Little Brother is watching
Scott posted this extraordinary video of a Seattle police officer punching a seventeen year old girl in the face and it really is quite shocking to see. What struck me about the incident, though, was not the police brutality. That’s been going on forever, regardless of how surprising it is to witness.
No, the really striking thing is that we’re witnessing it to begin with.
At first you have the video from a distance, and then whoever is filming gets closer and closer. You see more people watching, looks of disbelief on their faces as the cop wrestles with the girl. This is surprisingly close footage, but what’s really surprising is not that there’s someone filming the incident, but rather that everyone is. Half a dozen cell phones are pointed right at the cop.
The Rodney King fiasco was filmed in secret, from a distance. Historically, the rare police-abuse tapes we’ve seen have been shot from across the street or from a security camera.
But now all that’s changed. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and almost every phone is equipped with a camera with at least some video functionality. Even if the cops had tried to confiscate phones, with as many people milling about the scene they probably never could have confiscated all of them, and certainly not before files were emailed or published to the web directly from the phones.
This is the power of communication technology unleashed, the power of information and the distribution of information in the hands of the ‘small people’. This is populism I can believe in. Techno-populism, hacktivism. The simplicity of a cell phone and a crowd.
Now we just need our courts and government institutions to catch up with the rest of us. Police abuses won’t be so easily covered up in this day and age, no matter how hard local governments try to keep them under wraps. For every camera the government sets up
to spy on us to keep us safe from terrorists, we’ll have twenty more in our pockets, connected to our own networks.
Little Brother is watching.