the first anniversary of 11 September 2001

At 9:15 am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday 11 September 2002, the New York Surveillance Camera Players (SCP-New York) performed SCP Headline News in front of one of nine webcams operated in public places in Times Square by Earthcam, a privacy-insensitive company that both makes webcams and installs them for customers who use them as remote-controlled, wireless surveillance cameras. Though a surveillance camera operated by the FBI or the New York Police Department would have been more appropriate for the first anniversary of 11 September 2001, the SCP-New York appeared in front of one of Earthcam's Internet cameras because the performance was presented as part of an International Day Against the Video Surveillance of Public Places. The very thing that makes these webcams such an egregious violation of the privacy-rights of the people who happen to walk underneath them is also the thing that makes them so good for international networks of political activists: these cameras -- the images that they capture or are forced to capture -- can be watched anywhere in the world by anyone with a computer and a modem.

Expanded, altered and/or updated many times since June 1999, when it was originally written, Headline News was primed for the occasion of 11 September 2002 by the addition of some "breaking news." Presented as a kind of preface or "lead in" to the main program, this report used two placards to proclaim, "After the 1993 attacks, spy cameras were put up at the World Trade Center," and "On September 11th, all these spy cameras did nothing except record their own destruction." Then the group held up placards that say "The Surveillance Camera Players present . . . HEADLINE NEWS." The news itself was full of images of falling American bombs, global surveillance systems, George W. Bush, people in prison, local police forces, dollar signs, and poisonous substances. The "breaking news" was then reported again, exactly as before.

To make sure that everyone -- the photographer invited to the performance by the SCP-New York (National Geographic's George Steinmetz, who's been following the SCP since August 2002), the passersby who stopped to watch, and Earthcam's viewers -- saw the play, the group performed it a second time. In total, the spectacle lasted 15 minutes. There were no interruptions or problems, despite the incredibly tense atmosphere, both in Times Square and in the City as a whole. The performers were Kimberly, Susan and Bill; Sean handed out copies of the group's new map of Times Square.

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NY Surveillance Camera Players