Does Video Surveillance Have a Limit?

An open letter to the Mayors of France

from Paris to Marseille, with Puteaux, Saint German-en-Laye and Lyon, along the way

Two weeks after the "Protection Exposition," an international exposition dedicated to the entire security arsensal that was held between 2 and 5 November 2004, an association related to the UMP put in place a video surveillance group, of which you -- the Mayors of France -- are the principal participants.

While the media speaks of your malaise, even of your grumbling complaints, in the face of the desertification and robbery of the public sector, must not we see the problem of video surveillance, and insecurity in the general sense of the term, as intellectual diversions, as electoral and fascist powders thrown in your eyes by the elites, in order to pretend that the enemy doesn't exist so much in the offices of the multinationals as in your "difficult" neighborhoods; that the misery engendered by the global economic system isn't responsible for social problems; that the precariousness of employment, of even employment itself, are not sources of poverty and unhappiness; and that the seven million poor people in France want it? Why choose video surveillance, if it is only to attempt to curb very human stray impulses, behaviors tied to frustrations, aspirations to marketed happiness that the advertizers deliver to us everyday in 4 by 3 blocks that are placed on the walls of the majority of our towns and countrysides, and that the TV never ceases to support, but which fewer and fewer French people can afford, either financially or psychologically?

In answer to these questions, to this political and social choice, why do you prefer to choose imbecilic repression and the spending of money that would be much better off spent elsewhere?

Video surveillance accomplishes nothing; no study has ever proved the effects of video surveillance on lowering the rate of delinquency. Not only that, but it costs dearly and slowly destroys our individual and collective liberties by oppressing France, little by little, underneath a network of intelligence. The progress of video surveillance is all the more dangerous and uncontrollable in that it is private, and responds to private interests of individual and corporate parties. Law Number 95-73 (21 January 1995) framed and programmed security, and, under Pasqua, curtailed the [pro-privacy] provisions of Law Number 78-17 (6 January 1978) and thus legalized the video surveillance of public space. Seven years later, 185 towns have adopted video surveillance (statistic from 2002). Due to the move from analogue to computerized cameras; the creation of protected neighborhoods for the "rich," such as in Toulouse (more than 23 secure residential areas); the development of biometrics and, soon, identification by DNA -- we can legitimately ask, "What type of future is the neo-conservative solution preparing for us?"

The worst is yet to come, in view of the fact that, in 2004, the Perben 2 Law (Number 2004-204, 9 March 2004), which concerns the adaptation of justice to the evolution of criminality, reinforces and widens the power of the police (cf. Article 706-96). Thus the field is open to all kinds of abuses and possible pretexts for introducing video surveillance -- without the consent of the affected parties -- in houses houses or private places. Quite obviously, these authorized practices can only dismay us all by terrorizing us.

Nevertheless, and despite all the risks, we are certain that the animators of this "video surveillance formation" can't stop you from discourse upon or critique of this system, especially because some of the highlighted exhibitors must still sojourn in the region of Paris. This is why we propose that you wash away all of the ideological pollution that you submit yourself to and come debate with us about the risks and stakes of video surveillance, as well as its intrinsically fascist drift.

Do you want, ladies and gentlemen, to receive our sincere salutations, which are militant and rebellious against all abusive control?

Paris, 18 November 2004
The Anti-Video Surveillance Collective of France

Libertarian Alternatives (Paris); the Democracy and Local Citizenship Association (Mantes-La-Jolie); Free Public Space (St. German-en-Laye); Resist Together (Paris); and the Association "Smile, you are being filmed" (Paris).

(Translated from the French by the Surveillance Camera Players, December 2004.)

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