Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Channeling Charles, Part 1

This is a very intelligent post, and not just because the writer praises me (though obviously that helps!)

In dealing with the subject raised here, he or she points out the following very pertinent Dickens extract (from 'Great Expectations'):

'"Estella thinks I’m a nosey busybody,” said Ms Havisham. “But I’ve seen her walking on the street holding hands with a boy, and I’m not about to take advice from a whore.”'

This rather neatly skewers the judgementalism that ASBO TV promotes. Suddenly, it is possible for people to know much more than is desirable about their neighbours. Ms Havisham would love ASBO TV. She could make all the judgements she so relishes with much more ease. Instead of relying on what little she can see without leaving the house and gossip, she could just turn the telly on and the world would be at her fingertips.

Matt, a couple of weeks ago, drew a parallel between my post on ASBO TV and the one on 'Big Brother'. That parallel certainly exists in the personage of 57-year old Jan Ashby, who admitted to the 'Telegraph':

'I must admit I have watched it every day since I have had it'.

Ms Ashby also admits to being a 'huge fan' of 'Big Brother'. Sadly, my rather bludgeoning attempts to make her seem like a despicable voyeur are bound to struggle with the fact that one of my next posts will be about 'Big Brother', of which I too am a 'huge fan'. Make of that what you will.

The writer of the first link points to a book I'd never heard of, let alone read, called 'The Transparent Society' by David Brin. Per Wikipedia:

'He argues that it would be good for society if the surveillance is equal for all, and the public has the same access as those in power. He bases this argument upon the claim that the most dangerous and corrupt abuses of power go hand-in-hand with a lack of accountability and transparency.'

He may wish to correct me if I misrepresent him here, but this seems to be similar to SafeTInspector's comment to my post:

'The reason this might be better than 1984 or Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany is that the power is completely decentralized. Everyone knows that everyone is being watched and everyone is allowed to partake of the watching.'

I'm glad he made that comment, because I do like a bit of Devil's advocacy. What's more, it is a perfectly reasonable position. Brin appears to argue that leaving surveillance up to 'them' only (where 'them' inevitably means agents of the state) means granting more power to our rulers than is desireable - consider how much they fuck up with power they already have.

On one level I actually prefer this viewpoint to my own - surveillance is here, perhaps it would be best if we try to live with it, and as a libertarian, it would surely be better for the private individual to have a hand in policing matters than for the state to monopolise it. However, I remain committed to my position for two reasons: firstly, while this government has done everything it can to remove accountability from the criminal justice system (particularly by the pernicious removal of trial by jury), CCTV evidence still has to be judged in a court of law, and for as long as Blair has to compose speeches attacking judges as obsessed by civil liberties, then the courts are still doing their job. Secondly, on a less practical and more ideological plane, adopting that position would mean accepting defeat. However, I am an eternal optimist (ha!) and I refuse to lose my idealised vision of a society with drastically reduced surveillance (or better still, none at all).

However, there is good news. Debuting at the Cannes Film Festival is a British film called 'Red Road'. This is exciting for two reasons. Firstly, it is allegedly really good. Secondly, its director recently had this to say:

BBC News: 'Cannes director urges CCTV debate'

This is happy stuff. The article reveals one staggering fact - Britain allegedly has 4.2 million CCTV cameras. This is 20% of the worlds total for about 0.1% of its population. One camera for every fourteen people. How has this come about?

Does this film represent a silver lining for the cloud?

thanks for the link and your kind words, dude (ps, i'm an American chick happily living in Bristol).
A society with no serveillance is probably not possible.
Then the question citizens must ask themselves is, "Am I safe HERE? Am I watched HERE?"
If everyone was watched all the time by everyone else, then the answer would be easier.
And easy answers mean one more step towards a utopia free from thought!
Rimone - No worries! I should be thanking you. By the way, I've enjoyed looking at your blog this afternoon, so I hope you won't mind if I blogroll you. Let me know if you do!

SafeT - Utopianism is my main weakness. All published utopias, even ones by eminent writers and philosophers, end up looking awful (and generally somewhat fascist in their prescriptiveness). In some respects, I'm no better, and maybe worse, than others in that regard.
Steve: of course i don't mind (i've already added yours). :-)
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?