was duped into co-writing the Communications Decency Act.
This from a man who openly called the Vietnamese "gooks" in press conferences rationalizing that he is exempt from "decency" because he was tortured in Vietnam during the war.
It also seems to be the whim of the uninformed that the Internet is the new instant "blame all" for the recent rise in child terrorism. They claim that all of this "bad data" is influencing children into becoming monsters.
What they fail to tell you is that all of the information that children have accumulated can be found in most school and public libraries.
What next, a virtual book burning and purging of offending history?
Free and open information is a dangerous thing to governments.
Revelations about civil unrest and holes in propaganda campaigns poses serious implications for the volatility of government.
Villains will be created as a result. Renegade information junkies who publish these "little known secrets" will be labeled subversives and the word will go forth for control of all visual and audio information that has not passed the governmental litmus test.
The thundering of such attitudes have already rumbled throughout government.
Janet Reno guises her concern of Internet subversion by shaking her fists about pornography and terrorist propaganda stating that there are features of the Internet that make it different from prior technologies, namely the ability to self publish or heaven forbid broadcast images that are inappropriate.
Reno believes that these broadcasts and self published opinions may justify the need for changes in laws and procedures that govern the detection and investigation of computer crimes. Her solution is reminiscent of the Gestapo tactics used in World War II Germany.
Once again it must be stated that there are already laws on the books regarding fraud, libel, and slander.
So what is the real reason behind her new and improved McCarthyism?
The answer is one big laugh if you like to see your government sweat.
With the marriage of video cameras and the Internet, we will be able to turn the tables on those snoopy elitists and they are well aware of it.
Soon the revolution will be fought on a new electronic battlefield. It will be a war of images and words that conveniently slip through the cracks to shape public attitudes.
It very well could be the catalyst for a more isolated public. Where people are meant to be seen and not heard.
Copyright 1998-2007 Ground Zero Media, Clyde Lewis, and John Hart. All Rights Reserved.