We are all starting to realize that George Orwell was not only an author, he was a visionary.
In the 21st century, we are now being watched at practically every stage of our public life. On public transport, security cameras watch us. At ATMs, security cameras watch us. At work, our bosses install cameras to track our actions in case we are unfaithful. In city streets "security cameras" (which, supposedly reduce levels of crime in heavily populated areas) scan thousands of people every day. We are watched by eyes that we do not know, and by eyes that do not know us, every single day.
And now, as discussed in previous posts, we are becoming desensitized to this rapidly accelerating level of surveillance through the introduction of television programming capturing pre-fabricated "reality" situations. Surveillance is now actually encouraged and marketed by the same people who want to watch us. And it's working. All one needs to do is to check ratings levels for programs like "Big Brother" or "Survivor" to reinforce this point, or look at the thousands upon thousands of web-cam portals on the internet.
According to Australian surveillance expert Simon Davies, surveillance exists in 5 stages.
1. Restricted Surveillance.
2. Conditional Surveillance.
3. Routine Surveillance.
4. Mass Surveillance.
5. Total Surveillance.
The western world is currently in stage 4.
Stage 5 is a totalitarian state level of surveillance, where complete submission to governmental observation is made lawful, and immutable.
Now, I am not one to comment on whether or not this entire level of surveillance is completely possible or morally wrong. The arguments are as such;
-If you haven't got anything to hide, then you have nothing to worry about. Surveillance is to protect people.
-Privacy belongs to the individual, and the individual at this stage, does not belong to the state, and should not be treated as state property.
Most people who are familiar with my work should understand which side of the coin I sit on. But I am not here to argue this.
What I will say however, is what we can do on an individual level to counteract surveillance in an irreverent manner, if you feel surveillance is a problem.
Jam the airwaves. Yes, it is the repeating mantra of subversive activism, but again, it is the most effective of them all. Place stickers or cards over the top of cameras, rendering them ineffective for a short period. Poke your tongue out at the cameras, or make funny faces to the people who watch you. Hold up cards that say, "We are watching you too!"
A group of American based surveillance camera activists have turned this particular type of action into an artform. Called the The Surveillance Camera Players, they "perform" to the people who watch surveillance cameras America-wide, including renditions of Edgar Allen Poes "The Raven" or One flew over the Cuckoos nest, and hold up placards saying "Mind your own business", or "Just going to work", "Going shopping", "Going home now". They do not violate any laws, they are not there to cause damage, but to draw attention to what is essentially a violation of the US constitutions guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure.
Sure, such methods are not going to bring an end to the inescapable grip of the 1000 eyes illuminati in the 21st century, but it is a nice gesture to politely say "kiss my ass". A liberating experience.
And hey, isn't that what subversion is all about?
[Written by Produkt and originally published 23 July 2001 by Think Attack.]
Contact the Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998