Two contrasting CCTV stories today.
On the one hand, we have a seemingly typical story of civic authorities wanting to install cameras, right down to the lazy, cliched, headline: ‘Smile, you’re on surveillance camera’ – how many times have we seen variations on that one? The cameras are proposed to arrest a decline in custom at a busy city market except… that the city is Jerusalem, and the market is the Mahane Yehuda market, a favoured target for suicide bombers. Now, I am not entirely sure how cameras will stop a determined suicide bomber, who by definition isn’t really that bothered about being seen committing a crime, but this is just an extreme case of underlying causes being missed. There are the usual civil rights concerns raised, and the effectiveness of cameras questioned. But suicide bombing isn’t just some unavoidable fact of life, it’s directly related to the ongoing repression by Israel of the Palestinian territories… a clear case of sticking plaster for a mortal wound if ever I saw one.
Here as in many cases, CCTV cameras are seen as the answer to anything and everything. It’s not much more than a form of magical thinking.
On the other hand, we see the town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, voting against allowing Homeland Security cameras to be used. It’s another extreme case of course. You could hardy find a more comfortable and safe middle-class town with a higher concentration of liberal intellectuals – they even had a former head of ACLU speaking at the meeting. It must be positively terrifying to be a city councilor in the face of informed opposition like that. Of course the story is replete with all kinds of ironies, not least the city representative who argues that the city voted against it only because there hasn’t been enough public participation!
However, as the article also notes, the cameras are already installed, they just aren’t switched on. Perhaps, like this snowbound camera photographed yesterday in London, their ‘magic’ will work anyway and everyone will be happy…