Work, Musings, Writings and Projects from FLEFF's Checkpoints Lab 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
We have two excellent summaries to feature this week by Elise Springuel and Alex Smyrnos.
A few years ago, I was watching television when my dad barked at me to work on my unfinished homework. It was 9:30 on a Sunday night and I was watching the new Desperate Housewives episode. When I explained that my homework could wait, my dad erupted, extremely annoyed over my priorities. He then went on to ramble for another five minutes about why he was "right". I disagreed completely, but saw there was no point in fighting for my side because it was a classic "child vs. parent" situation. Instead, I chose to smile and constantly utter, "you're right". Fulfilling my intentions, it only made my dad that much more angry.
Me wanting to watch desperate housewives and my dad's disapproval of my frazzled priorities is a simplified, mini version of the personal privacy and the government. Yes, one can argue that wiretapping landlines is wrong, but they're not going to win that argument when it's being fought with the government. Like my dad (or any parent), the government has a non-negotiable power over its "children". And when there's really nothing you can do about it, the best option is "agree" with them.
This week we looked at a few projects that did just that. The "TSA undergarments" deals with the controversial security screenings at the airport. Likewise, Hasan Elahi's Tracking Transience mocked terrorist tracking my "replicating" it in his own art form. The third project, Newstweek, deals with the concept of distorting the news, similar to what actually happens with news corporations. What the three projects suggest is that, similar to my dad and I, if you can't win, fight with humor. It definitely makes a statement.
A few years ago I got into an argument with a friend about the Patriot Act. I was strongly against the act and thought it should be abolished immediately. It made me paranoid, she did not feel it was of any threat to us. We had nothing to hide, she told me. The Patriot Act was made to scare those who were already hiding she explained. I tried to explain to her that a conversation we were having over the phone could be misinterpreted. I tried to convey my distress that I would end up in gitmo because I was discussing the rally I was attending next weekend. She dismissed my example as exaggerated and we agreed to disagree.
Thinking back on it, my example was frivolous. The chances of the FBI mis-understanding the conversation of a white, christian, middle class women and sending her to an off shore prison are fairly slim. In my attempt to drive home the danger I was overlooking the thinly veiled voyeurism of surveillance. A threat that should have scared us even if we were not targeted. I should have argued that the real threat an officer in a hidden office in Washington would be listening in on a private conversation with a loved one. I should have pointed out that another officer would be attempting to figure out why we spend our money frivolously. I should have pointed out that the government could become as intimate with our lives as a lover, and we would never know.
As I sit typing this in the 'pub' I am very much aware that I am on a CCTV routed back to a security guard who is probably sick of seeing girls in skinny jeans and hipsters consuming greasy pizza. I want to care about this. I want to care about the fact that my attempts for modesty mean nothing to an airport. I want to care that the government may know I spent 1.69 on tea last night. But it is hard to care when this has become the standard. When our moods are displayed for the world to see in Facebook Status's and we tweet photos of recent delectables. We are flooding our voyeurs with information.
The isee project makes a good argument why we should care about our constant cameos on CCTV. It is invasive, but we have become complacent to it. We have chosen to embrace it with our free information life style. Our facebooks, blogs, and twitters are beginning to mimic Hasan Elahi's full disclosure project. He is not afraid of the big bad government because he hides nothing.
We give so freely all of our lives to surveillance, often without realizing. With all this full disclosure you think we would feel safe and secure. But how can we be? As they wade through my status's on homework, the weather, and quotes of my friends; as they view the videos of my waving at the camera; what do they really know. I have chosen what images to disclose. With that one available will they still look at what lies behind closed doors or have we rendered the Patriot Act obsolete?