The Death of Innocent: The Tower of Babel is The Panopticon of the New Promised Land Peace Time

by Beauchamp Art

Riot - 09

The the role of cameras in the public sphere as a political subject must be considered when pictures speak louder than words. As Chomsky illustrates, “the principle of the presumption of innocence, which dates back to Magna Carta 800 years ago, has long been dismissed to oblivion,” [Chomsky, 2014] The individual is guilty until proven otherwise or until the establishment have had enough time to amass enough arbitrary evident against them, why else would CCTV be so popular? But, now the issue is not top-down state monitoring, but the citizen surveillance of social media turns the populous into one great paranoid, self-regulating, self-fearing state.

As Doctorow established, “spying is cheap, and cheaper every day. Many people have compared NSA/GCHQ mass spying to the surveillance programme of East Germany’s notorious Stasi, but the differences between the NSA and the Stasi are more interesting than the similarities” [Doctorow, 2015], but has already been stated, it is not simply Big Brother staring through unblinking eyes down on the populous, it is the people who choose to act as their own Though Police, spying on their neighbours, trapped in the “spiral of silence” [Hampton, 2013], reinforcing the norm, the establishment, for fear active individualism will cause disorder. In the distorted belief;, warped by privately owned and government biased media; that Anarchy equals chaos, rather than a necessary critique of every level of existing authority, expanding the Scientific Method of Neo-Newtonianism to the social sphere.

So citizens are left confused, like “a bewildered herd,” not knowing what to think if they are not being told, supposedly demanding “the manufacture of consent” [Chomksy, 1997: 18] as any genuine public attempt to establish control over itself would be contravening the established doctrine of the current authority. In other words, the public cannot be allowed self control because they may realise that the existing system is arbitrary and unnecessary, so it is the role of propaganda, which “is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state” [Chomksy, 1997: 21], to offer people a sense of honest self-governance whilst disallowing any grounds for decision making, giving them only the power to self-monitor for the benefit of agencies like GCHQ and the NSA, who then do not have to go out of their way to monitor communications, as the people have been encourage to reveal all.

This process was already underway with phone tapping and so forth, but the accessibility of the Internet has made this state-wide citizen-surveillance considerably easier, if not sometimes overwhelming. Not only has “The internet has made news hoaxes easier,’ says Italian schoolteacher Tommaso De Benedetti. ‘Journalists only care about being the first to break the news, no matter if the source is unverified,’” [Colors, 2013: 60] so media control can be conducted more casually, which is demanded by governments whom wish to “completely falsify history” so that “the picture of the world that’s presented to the public has only the remotest relation to reality. The truth of the matter is buried under edifice after edifice of lies upon lies” [Chomsky, 1997: 35, 37].

Unreality is far more palatable, since “reality offers too many occasions that cause anxiety” [Colors, 2013: 46], as Silvio Berlusconi observed, so with the aid of citizen-user generated content to create a succinct mediated presentation of the world that tune social-media feedback to the desired frequency, one that resonants with the establishment rather oscillating at such as it might destabilise it.

As Ritchin highlights, “the work of […] non-professionals – making awkward raw and frequently intimate imagery – is often perceive as more ‘authentic’” [Ritchin, 2013: 14]. Therefore Creeber’s observation, “online amateur videos offer an antidote to digital representation, returning the image to earlier forms of ‘the real’ and possibly taking this even further than any existing media forms” [Creeber, 2013: 124] may mean that as long as the footage looks somewhat unprofessional, non-standard and amateurish, it will be assumed to be more authentic. Thus the selective editing of any materials (such as video footage filmed in portrait on a shaky iPhone) will be overlooked for the sense of underlying truth implied by the format, thereby generating new forms of social propaganda to be utilised by the establishment and discounted as unrepresentative if any citizen footage makes its way into the public domain that does not fit the desired message.

Although online social media has the potential to create new platforms for a truth outside of the state-sponsored vision, it still contains many of the same and new problems of old media. As Susan Sontag points out, “Photographs shock insofar as they show something novel. […] Images transfix. Images anesthetize,” [Sontag, 1977: 19, 20] which has been more recently verified by the charity Oxfam, revealing the “three out of four people [are] desensitized to images showing hunger, drought, and disease” [BBC, 2012]. But at the same time photos and films alike may more easily be inauthentic, to refer again to Ritchin, “postproduction transformation of the image is considerably stronger in the digital realm, where retouching and compositing are so easily accomplished” [Ritchin, 2013: 49].

Though now the new media come with their own flaws. As Manovich remonstrates, “[The] Internet as a communal apartment of [the] Stalin era: no privacy, everybody spies on everybody else, [an] always present line for common areas. […] A giant garbage site for the information society, with everybody dumping their used products of intellectual labour and nobody cleaning up. […] As a new, Mass Panopticon […] complete transparency, everybody can track everybody else” [Manovich, 2009: 7].

Tim Berners-Lee, (one of the founders of the Internet who gave away his creation for free; funded by the government, through public taxation, it was then swallowed by corporate America and the international private sector) “envisage that his invention would facilitate surveillance on a scale beyond the imaginings of Orwell” [Jeffries, 2014] Although “digital platforms can help to foster community” [Ritchin, 2013: 58], this seemingly decentralised community may be used to serve the state powers, rather than to retake citizen control.

Evidently, “the electronic town hall allows for speedy communications and bad decision making” [Shenk, 1997: 11] as Shenk noted And so the people have decided to imprison themselves, under the guidance of the new Democratic Totalitarians. The potentials tools of the people fell into private hands and the talons on a terrified state, fearful to slacken its grip. The eagle of liberty is locked in a death-spiral, refusing to let slip even slightly, using the weight of its prey – the people, its primary enemy – against it, in a tumultuous decent attempting to maintain unruly stability.


References:

  • BBC (2012) Africa Image Harming Effort, Says Charity Oxfam. BBC News. Cited in Ritchin, Fred. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. 1st Edition. Aperture: London, UK: 108
  • Chomsky, Noam. (2014) A Surveillance State Beyond Imagination Is Being Created in One of the World’s Freest Countries. Chomsky.Info [Online] Accessed 27.12.2014
  • Doctorow, Cory (2015) Technology should be used to create social mobility – not to spy on citizens. The Guardian [Online] Accessed 10.3.2015
  • Hampton, Keith. (2013). Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’. Pew Research. [Online] Accessed 14.11.2014
  • Jeffries, Stuart. (2014) How the web lost its way – and its founding principles. The Guardian [Online] – http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/24/internet-lost-its-way-tim-berners-lee-world-wide-web – Accessed 25.8.14
  • Manovich, L. (2009) On Totalitarian Interactivity. Accessed 13.6.2009. Cited in Galloway, A. R. (2012) The Interface Effect (Paperback). Polity Press. Cambridge, UK: 7
  • Ritchin, Fred. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. 1st Edition. Aperture.
  • Shenk, David (1997) Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut. Harper Collins, Abacus. London: UK.
  • Sontag, Susan (1977) On Photography. 1978 Edition. Penguin Books Ltd. Harmondsworth, UK.
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