America Thinks Government Cameras Are A-Okay

It’s kind of weird, I’m one part Democratic stalwart, one part bleeding heart liberal, and one part populist, so I’m often times confused. One thing that does confuse me that has little to do with my political leanings, however, is when we lefties swapped sides with the conservatives, particularly in the role that the government should be playing in our lives.

A great example is illustrated in a recently released poll that shows a strong majority of Americans actually favor an increase of surveillance cameras in public places used to reduce crime.

According to the old wisdom, this would be the cue for conservatives to get all riled up, to angrily bark about the government trying to pry into the lives of decent citizens, and the battle cry should be sounding from righties based on overreach. While those on the left who love us some big big big government and want to put in place the “nanny state” should be lauding the program with zeal.

But, the infamously conservative shill “Captain” Ed makes a stirring case for the program. Despite the inevitable mentions of George Orwell and 1984, he says, “… the American people have more sense in this instance.” He claims that it’s okay because we’re monitoring public places, and the people running the programs to be involved are totally trustworthy.

The Gun Toting Liberal, however, doesn’t think so.

I guarantee you there will be major crimes committed against Citizens by Government employees who WILL abuse their access to public surveillance cameras around the nation; it is only a matter of time, unfortunately. Some pervert is going to be zooming in on your little girl; some idiot is going to zoom in on your body parts and upload the photos to a MySpace blog; some terrorist is going to get a “Gub’mint” job behind those cameras — guaranteed — there’s no way around it.

While that may seem like a stretch, that is a chilling thought; for every tool such as this which is intended for good, there seems to be a broad latitude for misuse, which goes to the deeper argument of all these programs that we should be incredibly worried about.

From wiretapping to security cameras, these are all merely amoral tools that are only as beneficial to the American people as their users. With a warrantless wiretapping program used to catch terrorists, the slope is extremely slippery to start using the program against political rivals, a concept that isn’t too hard to conceive when you think that terrorists are essentially political rivals who employ extreme and violent methods.

So too can the cameras be misused, from some sicko trying to get a sweet job manning a camera at a popular teen hangout to government officials who use the cameras to increase police presence at peaceful and might I add still completely legal political protests.

But what also bothers me about the cameras is that they are only a band aid. We have a chronic crime problem in this country, but we are all too quick to label criminals as bad, prove the case against them, and lock them up with little effort expended towards reforming them to be the kind of citizen that contributes to society.

Not enough people, specifically policy makers, are looking at the shades of gray and nuances in dealing with the crime that is so endemic in this country. Make no mistake, I’m for stringent law enforcement; I’ve said this before that often times liberal ideas require strict enforcement. But I think it’s vital to understand that a majority of the crime in this country is a result of underlying factors that leads to what could be large populations of decent people to do indecent things.

Not all criminals do crime because they are evil; in fact I would wager that a very very small percentage of criminals are “born bad” as opposed to being, to some degree, a product of their environment.

So while we were spending billions of dollars to put in place a camera system that could be abused for ill only to catch crimes as they happen, we could be putting those funds and some energy into creating an environment in which crime itself is greatly reduced. The argument is an old one, focus on inner city poverty and economy, build up the schools, take epicenters of crime, and invest in them and you are liable to see crime drop.

No doubt this means stricter law enforcement, but let me tell you something. Strict law enforcement with nothing else, with no programs available for people to find a better life without crime, only fosters resentment and increased animosity. This is the illness that plagues many of our urban communities today. Lots of cops willing to lock you up and throw away the key, but not a whole lot of care or attention being tossed in that general area.

So let’s really roll up our sleeves and work to fix the problem instead of taking just another step down that slippery slope that really does look frighteningly close to Orwell’s dystopia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook