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Redistributed Distributed Surveillance State

  [vote for,

Of late, I have been giving quite a lot of thought to how I would, as éminence grise, operate a politically oppressive surveillance state. And now that I've settled on the uniforms (shoulderpads, moire) and titles (Chief Commissioner for the Propagation of Moral Rectidude etc.), I'm free to turn my attention to matters operational. To wit: the Redistributed Distributed Surveillance State ("RDSS").

The first step in implementing the RDSS is to nationalise the existing privately-owned CCTV infrastructure. The second step is to provide hearty incentives (money, food, the opportunity to spend time in places other than a moor-bounded prison slum) for the the provision of information that leads to the arrest and inevitable conviction of those exhibiting morally and politically undesirable activity (specifically, ambling). The third is to provide free, to all who ask for it, access to the images and sound gathered by the state.

Soon, a goodly portion of the country, a portion previously limited in their opportunities for passive aggressive noseyparkering and disapproval, will have access to all the deliciously enraging material they could want, for review not standing in the dark, at the window, net curtains twitching, but from the comfort of ratty armchairs, TV dinners ignored, growing cold on laptrays as notes are scribbled and files compiled.

calum, Jun 18 2010

Decentral Intelligence Agency Decentral_20Intelligence_20Agency
In the same category but not the same. [calum, Jun 18 2010]

Neighbourhood Watch Couch Potatoes neighbourhood_20watch_20couch_20potatoes
Relevant...? [Jinbish, Jun 30 2010]

Public 'Snoopers' http://www.dailymai...oplifters-home.html
Once more, life imitates the Halfbakery - except with less fun & less fact.
Courtesy of the Daily Mail (UK rag). [Jinbish, Oct 04 2010]


       "Rectidude" was not intentional but is, on balance, worth retaining.
calum, Jun 18 2010

       Fair shakes, though: only a [+] if concealed cameras are placed in politicians' offices and cars, to be monitored by the general public.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 18 2010

       So it's kindof like Fox News and the Bush Administration, then?
RayfordSteele, Jun 18 2010

       The theme of monitoring is addressed at length in sociology. Bentham's Panopticon is taken as an example by Michel Foucault. And Karl Mannheim discusses self-regulation in bureaucracies, while Riesman discusses the other-directedness of contemporary society which allows us to be governed by our anxieties. Even Mead's 'generalized other' which plays a role in the development of self as a type of subjectivity centers around monitoring. As a general rule, Foucault and other 'pluralist' sociological thinkers consider power in society to be already decentralized in a certain manner with each and every person already engaged in the process of monitoring and regulation, which necessitates the individual subject to become colonized by the social self.   

       Owning social media in a technologically saturated mass society is surely the way to become the power elite of the pluralistic society. The CCTVs are in the hands of hoi polloi already in the form of camera phones, friend lists and mobiles. The Social have taken over the reinforcement of the mass consumer society's group norms. There has never been an easier time to be the power elite.   

       sp. files
rcarty, Jun 19 2010

       Certainly the prison in this case is represented a few degrees of abstraction from the institution in a conventional sense: bricks and mortar where practitioners of unacceptable human folly are confined for the bitter amusement of the sublimated aggressives on the just barely-more-free side of the bars. The conception of the prison illustrated here goes not only beyond the physical just described, but also to Orwell's conception that you have alluded to in its popular culture manifestations on the television; surely the medium behind which [calum] seems to desire control of in his ironic critique, disseminating to the masses a new form of "peep culture" which appears tyrannical in a centralized form of state control, but when the distributions are undertaken by a motley supply-side of conglomerates, multinationals, and 'moms and pops' suspicions disappear and suddenly Thatcher's correct: "there is no such thing as society". There's only the invisible prison of neoliberalism.
rcarty, Jun 19 2010

       In order to get millions of people to watch these unedited CCTV streams, you'd have to incorporate voting into it somehow.
hippo, Jun 19 2010

       Being that an exaggerated version of a given social arrangement can quite often act as something of a lens, held up to the observer's own social position and circumstances, I can see how it might be that what I have posted could be taken as, as rcarty suggests, a critique of social media and networking, of the way in which we give up our privacy in the online world, simply because we are not arsed enough to peer up or along the chain of ownership, to the banking conglomerates/The Government Pension Fund of Norway/some cabal of withered yet rapacious überplutokraten. And it applies to a certain extent so well done me for doing that by accident.   

       But that wasn't the point I was making - or, if it was, I was making it unintentionally. I was, instead, actually thinking about how best to run a surveillance state, using what is presently available, which amounts to (in increasing order of importance) (a) the law as an entirely malleable system (b) CCTV infrastructure and (c) human nature. At the risk of sounding like some basement-dwelling internet misanthrope, human nature makes a surveillance state possible: curiosity in the affairs of others; fear of others; love of comfort. If you can mix these all up together - as the RDSS attempts to - you will have a strongly embedded surveillance and snitching culture before you can say Staatssicherheit.   

       As to voting, I don't think that it is a necessary part of this system: voting is rife in reality and talent programmes because there is, aside from some pre-fabbed emotional attachment, no reward or benefit gleaned from watching such shows, save from the fabulous amount of entertainment that is wrung from watching unfortunates prostitute their dignity. The RDSS, on the other hand provides tangible rewards to vigilant citizens as well as the knowledge that their work is strengthening the nation/getting it right up the oiks.   

       Even if the data collected is processed according to the rule of law (and the rule of law is not perverted from what we currently see as the acceptable norm), a surveillance state is very much an example of turning the prison inside out. The major difference, though, is that in such a surveillance state the primary purpose is not to seek to amend the behaviour of the citizens but to cement in the minds of the populace the fact that there are individuals within the nation's borders who require surveillance as they are plotting against the state and, by extension, against Mr & Mrs Lawabiding Householder. Surveillance will work only if the majority (or at least the loudest minority) is in at least passive agreement that surveillance is required. This technique has been implemented within the last 10 years in the US and UK to justify what is known in judicial circles as an arseload of incursions into the realms of what was previously considered private. Here, it is the State that is watching on your behalf. And though I did have mention of Thatcher (and Nye Bevan) in my original draft, I shied away from it, because it seemed a little too parochial but, having had objectionable political bobbins like "the Big Society" piped into my face for the last few months, it seems that there is some appetite for people to take over certain aspects of the State in the name of well, fuck knows what, prying and clyping being hobbies for many on this shabby island.   

       Spelling fixed.
calum, Jun 29 2010

       The "Big Society" is a nice friendly way to rebrand Thatcher's "No Such Thing as Society" in less-inflammatory terms – but the two terms point at one thing specifically; Cuts. If “Society” (i.e. anyone not funded directly by the government) takes on roles that the state used to provide - it can (so the argument goes) be accounted for outside of the ongoing Budget Deficit. So, I'd suggest that rather than being a Sociological Question, it's more one of Accounting.   

       But CCTV surveillance is already largely privatised (probably one reason why it doesn’t tend to lead to any specific benefits)   

       It might be preferable to out-source the surveillance aspect to be performed within a relatively low-wage economy, like China – and have all your surveillance needs serviced at a single, low-cost “centre of excellence” benefiting from economies of scale.   

       Private individuals in the host country might be able to provide leads and information, via a call-centre, directing the service provider to surveil specific individuals, and upon conviction of any nefariosi, receive a loyalty dividend.
zen_tom, Jun 30 2010

       //It might be preferable to out-source the surveillance aspect to be performed within a relatively low-wage economy, like China// - and it would be easy for the Chinese to do this surveillance of the UK for us, given that they already do it for their own benefit, allegedly...
hippo, Jun 30 2010

       //It might be preferable to out-source the surveillance aspect to be performed within a relatively low-wage economy//
Did I mention that another arm of my surveillance state programme is to drive the economy of whatever state I can comandeer into the ground, blaming all the while some entirely fabricated intra and international enemies (being careful that my propaganda does not smear into The Real and to that end I shall be imprisoning Umberto Eco to act as Special Advisor to the State Broadcasting Unit)? No, well, that's the plan. No need for Johnnie or Hongxing Forriner to get in on the act.

       You are right, though, about the Big Society. Perhaps I drifted into a digression at the end. When I said "take over" elements of the State, I meant, of course, "be involved, in a very low level, in running" certain aspect of the nationalised infrastructure (viz. surveilling oiks). What's interesting about the Big Society is that it aims to give traction to the idea that individual involvement in the Business of the State is (a) a good thing and (b) not already happening by ceding an element of policy discretion to busybodies: the Illusion of Control. "Yes, of course, you can decide which of your teddies you want to take to bed with you."
calum, Jun 30 2010

       To help harness the country's nosy people, I suggest hanging very small pieces of white netting down the sides of each CCTV camera.
Jinbish, Jun 30 2010

       I am so sorry that you caught "Rectidude" yourself, because I had a clever comment which now will go to waste.
bungston, Jun 30 2010


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