Soob

Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Friday, August 01, 2008

George Orwell: Fiction or Prophecy?


The presence of massive television screens in 60 British townships and cities was, initially, an effort to bring the London hosted 2012 summer Olympics to the masses. There was, apparently, a bit of an Orwellian catch however. Britain, already arguably one of the planets most surveilled societies, takes another step into Orwellia as the government has apparently mandated these massive screens will be a mainstay and will operate for as many as 18 hours each day. Author Ross Clark:

It is promised that besides showing news the screens will be used to promote culture; that they will be “digital canvases for local artists, film-makers and students”. But there is an ulterior motive, given away by Bob Belam, of Waltham Forest council. The screens, he said, would be used to “provide important information and will be able to get out messages about antisocial behaviour”.They are less about entertaining us than about control – another part of the Orwellian machinery of the modern British city. It isn’t hard to imagine how they will be used: “We are interrupting coverage to remind you that bathing in the fountains is prohibited.”
How long now until Big Ben strikes 13?

13 comments:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Fiction frequently appears to be prophecy, so there is no contradiction.

The Red Son said...

I just reread 1984 and had many of the same thoughts.

Jeff said...

I can't totally agree with all this. The government is damned if they do, damned if they don't. There is a legitimate need for security and for keeping the public informed. The very first thing asked of government leaders is "what did you do to avoid this tragedy." If your in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Simply video taping a public square, without sound, for 24 hours a day, to assist the authorities is catching criminals is perfectly fair and the right thing to do. Of course I agree their must be limits. But in public, or in public establishments, you can't expect absolute privacy. Big Brother is watching because your standing out in the open.

I am purposely being a little polemic here, just so you know.

Jeff said...

Oh, and I love Orwell's work, especially his essays.

The Red Son said...

Jeff- I think less than 5% of street crimes in the UK are solved through the use of CCTV. Also I like his essay "Shooting an elephant," as it provides an intense allegory for thinking about colonialism.

Jeff said...

The Red Son---Not sure where you may be getting your data, but 5% is simply not true. That sounds like data taken from a left wing political website. A good camera, in the right place, pointing in the right direction, capturing the crime on tape, is an invaluable tool for catching the suspects. Not to mention the deterent effect, which cameras do have. That cameras help catch bad guys is just reality. One need only recall the London bombers caught on tape entering a subway station. I do have some inside knowledge on this. Camera’s are effective in so many ways now, especially with all the new digital technology. It is amazing what we can get out of them now.

As for Orwell. You’re the second blogger to recommend Shooting and Elephant to me. I have a copy of Orwell’s essays, so I need to get started. Thanks.

The Red Son said...

Left wing political website? How about the Guardian newspaper?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/06/ukcrime1

To quote the lead paragraph
Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

Jeff said...

The Red Son---Reading the article it’s no wonder they’re not getting much out of it. The police have not invested in the technology to support the system. They are also not doing some very basic things for success. This is a pathetic waste of money under such constraints. First, images need clarity and cameras need to be high tech. Second, suspects should have their face plastered all over the internet and TV. Third, you must have databases with the tech to face scan and match suspects. I think they’re catching on to that. Finally. That technology is not new and should have been in place already. It doesn’t sound like they have motivated personnel either. In America monitoring cameras help solve crimes all the time. Crime is no different here than there. It is how the cameras are utilized and the tech invested in them.

I see where police have started working the system better they’re getting results: “In districts where the Viido scheme is working, CCTV is now helping police in 15-20% of street robberies.” Those success numbers could easily be moved up to 30% or more with more tech and some much needed policy changes; like getting the faces of people wanted out into the public everywhere.

The Red Son said...

But the fact that after billions of dollars in investment they have little to show for it raises some questions in my mind as to ulterior motives for installing the technology.

Jeff said...

The Red Son---"...billions of dollars in investment [and] they have little to show for it..." Sir, we are talking about the government here. What do you really find questionable.

Joking aside, the cameras do work. I know from first hand knowledge. That is just reality. However, I challenge any leader who feels brave enough to remove them, to go ahead. Please. God help him, and his government, when something happens that the very cameras they pulled could have eye witnessed a serious crime. A camera gone that could have provided the police with a valuable led in a heinous crime. Especially terrorism. Please remove them. All I can say is: Fool!

Jay@Soob said...

Gents,
Apologies for my late reply. I'm offline for a few more days.

This goes well beyond Britains camera happy ways. Specifically these permanent video screens and:

"“provide important information and will be able to get out messages about antisocial behaviour”."

The Red Son said...

Add to that a disarmed populace and you got yourself a recipe for techno-fascism. The video screens remind of when they used to loop those anti-drug commercials in the lobby and even piping the audio into the bathrooms. Being a Vermonter, I was especially perturbed by the noise and thought pollution.

The Red Son said...

Sorry that should read "The video screens remind of when they used to loop those anti-drug commercials in the lobby of the local cineplex and even piping the audio into the bathrooms."