Though the New York Surveillance Camera Players (SCP-New York) is a small, informal grouping and its members do not have a lot of time to spend, they are happy to be interviewed by any reporter, journalist or documentary-maker who wants to do so, except for radio people, with whom we no longer speak.
The members of the SCP-New York do not like to have their good will abused or their time wasted. In particular, the group objects to reporters who interview them at length and then disappear, never to be heard from again, leaving the group in doubt as to whether their piece ever appeared (not to mention what it said or how it portrayed the group), or those who claim that their efforts did in fact produce a published piece, but never bother to send the group a copy of it.
To discourage such unprofessional behavior -- as well as to keep track of those reporters who, through no fault of their own, weren't able to get the piece they created on the air or in print -- the SCP-New York has created and continues to update this page of "dead-ends," which are listed below in chronological order, starting with the oldest.
Anyone who is on this list can be removed at any time, provided that he or she sends the SCP-New York a copy of whatever was produced. It doesn't matter if the piece was never published or broadcast: the SCP-New York just wants to see how it came out. If you have produced an unpublished written work on the group, and this arrangement is acceptable to you, the SCP-New York will publish it on this web site.
1. In the wake of the publication of a very popular article about the SCP in the August 1999 issue of Details, there came Kristen Gesswein, a reporter at the Fox News Channel, New York City, who never got beyond the first how-do-you-dos; Jae Y. Sung of Office KEI, Inc., a New York City-based Japanese TV production company, who asked for, got and paid for a copy of an SCP tape, and then was never heard from again; Jodi Turk, a reporter from the cable TV station Court TV, who conducted an extensive and argumentative telephone interview with the SCP's Art Toad, and then was never heard from again; Cynthia Zak, an Argentinean journalist supposedly freelancing for Elsitiousa, who disappeared after being denied knowledge of the SCP's telephone number; and Damon Wise, a reporter or freelancer for Empire Magazine, who conducted an e-mail interview with Art Toad, and then disappeared. Repeated attempts on the part of the SCP to contact these people proved fruitless.
(On 22 December 2001 -- that is, more than two years after becoming a "dead-end" -- Damon Wise surfaced to claim that his piece on the SCP did in fact run and to ask that the SCP "stop trashing me on your website." The SCP explained that it would be happy to oblige if and when Wise provided the text of his article on the SCP and the date of its publication. First he agreed; then he refused. And so the "trashing" continues!)
2. In September 1999, also in the wake of the article in Details, the SCP were contacted by Alison Ceppi, a producer/videographer at a multimedia Web site called Indieplanet.com, which, amidst much fanfare, was going to debut in February 2000. In addition to attending the SCP's first and only press conference, Ali and her partner Mao videotaped a total of three SCP performances (10 November 1999, 30 November 1999 and 8 December 1999). The very pleasant and professional duo of videographers also interviewed Bill, Susan, Miranda and Jack DeMolay at great length; the interviews took place at Blackout Books, which closed in August 2000.
But Indieplanet.com never aired Ali and Mao's piece on the SCP, and it's been almost a year since the SCP last heard from the duo. There can only be one reason for this dire turn of events: the Indieplanet Web site failed as a business enterprise. (This would account for the facts that the Web site hasn't been updated in many many months, that e-mails to Ali@Indieplanet.com go unanswered, and that Indieplanet isn't in the telephone directory.) And when the Web site went down, it took Ali and Mao's video with it. Hopefully it will re-surface some day.
3. In September 1999, the SCP were contacted by Silke Gondolf, New York-based reporter for Time Zone International, Inc., a German TV Production. It was only after repeated efforts to contact Ms. Gondolf that the SCP finally learned that she had stopped communicating with the group because the show in which the group was to appear was canceled.
4. In January 2000, the group was contacted by Lex Lonehood, a freelancer hoping to publish a piece in Wired News. He attended a talk given by the SCP's Art Toad and conducted an interview via e-mail with him, the transcript of which follows.
Q. You seemed a little angry at your presentation [at ABC No Rio in NYC on 8 January 2000]. Does the anger stem from the surveillance issue or from the police/security hassling you to stop your shows?
A. The former. But I should say that, in experiencing Seth Tobocman's performance, I noticed a distinctly angry tone in it (at times). I think that what makes activists different from academics, journalists and others who are employed by systems that presume to be "objective," is that they get emotionally involved in their subjects. Because those subjects are being oppressed, some of the emotions involved are anger, pain and resentment.
Q. Do you have a source of information about the new kinds of software you were describing like Face It and Strange Behavior?
A. Check links off of http://www.panix.com/~blackout/links.html (scroll down to privacy) and http://www.panix.com/~notbored/scp-links.html.
Q. What do you think the ramifications of their use will be?
A. George Orwell's 1984.
Q. To play devils advocate, do you see a positive trade-off to surveillance, say for instance if you were attacked using an ATM, wouldn't you be glad they might be able to apprehend your attacker by using the videotape?
A. The ATM camera is, despite being effective enough to chill free speech and free assembly rights, always vulnerable for one reason or another: over-used tapes, hopelessly blurry images, bad placement, disguises, etc. But, in general, the whole "make them think twice" idea -- whether it is applied to the death penalty, nuclear weapons deterrence or surveillance cameras -- is hopelessly flawed and unworkable.
Q. To what extent do you think the Guiliani administration is fueling the surveillance boom? Or is the use of surveillance cameras something that's begggining [sic] to happen everywhere?
A. Both are true: Giulianism is everywhere.
Q. It seems beyond the issue of security, many people find the increased use of cameras, such as the prying webcams (like the one you talk about on 45th & 5th) appealing on the level of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Is there an element of that in SCP productions? It felt a touch ironic during your talk at ABC when the documentarian was panning her camera into the audience (even though she asked our permission).
A. By definition, because she asked permission, there was no voyeurism. Because no one, especially myself, took the presence of a camera as opportunity or justification to "act out," there was no exhibitionism. But, to answer your question: if performers are exhibitionists (a dubious stretch of the term), then the SCP are exhibitionists. It's not a big part of who we are or what we do. Perhaps our society, with the increase of reality based TV programs, as well as the proliferation of cameras everywhere, on some levels is enjoying this spectacle. See my essay http://www.panix.com/~notbored/transparent.html which treats this issue directly.
Q. Can you talk a little about your ideas against commodity culture and advocation [sic] against private property? Do you think at this point in our product-obsessed society there is any hope for change?
A. Yes, because ours is primarily a work-based society, not a product-obsessed one.
Q. Do you think of Washington Square Park as "ground-zero" in your battle against surveillance?
Q. Is the spot, which you describe, as cops zooming in on women's bodies, and being able to read the coins in your hand, the most invasive in terms of peoples privacy?
A. Combined with Face It recognition, digital storage of data, and interconnected databases of personal info-profiles -- yes.
Q. What are some of the more memorable moments or anectdotes [sic] from you SCP events?
A. The security guard who told me we couldn't perform in front of or videotape the piece of the Berlin Wall (a piece of public property, even universal history, if there ever was one) displayed in the "public" urban park on 53rd and Madison, because it was "private property."
Q. Can you tell me about your trip to Amsterdam and any upcoming SCP events?
A. I know very little about it.
Q. Are there other groups currently following in your footsteps?
A. No, not yet.
Q. Do you think the public's ignorance on the surveillance subject is the biggest problem or do you think that most people know about the cameras and are willing to sacrific [sic] their privacy for their "safety"?
A. the first choice.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to add or put across at this time?
A. the SCP website has got about all I gotta say on the subject.
In response to the SCP's queries, Lonehood explained why his story never ran. "My story I did for Wired News ended up getting pulled at the last minute (probably because I took too much of an editorial stance on the issue and they wanted something more impartial)."
5. At the end of February 2000, the SCP were contacted by James Bone, who identified himself as the New York correspondent of The Times of London, one of Rupert Murdoch's papers. Bone came to one of the SCP's performance at City Hall, asked SCP Director Art Toad a few questions, and departed before the performance actually began. Weeks went by without the group hearing from Bone; several e-mailed requests for an update went unanswered. Finally, at the end of May 2000, Bone wrote back to say that his piece on the group had run "several weeks ago" in The Times of London's Saturday magazine. Though he promised several times to send the group a copy of his article, none ever arrived.
6. In March 2000, the SCP were contacted by a Julie Deardorff, a reporter from The Chicago Tribune. Ms. Deardorff said that she would
like to get in touch with the founders of the Surveillance Camera Players and find out when the next performance will be. I'm working on a piece about surveillance in New York City, from the health club (Ezone) to restaurants and I'd like to include the Surveillance Camera Players.
Though she received immediate responses to this e-mail (by both telephone and e-mail), Ms. Deardorff didn't answer either one. Since then, the SCP has received no word from her.
7. On 28 March 2000, the SCP were contacted by "Camera Planet," which was somehow affiliated with MSNBC/BNNtv.com. A freelance producer from "Camera Planet" attended and videotaped the SCP's April Fool's Day performance, and interviewed members of the group at some length. But the freelancer's bosses were happy with the tape: they wanted footage recorded directly off of a surveillance monitor. And so, on a beautiful Saturday morning in late April, the freelancer and SCPer Bill Brown entered the subway station at 14th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, with the intention of getting such footage. But a combination of factors ruined the shoot. The token-booth clerk called the police well before Bill's arrival, the performance wasn't on the monitor it was supposed to be on, and three police officers pursued and confronted the freelancer and Bill after they'd left the subway station. The cops warned them that, because they didn't have proper press permit identification, they were each subject to a $100 fine! (Note well: press permits are not necessary to videotape in the subway.)
Things degenerated rapidly after that. In the middle of production, the freelancer had a bad falling out with Camera Planet and was fired; he had nothing to do with the final product. (See #9, below).
8. On April Fool's Day 2000, the SCP were contacted by New York Times reporter Marshall Sella. In an e-mail the subject line of which was "Urgent/New York Times Article," Sella wrote:
I'm a writer for the New York Times (Sunday) Magazine, and am wrapping up a feature about media and privacy and voyeurism and all of it. Oddly enough, I've only just now run across your group, and for obvious reasons, I'm keen to talk to you as soon as possible. I know this is a bit sudden, but could you give me a call or e-mail me? I think SCP would be a relevant part of this piece, and I'm hoping you'd have fun with it, as well.
Since the SCP was performing that very day (April Fool's Day), it invited Sella to attend, which he did. No longer working under an "urgent" dead-line, he also attended the group's May Day performance in front of web-cameras in Times Square. On the first occasion, Sella struck the SCP as very much like the other reporters from The New York Times that the group has met. A pleasant, affluent-looking young white male, Sella was completely comfortable with the privileges society has bestowed upon him, as well as with the prestige of being associated with The New York Times. Since he personally prospers, Sella approaches everything -- even the ominous spectre of Big Brother -- in a pleasant, scoffing-and-joking, "light-hearted" way. He has little understanding of people who are genuinely horrified or enraged by injustice, and needs to think that they can't really be serious when they say that things must be changed. (For example: before the Washington Square park performance, Sella asked Art Toad if "we" were going to get arrested. When Monsieur Toad responded that "we" wouldn't get arrested because "we" were relatively prosperous white people, and that only poor blacks and Latinos are summarily arrested, Sella assumed a slightly mocking tone to say, "Oo! Dagger to the heart of the ruling society!")
In the end, Sella's piece on "media and privacy and voyeurism and all of it" ran as scheduled as a front-page feature story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine for 21 May 2000 -- but contained absolutely no references to either "privacy" or the SCP. Completely one-sided in its take on the phenomenon of web-cams, Sella's bit of Dumbed-Down Yuppie Fluff focused on people who want to be surveilled 24 hours a day, especially the contestants in the TV-game show (un)ironically entitled Big Brother.
9. In April 2000, an MSNBC employee named Brett Schwartz contacted SCP Director Art Toad and asked to see videotapes the group had made of its own performances. Brett said that the show's producer was interested in footage that was recorded off of a monitor that displayed images captured by a real surveillance camera. The SCP agreed -- provided that any SCP footage included in the show would have to be properly licensed and that MSNBC would have to pay the group a licensing fee of $150 -- and sent Schwartz a copy of the video of the SCP's performance of 1984.
Quite popular among some TV producers, this tape has been licensed and broadcast by CNN, Spy TV and Trackers, among others. Though it wanted to use it, MSNBC found the SCP's $150 licensing fee too steep! As a result, the group didn't hear back from Brett for several weeks.
When finally contacted by the SCP, Brett seems to have lied -- or seems to have passed on the lie that he himself had been told -- when he said that MSNBC had all the footage it needed to produce its segment on the SCP. But when the program -- entitled Who's Watching You -- aired on MSNBC on 27 August 2000, it included Mark Ghunheim of Mediaeater and Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union, but did not include either Bill Brown or the Surveillance Camera Players. (Note that all three New Yorkers [Brown, Ghuneim and Siegel] appear in the Spy TV segment on the anti-surveillance movement in New York City.) Because MSNBC could not get the footage it wanted on the cheap, the SCP were cut out and forgotten about. Needless to say, Brett did not advise the SCP of these developments, nor did he inform the group of the air-date of the program from which it had been dropped.
Though both Ghunheim and Siegel are doing good work here in NYC -- Mark scouts out, maps out and uploads to the Internet a PDF file that contains the precise location of surveillance cameras all over Manhattan, and Norm gives interviews -- neither of them are activists, in any case, not in the way that the Surveillance Camera Players are activists. Both Ghunheim and Siegel keep track of the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places. Only the SCP does something with this information (it uses it to determine the locations of SCP performances and to suggest content for new SCP plays). But, paradoxically, perhaps, the SCP does something that the "average" person could easily do; anyone can use a magic marker to create a board that can be held up to a surveillance camera. But only a few people have the computers and technical expertise necessary to create and maintain the PDF file and Ghunheim's Mediaeater Web site, or the SCP's Web site, for that matter; only a few people have the knowledge and eloquence necessary to speak in front of television crews. And so the excision of the SCP really hurts the impartiality and credibility so desperately sought by the producers of Who's Watching You. What one is left with is the unmistakeable impression that, despite the threat to basic constitutionally protected rights posed by surveillance cameras, there is nothing "everyday people" can do to stop the proliferation of them.
Note that the excision of the question-mark from the program's title turns the question "Who's Watching You" into a statement: this is who is watching you. A question can be answered and thus encourages participation; indeed, a question "knows" that it is incomplete and that it will only be complete when it is answered. But the title of MSNBC's show asks and answers the question, which sends the message that participation -- or resistance -- is not needed, irrelevant, literally "out of the question."
10. On 18 May 2000, the SCP were contacted by Peter Warren, who wrote:
I am technology editor of the Sunday Herald in Glasgow and am very interested in what you are doing and very keen to talk to you. Could you please get in contact with me on UK [number omitted], I will ring you immediately. I would have to do this either today or tomorrow so the quicker we can make contact the better. Alternatively you can send me a phone number and I will call you.
Later that same day, Mr. Warren conducted a long telephone interview with the SCP's Bill Brown, who got the distinct impression that the journalist was lonely and simply wanted someone to talk to. This impression seems to have been confirmed by the fact that Mr. Warren never published a story on the SCP and hasn't responded to numerous e-mails.
11. On 10 August 2000, the SCP were contacted by Angelika Schnell, the editor of ARCH+, which Ms. Schnell described as "a quarterly outcoming architectural magazin settled in Berlin."
Our next issue will be on surveillance. On TV we have seen that you are making performances and that you also have a map with the locations of video cameras in NYC. Could you send us more information about your projects? We are especially interested in your performance at Times Square. One of our authors has written an essay on the engagement of the Disney Corporation at Times Square and we would like to combine this articles with pictures and explanations of your project and also with the map of video cameras at Times Square. Could you send this material? Our e-mail address is [omitted]. Thank you very much in advance.
Though the SCP responded quickly, positively and completely to this request, Ms. Schnell was never again heard from.
12. On 1 September 2000, the SCP were contacted by Tom Patterson, a producer for the arts show EGG, which is carried in America by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). In a first, this inquiry included a reference to this very archive of dead-ends.
Perhaps I'm risking being listed as a "dead end" (they make for great reading, by the way) but I'm interested in pitching the SCP as a story idea for a new show on PBS called EGG the arts show.
(About the show: Our pilot season was last year, this year we're making about 20 new episodes. The show is about arts and culture in America, each show about 30 minutes and addressing a particular theme, each piece about 4-7 minutes and interpreting the theme in a hopefully interesting manner. (I know a lot of people might question the "artistic" value of the SCP, but I prefer to take a broad view of the term.) Also, the shows have no narrator or on-screen interviewer, so the voice telling the story would be yours. Our journalistic input is entirely through the editing.)
So anyway, we're going into production in October, and I was curious if you had any performances planned in the upcoming months. I'll let you know if the powers that be show any interest.
Thank you for your time.
The SCP were pleased by being contacted by someone like this, that is, by someone who'd already done a good deal of research on the group (and who even knew of the existence of this very archive of reviews). Unfortunately for the group, and for the audience(s) who watch EGG, Tom Patterson has ended up one of the dead-ends. On 18 October 2000, after showing his bosses a copy of the 8-minute-long, very enticing trailer made by Jed and Amanda (who have been making a 60-minute-long long documentary on the SCP since November 1999), he [Patterson] wrote the group to say,
Sorry I haven't gotten back to you in a while, but they did finally see the tape, and unfortunately they (the series producers) weren't interested. I still thought it was a good idea, but (like I predicted) they have trouble seeing the artistic merit in the SCP; admittedly, it is more of a cool protest stunt than an artistic thing. So, unless I can think of a way to change their minds, I don't think it's gonna happen. I guess you can add me to your list.
Guess so, dude. The only regret the group has about this pathetic episode is that it never had an opportunity to tell "the series producers" about the SCP's own ideas about the "artistic merit" of its performances. Is crudity of expression an indicator of an insufficiency or absence of artistic merit? Is artistic merit only found in the sophisticated manipulation of plastic materials, and absent in any manipulation of conceptual or social materials, no matter how sophisticated or "cool"? Apparently so, at least among the EGGheads at PBS.
13. On 13 September 2000, the SCP were contacted by Estelle Fournier, who identified herself as "a CBC French Network reporter" who "would like to do a story about camera surveillance in NY and the Surveillance Camera Players." Though the SCP responded favorably to Ms. Fournier's request, she was never heard from again.
14. On 20 September 2000, the SCP were contacted by Amy Leader, who identified herself as a researcher for the BBC's Digital Channel Unit in London. "We are currently in production for a series called Conspiracies," she said, "and I was interested in The Surveillance Camera Players [sic] work." In particular, Ms. Leader was interested in obtaining copies of videotapes: the SCP's videotape of its performances and TV appearances; and a tape that contained a fresh interview with the group's members. The SCP responded favorably. Since the BBC couldn't afford to send a TV crew to New York to record the latter, the SCP taped an interview on its own and sent it out. Though the group was paid a small licensing fee and reimbursed for all its expenses, the BBC never aired any of the footage. When contacted by the SCP, Amy Leader said that she was no longer involved in Conspiracies and had no idea if the SCP's footage would ever be aired.
15. On 17 October 2000, the SCP were contacted by Lars Hoel, who described himself as "a freelance radio producer here in New York" who was "interested in doing a story on the SCP." Lars wanted to "pitch a different piece on the SCP to another NPR program [other than Rick Karr's Anthem] . . . perhaps All Things Considered." The SCP said, "Great!" but never heard back from Lars.
16. On 17 October 2000, the SCP once again heard from EGG, the arts show on WNET (New York). This time it was an associate producer named Fiona Davis, who said she was "curious to find out what you're currently working on and when/where your next performance will be." She received an immediate, positive and detailed response, and eventually a copy of the SCP's video compilation. But on 13 November 2000, she informed the SCP that "We had a meeting late last week" and that "at this point, the executive directors are not certain if they will do a show on law and the arts." And so that was that, again.
17. On 14 November 2000, the SCP were contacted by e-mail by Appolline Baudry, a producer at Canal Plus, the French TV station. Ms Baudry said that she'd "read an article on 'surveillance camera players' on the wire" and that she was "really interested in doing a story on your group." The SCP responded favorably and invited Ms Baudry to the group's next performance, after which the members of the SCP were interviewed. At the time, there were high hopes that Canal Plus would also be present at the anti-surveillance camera actions scheduled to take place in Paris on 14 December 2000, in part because these actions were coordinated by a group with which the SCP were in contact, and in part because an SCP member was going to be present at them. Though a team from Canal Plus was indeed in attendance at the 14 December demonstration in Paris, no one from the TV station has responded to the SCP's repeated requests to get a copy of the programme that was eventually aired, if indeed there ever was one.
18. On 15 December 2000, the SCP were contacted by Margaret J. McLagan, an Assistant Professor in New York University's Department of Anthropology, who wanted to "invite a member of the group to represent your work at a conference on culture jamming that I am organizing here at NYU." It was agreed that Bill Brown would speak about the SCP at the conference, which was scheduled to take place on Friday 23 February 2001. The SCP and Bill's name were actually used to publicize the conference when it was first announced. But then a long time went by without Professor McLagan touching base with either Bill or the SCP. A week before the conference, Bill e-mailed her to ask what was going on. Full of apologies for using him, dumping him and then failing to tell him the news, Professor McLagan explained that Bill had been replaced by other "culture jammers," who included (Bill learned later) representatives from such lame, very recently launched and already obsolete projects as Billionaires for Bush or Gore. No doubt these were personal friends of either Professor McLagan or her lover. Bill, sadly, was not, and is unlikely to become one now.
19. In early March 2001, the SCP were contacted by Josh Cohen, a producer at CBS Productions. Josh wanted to include a short segment on the group in the hour-long documentary entitled Who's Watching You? which he was producing for Investigative Reports, a show that airs on the cable TV station Arts & Entertainment (A&E). After getting the "go ahead" from the group, Josh attended and taped one of the SCP's performances in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, went on one of the group's walking tours, and conducted an extensive interview with Bill Brown. But A&E wasn't happy with Josh's final version and asked for changes. Fortunately for the SCP, these changes involved shooting and including more footage of Bill, who was eventually taped by Josh crew's leaving his apartment, going through a subway station, traveling by subway to the building at which he was then employed, entering the building and going up to his office. (The conceit would be the fact that there are enough surveillance cameras to watch everything a "normal" person does, no matter where he or she goes.) Though he isn't an actor, Bill spent an entire day repeating the same motions and gestures over and over and over. . . .
At long last, Bill was told by the CBS crew that A&E was happy with the tape Josh submitted to it and had scheduled the show for broadcast on 24 September 2001. But A&E itself never publicized or even mentioned that particular edition of Investigative Reports, which isn't typical. Come 24 September 2001, the show didn't air, and A&E didn't inform its viewers of this fact or schedule another date for the broadcast. (The people at CBS had no idea the show didn't air as scheduled until Bill called it to their attention!) It seems clear that A&E was never comfortable with the subject matter of the show, and that it used the 11 September 2001 attacks on America to justify shelving it permanently. If A&E has in fact decided never to air the show, this would not only mean that a great deal of time was wasted, but also that the people at A&E are cowards.
20. On 6 April 2001, the SCP were contacted by Meredith Lerner, a producer with a news-magazine program called New York Central. Scheduled to debut on The Metro Channel (a cable TV station in New York City) at the end of April, the program (in Meredith's words) "will be covering everything about New York City." The SCP responded favorably. A crew from New York Central videotaped one of the group's performances and interviewed several participants at great length. Months went by without the SCP hearing from Meredith or seeing anthing on The Metro Channel. After being sent a couple of e-mails, Meredith replied on 1 October 2001 to say, "the story has been put on hold [sic] because the correspondent that I did the story with is no longer with the show and we had a technical problem with one of the shoots we originally did for this story." On hold?! No, the story is dead.
21. On 7 May 2001, the SCP were contacted by Leah Kerr, who identified herself as a researcher for Ripley's Believe It or Not, a TV show that airs in the USA on the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS). "I saw an article on the Survelliance Camera Players," she said, "and think your projects may make a good segment for Ripley's." After responding favorably, the SCP were told to send a copy of their compilation videotape to TBS, which the group did. Nothing was ever heard from Ms. Kerr again.
22. On 15 May 2001, the SCP were contacted by Shaun Gildea, a Production Assistant at the Discovery Channel (Bethesda, MD), who wrote, "We are currently doing a show for TLC [The Learning Channel] entitled 'City Surveillance' and would be interested in including a bit about your organization." In answer to Gildea's request for "some video footage of your performances to use for the show," the SCP used the Discovery Channel's FedEx number to send out a cassette.
On 22 May 2001, Gildea wrote the SCP to say, "we have received the tape and are interested in using some of the footage [...] This being the case, I would like to send a footage release form to you. If you could review this form and sign it accordingly we will be able to include a small piece on your organization for our upcoming show 'City Surveillance' on The Learning Channel." So far so good! But when Bill of the SCP asked, "What amount are you offering as a licensing fee?" Gildea's response was "Unfortunately, the budget does not allow for a licensing fee. All I can say is that it is great exposure for the SCP." Because he'd seen several installments of TLC's series on surveillance cameras, and knew that this series is quite popular in several countries, Bill wasn't buying it. He demanded a licensing fee of $150, and said that, if this small sum wasn't acceptable, Gildea should return the SCP's tape to the group. Evidently, Bill's counter-offer was indeed unacceptable, because the tape arrived back in the group's mailbox a week later.
23. On 31 May 2001, the SCP were contacted by Sarah, aka SWPChick. A long-time subscriber to the SCP's e-mailed newsletter, Sarah said that she was "doing a print story about creative activism for Mean Magazine" and that all she needed to complete it was a few photographs of the SCP in action. The SCP gladly referred her to the group's page of photographs and told her to take what she wanted. Everything seemed to be fine until the magazine's publication date kept getting delayed. Finally, on 4 December 2001, Sarah contacted the SCP to report that she was "Sorry to not have notified you sooner" that "The magazine went under after Sept 11th."
24. In mid-August 2001, the SCP were contacted by Sylvia Halpern, a reporter for En Route, a bi-lingual (French/English) magazine that is distributed to passengers on commercial airline flights in Canada. Interested in the SCP's walking tours of heavily surveilled neighborhoods in Manhattan, Ms. Halpern flew down from and back to Montreal for an afternoon so that she could attend one. After interviewing Bill Brown at great length about the SCP, Ms. Halpern was also given an extensive tour of the surveillance cameras in Times Square. But it -- an article about the walking tours in a magazine for tourists -- was too good to be true, and the "bubble" was burst by the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Though the SCP hasn't tried to contact Ms. Halpern since her return to Montreal, it's obvious that -- given the fact that hijacked airplanes were used to destroy the Twin Towers -- the story wasn't and never will be printed by En Route.
25. On 20 August 2001, the SCP were contacted by Ted Kim (a producer with the Tokyo Broadcasting System's New York office), who was interested in covering the group's participation in 7 September 2001. Given the go-ahead, Kim attended and videotaped the 7s01 performance, as well as conducted a few interviews with the members of the SCP and various passers-by. Contacted after the 11 September 2001 disaster at the World Trade Center, Kim explained that his project hadn't been cancelled, but had instead been "put on hold" because his crew had not yet been able to arrange an interview with the authorities in Tampa Bay, Florida, where face recognition software is being used. It is obvious to the SCP that, as a result of the cynical exploitation of the disaster, such an interview will never take place, and that, as a result, the Ted Kim's project will never be finished and will never be aired.
26. On 29 August 2001, the SCP were contacted by Kelly Haydon, who explained,
We are a production company currently producing a series for Japanese internet t.v. called "Upstream New York," dedicated to showcasing people and products that are changing the face of technology. Recently, we have done reports on the backlash of technology, covering subjects like the recent proposal for banning cell phones and the health hazards of wireless towers. The Surveillance Camera Players are a unique group activists that not only will make an intesting subject for our series but raise consciousness on the subject of public privacy in Japan. If you are interested in seeing are past "Upstream New York" episodes, you can by clicking onto www.akibatv.com, the site is in Japanese but you can click on the RealPlayer clips with "mado" written in English on them. You can also see our other work at www.madotv.com.
The SCP responded favorably, and invited a crew from Mado Productions to the group's next performance, which was scheduled to take place on 7 September 2001. The crew came and taped both the performance and interviews with several performers and by-standers. Contacted several weeks after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, and asked if there were any plans to air the show, Kelly replied on 1 October 2001,
Not likely. After the Trade Towers came down, our business has lost funding from our Japanese clients, and we have been focusing on non-internet projects to keep ourselves afloat. Please accept my apologies and sympathies for I'm sure your group has experienced grief as well. Keep doing what you are doing, this city has turned into a police state, I couldn't even have an enjoyable evening at the movies without having my bag checked by five different people.
The SCP promised to keep in touch with Kelly, for she is obviously a person of intelligence and integrity.
27. On 31 August 2001, the SCP were contacted by Jamie McCallum, who said that,
i'm looking for someone from the SCP to talk to about the upcoming day of action on sept 7th. i'm a reporter with mother jones magazine in san francisco, and we're looking to do a story on the SCP. thanks, and please call me if you have the chance, and ill call you back on our dime. sooner the better. thanks.
After responding favorably to this request, Bill Brown of the SCP gave McCallum a rather long, in-depth interview by telephone. When it was done, McCallum said that the article would be running in the on-line version of Mother Jones "early next week." When the article failed to appear, Bill contacted McCallum, who explained that "they didnt go for the story so i'm not writing it." In other words, McCallum didn't submit a story to his editors, but the idea for a story, despite the fact that he'd already interviewed the subject at great length. What a waste of time! If he wasn't sure if his editor would go with the story, why didn't McCallum simply base his pitch on what he could read on the SCP's website?
No matter. Unlike many other publications, Mother Jones wasn't interested in either the SCP or the 7s01 International Day of Action Against Video Surveillance. This says a great deal about the total inability of the "liberal Left" to appreciate the significance of one of the central issues of the 21st century: the right to privacy.
28. On 31 August 2001, the SCP were contacted by Sean Michael Kaminsky, who described himself as "working for a new webzine called Mutationspotting." The focus of this web site, Kaminsky explained in an e-mail,
is new trends in youth/alternative culture from around the globe. I tuned into SCP from an email I read on a listserv I subscribe to (DMT) and proposed the article to Mutationspotting. They are interested and I would like to do a piece surrounding the massive event on September the 7th which sounds like it's going to be very cool [sic]. I would also like to do a brief interview and shoot a few photos with Bill Brown and also one or two younger members (20s) involved with SCP. Would this be possible either on September 7th or prior? Please let me know.
The SCP responded favorably. Kaminsky attended the group's performance on 7 September 2001, took photographs and interviewed Bill Brown as well as two SCP members who are in their 20s. But no article was ever published. On 30 January 2002, the SCP finally learned why. In Kaminsky's words, "I am told by my contacts that Mutationspotting.com was placed in receivership (i.e. the UK version of bankruptcy) last year. I was never paid for the article and it appears that it will unfortunately not be published."
29. On 5 September 2001, the SCP were contacted by telephone by James Verini, a reporter for The New York Observer. Interested in the SCP's walking tours, Verini was given his own private walking tour of Times Square on Saturday, 7 September 2001. A good reporter, Verini asked a lot of excellent questions and seemed genuinely interested in the answers he received. But no article was ever published, and Verini hasn't returned the SCP's phone calls. It is likely that The New York Observer, which is a very conservative newspaper, used the 11 September 2001 attacks as an excuse to kill an article it was never comfortable with.
30. On 6 September 2001, the SCP were contacted by telephone by Charles Russo, a reporter for The San Francisco Bay Guardian, who was interested in the SCP's involvement in the 7s01 International Day of Action Against Video Surveillance. On both the telephone and via e-mail, Russo discussed several subjects with the New York SCP's Bill Brown, including a fact of which Bill had previously been unware: the public transportation system in San Francisco ("MUNI") has posted signs that claim that it is using both video and audio surveillance systems on its trains and buses. Bill tried to impress upon Charles the importance of MUNI's use of audio surveillance, which is illegal under federal law. Apparently, Bill succeded, because Charles did indeed check the federal wiretapping statutes, found that MUNI is in violation of Title III of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, and got a good deal of this information into his story, which was finally published on 20 September 2001.
Unfortunately, as Charles himself explained in a subsequent e-mail,
my paragraph that spoke briefly about the scp protest in sf was edited out.... originally, it seemed like i'd be able to write quite a bit about scp and september 7th. of course... [the terrorist attacks on] sept. 11th changed....not so much my angle, but the relevancy of what was going down. crazy, because much of my article is already seeming out of dat[e], especially in light of congressional legislation.
As the NY SCP pointed out after the attacks, this is not the time to put aside the activities of -- or articles on -- the anti-surveillance camera network. More than anything, this is a time to concentrate on such activities and articles. Charles Russo agrees. Unfortunately, his editor(s) at the Guardian do not.
31. On 5 October 2001, the SCP were contacted by Liz Hallorman, a reporter at The Hartford Courant. Ms. Halloran had been assigned to write a story about the video surveillance of everyday life because her editor(s) had heard that a couple of the alleged hijackers of the planes used to attack the World Trade Center had been "caught on tape" by several surveillance cameras in Portland, Maine, in the days before the attack. Her editor(s) wanted to know, "How often are people in America caught on tape by surveillance cameras?" Bill Brown of the NY SCP was happy to answer this question, and spoke to Ms. Halloran on the telephone for a long time. During this conversation, Brown told Halloran that several interviews he'd recently done had ended up "dead-ends" and that it was very important to him that neither the terrorist attack nor America's "war on terrorism" be used to quiet, silence or ignore every other issue of importance. Though Halloran clearly understood and sympathized with Brown's remarks, his contact with her also ended up as a dead-end. On 9 October 2001, in answer to a query from the SCP, she reported that her story "got bumped by [the] start of [the] bombing" of Afghanistan, which began on 7 October 2001, and that there had been "no word yet on new run date." Asked frankly (several times) if the story had been or would eventually be killed, Ms. Halloran hasn't responded and seems increasingly unlikely to do so.
32. On 14 November 2001, the SCP were contacted via telephone by Stephen Cass, an associate editor at IEEE Spectrum. In an e-mail sent later the same day, Cass wrote,
I thought I'd take you up on your suggestion that I email you to outline the scope of the interview; I don't wish to generate the type of expectations that would result in a new entry in the dead ends column! First, the article is *not* about the SCP, or its performances. I am writing an article on Physical Security (including CCTV), and the implications that physical security measures might have on privacy. I've interviewed a number of people who have tended to be more or less been supportive of businesses and schools using CCTV systems. I am trying to include an opposing view point [...] The interview should take about 20 minutes, so I won't be asking for too much of an investment of your time, and like any other journalist, I'll reserve the right to edit it out of my article for whatever reason. However, on the up side, IEEE Spectrum, does have a policy of source review, i.e., where you are quoted in the article will be excised and sent to you for your comment to make sure you're not misquoted.
Though Cass's e-mail read like a letter from an attorney, and not a journalist, the SCP replied favorably and Bill Brown, the group's spokesperson, gave Cass a long, in-depth telephone interview about a variety of subjects, including the SCP, its post-September 11th performances and the growing use of face recognition software. The article, Cass said, would be published in December.
On 6 December 2001, in answer to a query by the SCP, Stephen Cass wrote,
sorry for not getting back to you yesterday, but the decision was made to fold my article into a sibling piece. As we already had the ACLU quoted on the constitutional issue, your piece was lost, but I did get Stanley Aronowitz to make a general ethical objection to cameras (as 40% of the IEEE's memership is outside the U.S. for a large portion of our audience the U.S. constitutional issue is somewhat irrelevant). The SCP 4th amendment argument plus the ACLU would have been redundant and it came down to a practical matter of who is a more recognizable group, the ACLU or the SCP? I will send you a copy of the piece when it comes out and I hope you see that we did manage to include an opposing voice [hic] to surveillance cameras in these Ashcroftian times.
Cass started out looking "to include an opposing view point," ended up including an opposing view point -- that of the ACLU -- and so thinks that he did a good job. But in these "Ashcroftian times," just one opposing view point isn't enough to protect our constitutional rights. Furthermore, the viewpoints of the ACLU and Stanley Aronowitz are not the same as or interchangeable with the viewpoints of the Surveillance Camera Players, who formed precisely because neither the ACLU nor Stanley Aronowitz are doing anything to stop the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places.
33. On 20 November 2001, the SCP were contacted by e-mail by Gert van Langendonck, the New York correspondent for the Belgian daily newspaper De Morgen. Interested in doing a story on the group, Langendonck attended one of the SCP's weekly walking tours and conducted an extensive interview with the SCP's Bill Brown. According to Langendonck, he was ready to submit his story, except for the fact that he'd not yet seen the SCP perform. But the timing was bad: the SCP had performed a few days before and wouldn't perform again until 21 December 2001. Though he was told about the 21 December 2001 performance, Langendonck didn't attend it. Contacted again by the SCP, Langendonck and a photographer from his paper attended the group's performance on 2 March 2002, but hasn't been heard from since then, despite efforts to contact him (again).
34. On 28 November 2001, the SCP received the following e-mail from Johan van de Beek, a sports reporter with the Dutch paper Dagblad de Limburger.
Reagarding [sic] your letter (may 5th, 2001) tot [sic] Robert Flowers, director Utah Olympics Public Saftey Command, commending him for not using Face Recognition Software at the upcoming Olympics, I would like to ask you a few questions.
1. Salt Lake City has recently decided, according to reports in Dutch press, to install Facetrac-technology. Have you protested this decision? 2. Have the attacks of 11 september, in your opinion, made the general public's acceptance of FRS-techniques greater? 3. Please give us more information about Surveillance Camera Players New York. We don't know this organisation. Who are you en [sic] what are your goals?
Though Bill of the SCP responded quickly to these rather interesting questions, Johan van de Beek was never heard from again, despite repeated attempts to contact him.
35. On 10 December 2001, the SCP-New York was contacted by Allison Whitlock, who identified herself as "a researcher/producer working on behalf of Germany's ProSieben television." Ms. Whitlock wanted to know if the group would be interested in appearing in an episode of ProSieben's prime-time science program Galileo that would focus on "all types of surveillance in New York (official and unofficial) - everything from NYPD surveillance to telescopic voyeurism." Bill Brown answered on the behalf of the group, and arranged for ProSieben's crew to have a personalized walking tour of surveillance cameras in Times Square in January 2002. According to Bill, it was easy to see from the indifferent attitude and shallow questions posed by the interviewer that the piece was never going to air or that, if it did, it was going to be short and superficial. In March 2002, Bill asked Ms. Whitlock if the episode on New York surveillance had aired yet, and she replied that it "is just about complete, [and] has been put on the backburner." On 15 May 2002, Bill inquired once again, and was told that it was Ms. Whitlock's sad duty "to report that the peice [sic] has not yet aired [and that] the network has decided to hold off indefinitely."
36. On 25 January 2002, the SCP-New York was contacted by e-mail by Rodolfo S Filho, who described himself as "a journalist working in Brazil." Rodolfo was "writing a feature on surveillance cameras," and had a series of questions, all of which Bill Brown promptly answered. Two months later, Rodolfo reported that these answers were part of "a feature about privacy, blogs [web logs] and reality shows in a print magazine called Play." But, despite repeated requests, Mr. Filho has not bothered to send the SCP-New York a copy of the article. And so it isn't (yet) certain whether the article ever came out or not.
37. On 12 March 2002, the SCP-New York was contacted by e-mail by Ed Martinez from CJSR radio in Edmonton, Canada.
I was wondering if I could set up an interview with the SCP people there perhaps for next week, for our stations radical culture show Red and Black News. The interview would be either with myself or another volunteer Marika, to talk about the politics of SCP, how you related to the WEF protests and the future of SCP related political work. Along those lines anyways.
Despite his pledge never to work with radio people again, Bill Brown agreed to be interviewed by Martinez. This was a mistake, of course: even though he agreed to call Bill at a pre-arranged time, Martinez never called and never e-mailed the SCP to apologize to Bill for wasting his time.
38. In August 2002, the SCP-New York were contacted by George Steinmetz, a photographer from National Geographic, who explained that the magazine would be doing a piece on surveillance. In response, Bill Brown invited the photographer to attend several of the group's weekly walking tours, as well as to the live performance the group staged in Times Square on the morning of 9 September 2002. In addition to taking photographs at these events, Steinmetz also took extensive notes. A publication date was set. But the article wasn't published, and the SCP-New York didn't hear anything about it. Sometime in Spring 2003, George Steinmetz and National Georgraphic were placed on this "Dead Ends" list. But then the group suddenly heard from the photographer, who said the article was very much alive and that his editors wanted another photo shoot with the group. Once again, Bill agreed to be involved. The "Dead Ends" entry was removed, and three members of the SCP-New York spent hours in Times Square, performing and posing for George's cameras.
At long last, an article by David Shenk and entitled "Watching You: The World of High-Tech Surveillance" was finally published in the November 2003 issue of National Geographic. Long and lavishly illustrated, the article was completely one-sided: it didn't mention a single person who is opposed to generalized surveillance. Worse still, the article had the unmitigated gall to claim that "the public seems to approve of the cameras" and that "the vast majority are clearly putting up with it." Both of these claims are false and, even worse, the writer (and his editor) knows that they are false, but there was no way for the magazine's readers to realize these facts: the article contained neither references to nor photographs of the Surveillance Camera Players. [Note added 26 February 2010: one of Steinmetz's photographs has surfaced in the form of an advertisement (!) for the Franco-German TV station Arte. We were not consulted or even informed by either Steinmetz or Arte of this usage of our work.]
39. On 21 January 2003, the SCP-New York was contacted by e-mail by Guillemette Faure, who said that she was a French reporter based in New York City who writes for Le Figaro and the French cultural weekly Les Inrockuptibles. Ms Faure indicated that she was planning to do a story on surveillance cameras in New York. In response, Bill Brown invited her to attend the group's next walking tour, which Ms Faure did indeed do. At the end of the tour, Bill was interviewed at length by Guillemette, who said she'd be submitting her story soon afterwards. Two weeks later, in response to a question by Bill, Ms Faure explained that her story had indeed been published in Les Inrockuptibles. But she hadn't seen a copy of it (her own article), didn't have a copy to send to Bill, and didn't even know the exact date it was published. "A friend saw it," is all. When Bill objected to this lack of professionalism, Ms Faure was contrained to "remind" Bill that "I dont live in the country where my stories are printed, that I write for about a dozen of publications, that I write ten stories or more a month, that I'm a journalist, not your publicist." Indeed! If Guillemette Faure were or had been the SCP's publicist, she would have been fired a long time ago.
40. In late June 2003, the SCP-New York was contacted by Erin Chan, a reporter for The New York Times, who wanted to include the group's weekly walking tours in a photo-essay about what she called "weird, off-beat" things to do during the summer. Bill had great reservations about agreeing to be photographed: the Times is not trustworthy. It has ignored the group, that is, except for publishing a ridiculousy mistake-ridden article in 1999 and for plagiarizing one the SCP's maps in 2002. Nevertheless, he agreed to let Erin Chan attend and photograph one of the walking tours.
Chan's photo-essay never ran, but Bill did hear from another person from the Times, a photographer/business reporter named Rebecca Cooney, who said that she'd been assigned Chan's story. Still foolish, Bill gave her permission to attend and photograph the next walking tour, during which she took great interest in picking Bill's brain for ideas for stories that she could publish in the Times under her name (Rebecca Cooney) and without either paying Bill or giving him any credit. Instead of laughing it off, Bill should've thrown her off the walking tour . . . but he didn't. In any event, the photo-essay never ran.
On 28 September 2003, Ms Chan sent Bill an e-mail, which included the following explanation:
There's no good excuse for why it took so long to get back to you; I'm sorry for the delay. I want to let you know, though, that I had submitted a piece for the photo essay that included your tour, and after some discussion, my editors wanted us to recast the story with a few other attractions. But these kind of offbeat attractions are incredibly subjective, and I'm not really too comfortable with portraying anything as weird or offbeat and neither was Rebecca, our photographer whom I think you met. There's also some issue as to our having recently written about surveillance cameras, according to my editors.
Bill has resolved to never work with the Times again.
41. On 22 February 2006, the SCP was contacted by Scott Indrisek, the New York editor of Anthem Magazine, was said that he was "writing a piece on street video surveillance for SOMA magazine" and that he "would love to have our input." The group responded and was soon thereafter asked a long series of emailed questions, some of which concerned the International Day Against Video Surveillance scheduled for 19-20 March 2006. These and a few other questions were promptly and completely answered. Everything seemed fine until 8 March, when the SCP asked Indrisek if he knew when the article was coming out. It was only in response to this query that Indrisek bothered to tell the SCP that "the focus of the piece was actually changed around entirely . . . it became an artist profile on Jill Magid." Though Indrisek eventually apologized "for wasting your time," and though this apology was appreciated and accepted, he was still scolded with the truth: "You have to understand that the decision to replace an event (and an international political event, at that) with a single artist (one whom -- unlike the SCP network -- likes to play detective, be 'ironic,' and isn't at all political, despite the subject matter) is both culturally and politically reactionary."
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998