jollyroger's picture

    In praise of the universal surveillance state. No shame in our game.

    The left has fought tooth and nail as the proliferation of surveillance devices, both privately and publicly installed, continues apace.

    I believe that this is an error.

    One, we'll never roll back the surveillance devices because they give to their controllers the irresisstable superpowers of being in more than one place at once, and being invisible.

    Two, we should welcome, not oppose universal surveillance.

    The recent importance of chance police video of George Zimmermann has highlighted, not for the first time, the crucial evidentiary material contained in such surveillance records as to which  the government is willingly  (or inadvertently) subject.

    Per contra, whole police departments have gone to court to oppose citizen cell phone videos conducted in the public streets.

    To date, law enforcement, who would put cameras everywhere, fights cameras in the one place an honest cop wants it-the interrogation room, so he cannot later be accused of improper force.

    This is another of the super powers of surveillance-the power to disambiguate.  Instead of the victims word against the aggressor, the camera/recorder/gunshot locator, etc, brings clarity out of attempted perjury.

    Viva Surveillance, may it be frequent, pervasive, and UBIQUITOUS

    Thus, complete transparency in government.  Nothing is said or done outside the public eye.

    If they want to watch us, we get to watch them.

    Speaking as a retired stripper, it's only fair. 

    No shame in our game, no shame in theirs.


    Having cameras everywhere and always releasing the footage are two different things.

    We're talkin' streaming live--all feeds,. all access...

    Yes, this means surveillance at every restaurant table in Washington DC-we get every conversation of everybody.  All the time.  Everybody's on Big Brother.

    Donal is right. Big Brother can always seize the videos, like the security camera video across from the Pentagon on 9/11.

    Well, of course, in our hypothetical total information openess environment, we are presuming that freedom of information must be more than a sick joke wrapped up in a redacted disclosure.

    I note a serendipitous controversy surrounding the occupy live streams.

    Interesting point, JR, and one that is seldom mentioned.

    In my opinion, the Big Brother bogeyman is a rhetorical scare tactic with little connection to reality. Could the U.S. government transform itself a despotic regime that incarcerates political dissidents? I'm sure it's possible. But if it happens, a court ruling against video surveillance is hardly going to stop it.

    Privacy rights only offer protection against despotism in the left-wing fantasy world of Vendetta, where righteous partisans secretly meet in camera-free zones to plot against the regime. It's the flip-side of the right-wing fantasy in which armed militias save America from totalitarianism. Great stories, bad policy.

    In reality, our best defenses against despotism are more humdrum: the rule of law and as you point out, transparency.

    But I would add that universal surveillance does have a steep price. There is an often-blurred distinction between a totalitarian society (i.e. the Soviet Union) and a repressive society (i.e. Singapore). Privacy rights may do little to protect us from the first, but they do help with the second. Marijuana possession, for example, violates federal law and the laws of every state with some minor exceptions. So the next time you smoke up, imagine that the cops are watching.

    PS As a follow-up exercise, imagine what universal transparency would have been like when alcohol, abortion, miscegenation, and sodomy were illegal.

    I propose two necessary codicils.

    1. we must be impeccable.

    2. We must define impeccable in libertarian terms--ie, those behaviors which at present we seek to cloak because they are both illegal and potentially embarrassing, once released from the societal sanctions which are left over from the days of clerical jurisdiction over morals, become merely embarrassing, and the new rule is that embarrassment is not a good reason to hide.


    imagine that the cops are watching

    >Funny you should say that...true story:

    ​Early 80's I live in Berkeley, where the city council has imposed an 11 page questionnaire addressing principally the issue of what other important police activities an officer had considered and rejected in favor of making a marijuana arrest.

    ​Cops hate paperwork.

    ​After living under this regime for some time, I found myself in a "fern bar" on Union St. in The City. (SF).  It's busy, people are sitting at each other's tables, there's two guys across from me when I pull out my habitual "bullet" three-hitter which was  my "public bong" of choice. (this is so far back, you could smoke in bars...)

    Just then one of the guys says, "hey, you wouldn't believe what this guy's job is (pointing to his friend)

    Me, "yeah, what?"

    Guy, (laughing) "He's a cop!"

    I put away the pipe, no blood, no foul.

    As I have remarked earlier - My secret shame: Cops like me.


    Perhaps Ai as learned from DSK, the virtue of the unblinking eye...(nooo, prescioussss, nasty evil Sauron cannot have the precious, it's ours)

    Sorry, momentary fugue state there...

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