Moral Conscience, Surveillance v. Performance, and Helplessness

I was listening to a recent episode of This American Life titled Right to Remain Silent telling stories about people who can’t keep their mouth shut. The first act is pretty damn funny where this guy walks into the apple store and gets really frustrated and innocently threatens to blow up the store on facebook which leads to numerous court cases. The scary part is imagining some government official checking someone’s facebook status and sending over some troops to inspect their house because they were a terrorist suspect. This makes the hair on my back stand, to think at any moment whilst you use your myriad tools of publishing your daily life, you are being watched. SHUDDER.

The second act ended up frightening me to bits. It tells the story of a police officer who carried around a tape recorder for 14 months during his work hours and revealed the corrupt ways in which a precinct in Bed Stuy governs its neighborhood.

It was frightening to think such a visible authority figure, the police, could be so skewed, so manipulative, with their own agenda and initiative to basically fuck people over and RUIN THEIR LIVES with unlawful and illegal acts is mind boggling. Call me naive but to imagine the POLICE conduct illegal activities just doesn’t sit nicely in my brain. To think I am at the mercy of these people and they at any given moment can fly on their power trips and abuse their capabilities symbolized by their badge makes me feel nothing but helpless.

A corrupt government is one thing. Wall street bail outs and political scandals are often intangible and aren’t as directly felt as the surge of fear that runs through you god forbid you were handcuffed for absolutely no wrongdoing. Can you imagine? SHUDDER. I think this is paranoia, anxiety, and claustrophobia all tied in together to stir such animosity for me here.

I highly recommend you listen to this episode, and I’d be very interested to know what your reaction to it all is.

Then I read an article in the Times Magazine titled Little Brother is Watching, in which the writer discusses near absolute impossibility to privacy in the era of Facebook. He shares the story of that college kid who jumped off the bridge and killed himself after his roommate snickered and cruelly shared a webcam video of the kid making out with another guy. The poor kid was the victim of a joke that was not very funny, but in the end, it was typical bullying on the part of the prosecuted. It didn’t merit an overdramatic response to post on facebook that he was going to jump off a bridge and actually do it. That’s besides the point.

Reading this article reiterates a sort of helplessness, a lack of escape from surveillance, whether it’s from Big Brother or Little Brother. Little Brother is all of us pervy peeping voyeurs who get our gluttonous fix from watching others pride or mock themselves on self-publicizing tools like youtube and facebook. When thinking of how easy it would be for anyone to watch me, know me, search me, find me, between facebook, this blog, and wherever I’m posted, it’s frightening to think how fragile and unstable this medium is and at given moment you can say one little thing that will either make you or kill you in the most extreme form.

Why does this make me feel helpless? Well, because there really is no true privacy anymore if I ever wanted and that’s not a comforting thought. But I willingly put myself out there, as do you, so that we may be more relevant, so that we may be more remembered. I just never hope to really want to disappear from the face of this physical and digital world.

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