Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Velvet Cell

New police proposal: microphones to be added to CCTV cameras

"The parallel to eavesdropping on people's conversations is putting CCTV cameras inside their houses. I take it that at least most of us would object very strongly to the latter, even if in half a dozen houses round the realm some crazed fanatics were making bombs in their living rooms."

More 'threats to our liberty' to be countered by threats to our liberty.

One cannot ‘walk privately’ in a public place. By stepping outside one’s own home, one tacitly accepts that one will be seen by others. But one can walk down the road publicly whilst engaging in private conversation. Grayling is right: The parallel to eavesdropping on people's conversations is putting CCTV cameras inside their houses. To do so is to demolish the distinction between public and private.

Mike WM says in the Comment Is Free response to Grayling’s article:

Just run some speech recognition software on what each person is saying, cross-reference with the biometric data on file thanks to the ID card project to easily discover who each person is, and the information that can be gathered on each person in this fair country is amazing. Or, rather more accurately, terrifying. The pieces are nearly all in place. Are people going to see the jigsaw before they manage to finish it?

What is to be done? Most of the media is complicit in the notion that our privacy and liberty can always legitimately be curtailed in favour of our safety. But a man in solitary confinement is perfectly safe, provided he cannot find a way to hang himself. Without freedom and privacy, we may as well do so.

How much of your freedom are you prepared to compromise for the nebulous cause of 'safety'?

As ‘Knightly’ puts it:

I am afraid to say it is too late.

You are all doomed to be spied on, have your information sold to supermarkets and detective agencies working for your husbands and wives. Barely literate data entry clerks educated in sink comprehensives and paid the minim wage will confuse entries about you and rapists and murderers with similar names. You will be lynched by an angry mob when this information is disclosed under some spurious right to know legislation. Your credit ratings and criminal convictions will be available to council librarians who have tea with your mother. Your lives will become even more of a misery, than it already is, and to top it all you will be stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 and be fined for speeding due to an error in the number plate recognition software. Harriet Harman will tell you surveillance is needed to protect the rights of women, and use the information to increase cost of motoring. All the criminals will remain out side the system and untraceable, you on the other hand will be dragged through the bankruptcy courts for a parking ticket that was never issued correctly in the first place.

Leave now, it is your only hope.

But please don’t leave. Get involved. It isn’t too late.


The woman who lives directly above me is a student. She is fat and always wears jogging pants. She is in most days, and most days she puts on a CD. Most days she plays the same song on constant rotation. Some nights when she gets in from the pub, and some mornings when she gets out of bed, she celebrates life by playing the song once more. High and mid frequencies are cut off by floors and ceilings, so all I hear is the same maddening, moronic bass line and retarded drum fills. When I am at my most vulnerable or short tempered, when I am hung over or sleeping fitfully, the woman upstairs is sure to be in her element.

The malevolent power of music has long been known to the authorities. The FBI used it in the Waco Siege. Interrogators at Guantanomo tried to break the will of captured terrorists' by playing the music of Christine Aguilera.

It is one thing to complain about loud music. It is another to demand that someone expand their record collection or face serious consequences. Knuckles whiten, the jaw tightens. What will it be? The mixtape or the baseball bat?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Piece Of Mind

In response to Alex's observation regarding my last entry title: yes; I translated 'Dude where's my country?' into the Queen's English. If the colonies made the effort to speak properly perhaps they wouldn't be in the mess they are in.

Ah... Michael Moore. What to do about Michael Moore. Scoring an instant own-goal by showcasing human-rights-ambivalent Cuba's apparently fantastic health services, he helps conservatives caricature modest leftist dreams as Stalinist nightmares. I don't doubt that your sense of outrage at poverty and corruption is genuine, but for God's sake man...

US television is awash with demented shiny-happy-people advertisements for antidepressant medications. Most can't afford them. Most don't even need them. To anyone who has grown up with something like the NHS -a patrician buffer between the patient and the drug companies- these look like the symptoms of a gradually encroaching Huxleyian dystopia. A buccaneer corporate state that rips you off with mind-altering drugs that you don't need; it's hard to think of a more morally outrageous scenario.