Heed them.

July 06, 2011

Little Brother And The Cringeocracy

Internet and cellular phones are the biggest game-changer in the last 40 years by far. They are so intuitively useful, particularly together, that nowadays they are taken for granted. It occurred to me recently that kids growing up today never lived without these things. Sociologists have of course beaten me to the punch and named these people digital natives.

I  doubt there's going to be much difference between these people and me or slightly older people. Despite what some reactionary sociologist might say- social people will always be social. They'll just use new technology to help them be social.

There is a difference, however, in the nature of the technology. Every cellphone in a developed or devoloping country is armed with a camera and internet access. I say armed because there is real power in having documentation and communication technology in your pocket. Much was made about the 'cellphone revolutionaries' in Egypt's recent unrest and regime change. I believe it had less to do with the social-networking technology to organize protests and more to do with the cringe factor of what can be recorded with cellphone cameras.

There's a lot more cringing in the cellphone era. This video of the vicious beating of a transgender woman in a Baltimore McDonalds caused a lot of cringing. (Warning: not really worth watching if you read the title.) Of course, a bunch of reactionary idiots complained that 'everyone stood idly by, and some laughed'.The implication is that before internet and cellphone culture everyone intervened to stop crime all of the time.

That's the thing- taking a video of a spectacle, no matter what the intent, and posting it online is intervention. It then enters the court of public opinion. Because of that video, the viciousness of the attack is known for sure; it's not just a blurb in the alternative weekly's crime section. [oh that's right, baltimore is so riddled with murder we only have a murder section] Imagine this being reported on before the advent of the cellphone camera:

"Transgender woman, 22, beaten in local area McDonalds by 2 African American Females, one 18, one a juvenile."

You'd read that and think, 'hmm, that's too bad', but since it was filmed by a wage-slave [who was then promptly fired, but no one gives a shit about 'the help'], rallies were held, worldwide outrage weighed in, and hate crime legislation in Maryland may be expanded to include transgendered people. I really doubt this change would have occurred without that cellphone camera video and wide access to the internet.

George Orwell was right in predicting the importance of surveillance in 1984. But he couldn't have imagined that it's not only Big Brother, but Little Brother, who's watching. And Little Brother is a curious guy who knows when he's being entertained or shocked. Since Little Brother's always had a cellphone, his first instinct is to film the event, and share it with the world. Imagine the implications!

World War 1 passed without a hitch (except a bunch of labor activists who campaigned against it, but they're fucking commies, amirite?), World War 2 was passed over as the just war, but the first massive public opposition to a war and the draft in the United States was with Vietnam. Why? Video Cameras. It was the only American war that had been documented and was being broadcast right on television.

They're more careful about that kind of thing now. War is censored by the mainstream media. But I know that Little Brother is watching everywhere, ready to film injustice, and share it with the entire world.

The pen is mightier than the sword. I wonder if the cellphone camera could be mightier than the gun.


  1. Good stuff here. You use labor struggle terminology without sounding like a massive hater (which fucking Commies were never quite able to get right). One thing worth mentioning is how Vancouver PD used Facebook and Twitter pictures to track down hockey rioters a few weeks ago. So even though Little Brother-type technologies empower people through semi-global surveillance and criticism, they can also be used to van people.

  2. In my language choice I borrowed a phrase from you, too, in calling destitute wage-earners 'the help' facetiously.

    As far as what happened in Vanvouver- that's a huge risk of social networking. And a good point.

    There's a related concern about governments using GPS to track people since all phones, GPS systems and new cars can be tracked. I'm sure it will come into play sometime in the future, but for now it looks like the sheer amount of GPS points is too overwhelming for governments to bother with.

    A couple of governments are using GPS tracking to monitor traffic congestion and improve road systems. I guess any invention can be used for empowerment of the individual and opression by the state. But I'm optimistic.