The People’s Surveillance State
“All tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force.”
— George Orwell
Written by William Rivers Pitt
In the aftermath of September 11, there was a big push to create a national surveillance system in the name of national security. Cameras were installed at traffic lights, ostensibly to catch people running red lights and stop signs, but those cameras came with a nifty side benefit: they recorded everyone within reach of the lens in their comings and goings. Cameras were installed at street corners, ostensibly to provide security against crime, but again, you were recorded wherever you went. Bank machines all come with security cameras, and those added to the ever-broadening web of national surveillance. Finally, almost every cell phone now comes with software that, so long as the thing is turned on, can track your every step by triangulating your position via GPS and the cell towers your phone signal bounces off of.
Those with a fealty to the quaint ideals of American civil liberties had, to no great surprise, a big problem with putting this system in place. Combine the concern over having millions of innocent people on camera with the fact that the Bush administration decided to spy on pretty much everyone by way of the NSA because no one had the guts to stop them, and what you had – and have to this day – is a pretty damned paranoid situation where everyone is being watched by The Man. Today, it is almost impossible to be anywhere in America without something tracking you. After this technology had been in place for a few years, it even became fodder for cop shows; half the episodes of “Law & Order: SVU” after 2008 involve catching criminals using this web of eyes and ears. As you can imagine, the bad guys almost never got away.
The basic idea behind setting up this incredibly invasive system, if you listen to its advocates, is that security is paramount in the aftermath of 9/11. There were plenty of people, after the Towers came down, who were very happy to surrender their liberties in the name of security, despite Benjamin Franklin’s warning about deserving neither and losing both. Nowadays, the existence of such a system is established fact, leading to yet another bout of cognitive dissonance: those in favor of such a system a few years ago, because it meant the state was looking out for their safety, are now in all likelihood the same people railing against the state with guns on their hips at Tea Party rallies…but that’s a brain cramp to be dealt with another day.
The advent of the Occupy movement, the length of time that movement has been able to hang fire, and the vast number of cities in which it is taking place, has led to an astonishingly violent reaction from the very state we are supposedly trusting to watch over our every move. There have been a dozen incidents of gruesome official violence against peaceful, non-violent protesters, including the near-murder of an Iraq war veteran by police in Oakland…violence the likes of which has not been seen in America since the dogs and firehoses days of Birmingham, Alabama.
Last Friday, students at UC Davis in California were subjected to an attack by police that beggars likeness. Here’s the thing, though: this time, it’s all on film.
If you haven’t seen it yet, what you’re looking at is a dozen or so protesters seated with their heads down, arms linked, in peaceful non-violent resistance. An armored UC Davis police officer calmly pulls out a can of pepper spray the size of a fire extinguisher, shakes it up, and hoses these seated students down from one side to the other and then back again. Several of the students subjected to this attack required hospitalization, and there is an unconfirmed report that one of the protesters had a UC Davis cop shove the nozzle of his pepper spray canister into her mouth and then pulled the trigger.
It is all on film.
It is all on film.
It is all on film.
None of which would be true if the incident was not all on film. The video of the attack on YouTube, at the time of this writing, has almost 1,400,000 views, and similar attacks by police have been captured on film from one side of the country to the other.
Memo to the police and the surveillance state you represent: you are not working in the dark anymore. You may have your own system of surveillance, but We The People are watching you just as closely, and we have our own system of surveillance. It’s called exposing your vicious, anti-American and thoroughly unnecessary strong-arm tactics for all to see. It is really very easy, takes no time, and we will make you famous in all the wrong ways before you take your shoes off at bedtime. The name, telephone number and email address of the cop who attacked those UC Davis protesters is now common knowledge on the internet, and while I will not publish it here, that cop should know down to his cowardly little bones that he is right out there under the bright lights, thanks to the People’s Surveillance State.
You may be watching us, but by God and sonny Jesus, we are watching you.
About the authorWilliam Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.