Four Faces

London's police "believe they have caught four men suspected of trying to explode bombs on London's transport system last week." Assuming they have the right guys (and their associates), that's great work; the London (and Italian) police involved in the hunt deserve praise. (The circumstances surrounding the shooting death of an innocent Brazilian man by London police are still to be clarified.)

Here's a question: The suspects are still to be charged and tried, but have these quick arrests helped normalize London-style surveillance among likely target groups elsewhere? In the last few days, I've had a number of conversations with Washingtonians who previously had been skeptical of such surveillance (it didn't stop the bombers), but who seemed to be revising their privacy/safety calculations (it enabled the quick identification and arrest of the suspects and helped lead police to alleged associates as well).

Just for context, London's police force had to go through a period of normalization, too. When a police force as such was first established in the early 19th century, nearly all of London rejected the very concept as an intolerable intrusion. Policemen then enjoyed less status than did grave robbers, and were jeered in the streets. A common epithet thrown at them, by the way, was "Spy!"

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    Police are like fox hunting: a disgusting habit of wealthy societies.

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    In Ruthless World, there would be no need for police, because the four London bombers would have been too busy attempting to ward of starvation by digging up roots with sticks.

    Anarchism really is logical, it its own way.

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    What do police men have to do with farming Joe?

    I read Ruthless's post as a 2nd Amendment thing. If you are allowed to protect yourself the police are a lot less necessary.

    At some point though the militia acts as a police in order to police up criminals that get together and form gangs or whatever.

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    I don't really care about camera's watching me in public and never have been. Even if some watcher is focusing on my crotch or pectorals (Hell, how can she help it?) it does me no harm. For now.

    For the most part putting cameras up that catch everybody�s movement/actions is useless unless you have a way to monitor all the outputs. Having a pre-cog who can I.D. the soon to be bad would also be helpful. Otherwise it will do no good at stopping criminal acts.

    I think cameras can be very handy for catching the bad guys (rapists, thieves, murderers, bombers, etc) after the fact of the crime. I just don�t think they do much to prevent such crimes.

    Then again, maybe I'm missing something. I am open to different viewpoints.

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    Bobster,
    Catching every criminal is surely a deterrent. Unless of course they all want to go and hang out with their friends in prison.

    One of the reasons given on a discovery channel show for why Japan has such a low crime rate was that in Japan, unlike in the US, Japaneese people do not expect to get away with crimes. Another reason was their inhumane prisons.

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    Another advantage of more complete enforcement might be that extreme penalties would not be required. If the criminal calculus is something like (chance of prosecution x likely sentence), our lousy enforcement needs steep penalties to make crime unattractive. At some point, if enforcement if sufficiently lax, even a death penalty is not a deterrent.

    State-controlled cameras are objectionable for many reasons, not the least of which is potential abuse and intrusion. I expect if we try to argue against them on their effectiveness it will be a long uphill slog. They may not have stopped the last crime, but they play a role in preventing the next crime. The vital question to me is which here-to-fore nonexistent crimes will the cameras enable?

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    I mentioned on another thread that if the government wants to have cameras filming everybody in public then, to prevent abuses, I would say that in any event where there's a cop/civilian altercation and the film of the event is not available, then the civilian should be automatically found innocent and blameless, because otherwise it would be too easy for the government to "lose" any film which makes them out to be the bad guys (which I suspect is what happened with the dead Brazilian in London). I would also require that the cameras be actual film or videotape, not digital recorders, since digital is far too easy to fake and will become more so as technology advances.

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    Jennifer: In doing some Hakluyt-inspired research on the London Police, I learned that surveillance footage was principal evidence in convicting the police of brutalizing a Mr. Lawrence back in 1993*. I did not check further to see if the tape was private or public, but there is at least some history to suggest that surveillance is used to hold authority accountable as well.

    Qui custodiet ipsos custodes? The Unblinking Eye.

    *I may have the name wrong, but I'm pretty sure of the year. It was equated with Rodney King in USA.

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    Dynamist--

    I'm not saying that the police would NEVER be held accountable by their own footage; I'm just saying that it would be very easy for the authorities to pick-and-choose what footage the public could see.

    For that matter, I think the same standard should be held in regards to the cameras that are already in police cars--if there's no footage showing a person resisting arrest, threatening the cops or any such things, then no such charges can be brought against that person. If a defendant declares that certain evidence was not found in his car, but planted there after the cop pulled him over, but there's no video footage of the pull-over, then the evidence can't be used in court. And so forth.

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    Jennifer,

    Well, video tapes can be quite easily doctored, if not directly, then by converting them to digital and back.

    Unsurprisingly, I like my idea of live streaming video from any public camera being available to the public via an Internet connection. The only thing that would make up for govt using them to watch individuals would be individuals using them to watch agents of the govt.

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    Now law and order, on the other hand
    The state provides us for the public good;
    That's why there's instant justice on demand
    And safety in every neighborhood.

    --- David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom

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    I never had too much of a problem with public video surveillance as there's no expectation of privacy in public situations, enforcement of laws doesn't bug me too much, it's the content of laws that I worry about.

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    I like my idea of live streaming video from any public camera being available to the public via an Internet connection. The only thing that would make up for govt using them to watch individuals would be individuals using them to watch agents of the govt.

    I like this idea too. I'd even advocate it. Because, think about it, if they can put cameras in cell phones how long until they jam camcorders in there?

    As time goes on there will be less prospect that we "the public" won't be under somebody's survelliance most of the time anyway. So why not make it public.

    Of course, what's it going to cost to make reams of video available to the public?

    Jennifer's idea of requiring video evidence is interesting, but I'd want somebody with a legal background to weigh in on it. What problems would it pose?

    Also, to prevent police from doctoring evidence, the cop's video would all have to be in the public stream. Is that really a smart idea?

    Dynamist' question about what heretofore unknown crimes is also interesting, I don't know.

    Anarchism really is logical, it its own way.

    Nice shot joe, I gotta hand it to you on this one. [grin]

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    When it comes to terrorists, none of us give a shit about "bringing them to justice."
    What we need is something that will prevent terror.
    Police won't.
    Cameras won't.
    Justice won't.
    Jails won't.
    Punishment won't.
    Capital punishment meted out by government won't.

    Now let's start this thread again.

  • Shannon Love||

    The idea that one has a right to "privacy" in public areas is a fairly recent invention. I would say it did not arise until after WWII when people moved from small towns to the cities and the cities lost their integral neighborhoods. Small towns and old fashion neighborhoods are essentially surveillance societies where (1) everyone's identity is known and (2) everyone out in public is in view of someone else at all times. Only after the structure of cities changed did it become possible to move anonymously through them. Only then did the concept of public "privacy" gain currency.

    The strange spike in crime that occurred in the 60's was partially caused by the lack of the traditional community surveillance. In a sense video surveillance will just return us to conditions of an earlier era when peopled lived in smaller communities. However, community surveillance wasn't politically dangerous because it was informal and decentralized. No small group had a monopoly on the information gathered. We could recreate the same conditions just by making the State video surveillance public as suggest above. If everybody has access to the information, it grants no one power over others (broadly speaking.)

    In the coming years virtually every devices that contains a computer in any form, cars, phones, automatic doors etc will have a video camera. We are all going to end up on private surveillance whether we like it or not. Given that reality, State surveillance may eventually come to be seen as just one more eye in the hoard watching us go about our public lives.

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    In a sense video surveillance will just return us to conditions of an earlier era when peopled lived in smaller communities. However, community surveillance wasn't politically dangerous because it was informal and decentralized. No small group had a monopoly on the information gathered.

    That's incorrect. There are numerous groups that have monopolized and abused surveillance and information gathering. And "small town" networks. The KKK, for one. You should also research what happens when certain groups give someone the "white glove treatment".

    I also wonder how most libertarians would feel about having some of the most ignorant, controlling, vicious, hypocritical, prudish people prying into every facet of their lives. Do you want Ethel Busybody up the street passing judgments on your dating and personal life? How about alcohol consumption? How about religious observance or lack thereof?

    "Small town" America was great if you were in on, approved of, and agreed with the local clique. Talk to some minority groups of various types - racial, religious, political, ethnic, etc. - and they might be saying something different.

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    I'll chime in that I have no presumption of privacy, it's just the state-controlled surveillance I have a beef with. Jennifer's & crimethink's plan seems good as long as the public isn't forced to pay for the streaming infrastructure.

    But what matters even more is what Ruthless is, I think, aiming for. All these measures can't stop somebody from blowing me up if they want to. The piddling partial steps are all I think anyone can manage, until some massively parallel psychological paradigm shift brings all people to respectful self-reliance.

    Or, we could kill everybody except the Amish and the Dalai Lama. But that's just OBL's "peace" plan with different costumes.

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    Read David Brin's The Transparent Society, reviewed in the October 1998 issue of Reason.

    The link from the Reason web site doesn't work, but the review is also available at http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_n5_v30/ai_21141913.

    But then, try to photograph or videotape a cop in action, and see what happens.

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    Regardless of how much information the small town and small neighborhood networks might have collected Once Upon a Time, and regardless of how desirable or undesirable that situation might have been, there's one thing that I know for certain: That information was never aggregated and put at the disposal of the Attorney General.

    Electronic surveillance, however, makes such a situation possible.

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    If you don't feel funny being watched by cameras, it's beause you don't seriously expect anyone to look at the footage for more than a second or two. If you work somewhere where footage is monitored, it'll make you less relaxed and more careful about avoiding any movement that could be considered suspicious. If government camera footage is monitored, and if police are going to act on less than probable cause, it means at some point in your life you're probably going to be arrested, cavity searched, or beaten for committing an innocent act that initially looked incriminating.
    Terrorism is designed to make people less concerned about loss of liberty and more supportive of violent actions by their own government, and it works. The cameras didn't stop the bombers, but the bombers worked hand in hand with Tony Blair to put up even more.
    To be free, you have to be capable of travelling anonymously if the need arises. A state funded camera system has been put up in Virginia Beach, one of the stated purposes of which is catching runaway children, lest they continue to engage in the politically incorrect act of being somewhere the government doens't want them to live.

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    "When it comes to terrorists, none of us give a shit about "bringing them to justice."
    What we need is something that will prevent terror."

    Since no method, private or governmental, has been found that can "prevent terror" absolutely, I would say that tracking down individuals who have already engaged in terrror and "bringing them to justice" before they can try it again, is a lot better than nothing. ("Someone else will take their place?" True enough, but the number of terrorists in the UK is not unlimited, and putting four of them in jail makes the British people safer. Not safe, but safer.)

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    Ruthless,

    What we need is something that will prevent terror.

    Just as a fire needs the presence of oxygen to burn, terrorism is only effective amongst a fearful populace. So long as Americans piss our collective pants at the slightest threat of attack, begging our govt for protection at any cost, the terrorists will have the upper hand. I wonder how effective al-Qaeda would have been had they attacked the US in 1801 rather than 2001...

    The difference, I think, is that so many of us view death as a "GAME OVER" sign to be avoided at all costs, whereas the sincere among our enemy -- like early Christians -- view it as a blessing, a gateway to eternity. (Of course, the suicide bomber's 'martyrdom' also brings about the death of others in addition to his own, so there's really no moral comparison.)

    I'm not saying we have to return to a majority Christian, or even majority theist, country in order to thwart terrorism. But I do think we have to come to the understanding that a life lived in fear of a pin-prick attack* is not a life worthy of an American. Love for life must not deter us from death, or from a more secular source, live free or die.



    * even 3,000 dead amongst 290,000,000 is a drop in the bucket, relatively speaking

  • Shannon Love||

    thoreau,

    "That information was never aggregated and put at the disposal of the Attorney General."

    Well, yes it quite often was. Prior to modern forensics how do you think they determined whether a particular individual was at or near a crime scene? If you read trial transcripts from the 1800s you will often see long parades of witnesses detailing a particular individual's travels through the community around the time of a crime. In places like Japan and German such community surveillance was routinely tapped by authorities to track political activist.

    Don't kid yourself that informal community surveillance was not used by the state, whether for good or ill.

  • Shannon Love||

    mayberry totalitarian state,

    Although it is counterintuitive I would assert that functional anonymity for individuals drives the power of the state more the states ability to track individuals.

    People who can move anonymously from the state are also anonymous from their fellow citizens. Such anonymity breeds mistrust. If someone can move anonymously, they can hurt others and disappear. People begin to fear each other more than they fear the state. They begin to politically support restricting the rights of the fellow citizens in an attempt to gain some safety.

    The most anonymous areas in America are the dense urban cores and they are also the places where ones freedoms ( at least those not involving sex) are the most restricted. People in such areas support policies like gun prohibition because they fear their anonymous neighbors more than they fear the power of the state. In fact, people in such areas come to see the state as the font of all good and private action the font of all evil.

    I grew up in small town where everybody knew who I was and what I was doing (the London police have nothing on the little old lady grapevine) so I have no nostalgic or romanticized view of how such communities function. I have also lived in urban cores and have witnessed the hostility and suspicion with which people regard each other. Sometimes it descends into outright paranoia. Such paranoia manifest politically as support for restricting the freedoms of those people they do not trust which is often just about everybody.

    Political oppression comes to us on little cat feet from directions we do not suspect. Video surveillance cameras are highly visible, widely portrayed in art as sinister, and naturally repellent because of their voyeuristic connotations. None of that means means they are the tools of operation or that they inherently pose more risk to our freedoms than protections.

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    Regardless of how much information the small town and small neighborhood networks might have collected Once Upon a Time, and regardless of how desirable or undesirable that situation might have been, there's one thing that I know for certain: That information was never aggregated and put at the disposal of the Attorney General.

    Electronic surveillance, however, makes such a situation possible.

    And to expand on your point this makes things even worse. The information gathered can be censored, falsified, selectively gathered, etc. in an effort to destroy, sabotage, frame, smear, entrap, etc. (Of course harassment, stalking, some kinds of eavesdropping, false claims, fraud, destruction/tampering with evidence, etc. are crimes.)

    Most people violate some kind of law every day - what's to keep Ethel Busybody from trying to report you for slightly exceeding the speed limit while other drivers are speeding past you, switching lanes without signaling, etc. every time you drive. Seems like Ethel's motivation is to target you rather than any kind of meaningful public service. Seems like harassment rather than anything else, possibly even neo-nazi social engineering if she's targetting you due to your race, ethnicity, politics, opinions, religion, etc.

    Then you have the possibility of malicious or corrupt prosecution - the police using "private citizens" to go on fishing expeditions that they are forbidden or don't have the manpower to perform. Using "community service" nonsense to violate Constitutional and other rights.

    And of course one hopes that police are properly screened - they at least undergo some screening for connections to criminal and quasi-criminal groups. The public isn't screened, so you could wind up with organized crime groups performing the "public service" of destroying law-abiding citizens with phonied-up, fraudulent nonsense. That would be something, wouldn't it - the police and prosecutors doing the dirty work of organized crime.

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    Some of us with an exhibitionist streak, like the ideas of cameras everywhere.

    I'll figure out how to get away with a crime when I need to. I'll figure out how to fool or get around the cameras.

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    Either I'm drunker than I think, or kwais hits it there.

    Think how many laws you break every day. Think how many crimes go "unsolved" or unpunished--almost all of them. Anyone who wants to commit any crime can, provided he really means it. Getting caught is hard. If you're not a rump roast from the neck up, you really have to try to get busted. Your above-average bad guy knows this--so he's not in jail. Ever. He does whatever he wants. You know this. Feel safe?

    Think. We all know we can do whatever we want. We see it done every day. We do it ourselves in small ways. We can get away with anything. So what stops all of us except Ted Bundy from being Ted Bundy (who, of course, got away with it for as long as he wanted to--which was for a very, very long time)? Why don't we all follow the state's example for us: Kill, Kill, Kill--pile corpses to the moon--no one can stop you--remember the 20th Century?

    Simple disinterest. "Morality," if you prefer. We just can't be arsed to ruin our neighbors' lives, because we've got other shit to do. Almost no one ever kills anyone else. Crime is an almost-perfect monopoly of governments and would-be governments (a.k.a. terrorists), because the state has nothing else to do.

    Lose that idea, and all its subsets--from robbery to rape to mass murder--disappear along with it. (Or close enough to call it Heaven.)

    Look at your life.

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    Mayberry totalitarian state got it right. If it's possible to destroy a person by ratting him out for something he was caught on camera doing, he's no freer and no more secure than he would have been in an old fashioned, stifling small town where everyone knew everyone else.

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    What's the difference between Michael Moore's behavior, and a police man who demands that you turn over your camera and film?


    New York Times. June 17, 2000

    Michael Moore made a name for himself pointing cameras at cruel corporate executives and other enemies of the people. He stalked the chairman of General Motors, sent people in Puritan costumes to Ken Starr's home and set up a Web site with a camera trained on a window of Lucianne Goldberg's apartment.

    But Mr. Moore does not appreciate being bothered himself, as Alan Edelstein discovered. After he was fired by Mr. Moore, Mr. Edelstein tried borrowing the technique Mr. Moore had applied to G.M.'s Roger Smith in the film "Roger & Me": showing up uninvited with a camera and trying to get an answer from a boss who has decided to downsize.

    Mr. Moore responded by filing a complaint with the New York police accusing Mr. Edelstein of aggravated harassment, menacing and criminal trespassing. As a result, Mr. Edelstein was arrested in March (1999) and spent nine hours in a cell at the Midtown North police station....

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    "Simple disinterest. "Morality," if you prefer. We just can't be arsed to ruin our neighbors' lives, because we've got other shit to do. Almost no one ever kills anyone else. Crime is an almost-perfect monopoly of governments and would-be governments (a.k.a. terrorists), because the state has nothing else to do.

    Lose that idea, and all its subsets--from robbery to rape to mass murder--disappear along with it. (Or close enough to call it Heaven.)

    Look at your life."

    I'm in deep empathy with your moniker, Anarcho-Alcoholist, as well as your philosophy.

    Cameras, police, justice... are all holy smoke as seen in Catholic churches.
    We must lose our faith in government. We are worshiping and making burnt offerings to a giant parasite. We must be atheistic toward government.
    Looked at that way, it's easier to see how the memes of religions and governments have always co-evolved... always as parasites on a potentially better society.

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    " I have also lived in urban cores and have witnessed the hostility and suspicion with which people regard each other. Sometimes it descends into outright paranoia."

    Shannon Love,
    Parasitic government encourages the paranoia. It's a corollary to "war is the health of the state."

  • Ken Layne||

    A common epithet thrown at them, by the way, was "Spy!"



    The difference today is that the cops *are* spies, and the spies are cops, and hardly anyone bothers to notice.

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