Posts Tagged ‘The Borg’

Police to Interview Suspects By Bodycam

November 17, 2015

According to an article in The Canary last week, the government is considering passing legislation to allow the rozzers to interview suspects in the street instead of in an interview room back at the cop shop. These interviews will, however, be recorded by bodycam.

The article begins

Pilot plans to allow police officers to interview suspects on the streets via body cameras, rather than at police stations, has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.

Currently, while the formal caution that police recite when arresting somebody states clearly that anything they say may be used in evidence against them, officers are not formally able to interview someone until they have been taken to a police station. Crucially, once at the police station, the suspect has the right to independent legal advice, and they are entitled to pre-interview disclosure.

This pre-interview disclosure is vitally important as it is designed to ensure the person and their legal representative understand why the person has been deprived of their liberty, the nature of the allegations made against them, and the reason why they have been arrested. Without this disclosure, and access to a solicitor, the suspect is extremely vulnerable, especially if unfamiliar with the complexities of the law.

Unsurprisingly, given the cuts to the police service, these proposals have nothing to do with access to justice, and are primarily concerned with saving money. Hampshire Chief Constable, and national police spokesman for body-worn video, Andy Marsh stated:

‘I think this will lead to swifter, fairer and more importantly cheaper justice.’

The emphasis seems to be most definitely on cheaper justice, with fairness coming a very poor second. The article quotes two critics of the scheme, who point out that current practice is based on decades of experience of the abuse of police powers. And that the people, who will suffer through this innovation won’t be the experienced, hardened crims, but inexperienced suspects unsure of their rights and the law.

The full article can be read at: http://www.thecanary.co/2015/11/11/fears-raised-cheaper-justice-policing-plans/

A number of points can be made here. Firstly, there’s the danger of serious breaches of justice in allowing the police to interview suspects away from the interview room and the presence of a lawyer to represent them. The government seems to think that allowing the interview to be recorded by bodycam will somehow be an acceptable substitute for removing established procedures involving formal, recorded interviews. It looks simply like they’re desperate to get convictions, and are willing to use this technology as a pretext for removing established judicial safeguards. Hey, it’s all recorded on camera, so it’s properly supervised. It can be wrong, can it?’ This seems to be the attitude.

It also shows how the government seems to be believe that increased surveillance technology is automatically a solution. Now, I’m very much aware that there is the view that Paris was targeted by ISIS for their butchery, instead of London, because the City of Light had much less CC TV coverage. But surveillance cameras, as the French also knew, carried their own dangers of creating a pervasive, surveillance state. Alan Moore when he wrote V for Vendetta in the 1980s placed surveillance cameras on the streets in his Fascist future Britain, thinking that this would really scare its readers. Well, it’s now thirty years or so after the strip, and surveillance cameras are everywhere and no one takes any notice, a fact the great man himself has remarked on. I’m sure surveillance cameras have an important use, but they should be adjuncts to, not substitutes for, traditional policing.

I also wonder what will be done about recorded interviews in which the individual is left off without charge. Will they still be retained? What about a person’s right to privacy, and not to have the state keep records on them when they are innocent? There have been cases where innocent citizens have found that the rozzers have continued to keep files on them even after they were released and declared innocent. I’m very much afraid something similar could happen here.

And there is the danger of the wider misuse of such technology as the Tories make Britain become ever more authoritarian and Fascistic. Way back in the 1970s the police were required to compile useful intelligence on potential suspects. This ended up with the bluebottles deciding someone was suspicious, based no more on the fact that they were a Punk, or a pregnant teenager. And one of Cameron’s brilliant ideas was for the cops to take the names and particulars of strikers on picket lines. He’s had to climb down on that, but given the backing the Tories have always received from rabidly anti-union groups, I doubt believe this has gone away. Not completely. So there’s a real threat to civil liberties there.

And lastly, there’s the rather more fantastic threat that this is the start of something like the Borg. They’re the cyborg race from Star Trek, who have merged into a single, collective intelligence – a group creature, so that their society resembles a giant ant’s nest. We’re nowhere near that level of cybernetics yet, but one of the more interesting comments about the Google Glass computer spectacles was that it practically made the wearer one of the Borg. Google Glass were the hi-tech specs that allowed you to surf the internet while walking about, and for your on-line friends to see what you were seeing. I can remember back in the 1990s there was a similar experimental arrangement being tried out by the computer geeks at one of the American unis. A friend of mine, who played Shadowrun, a Dungeons and Dragons-type game based in the world of cyberpunk and computer hacking, seemed unsurprised when I told him about it. He called the technology and the people who used them ‘gargoyles’, which was the term used in the game for people, who used cyberspace technology to experience the sensations experienced by another person.

So, in the game’s parlance, this technology effectively makes the rozzers the justice ministry’s gargoyles. And with others seeing what they see, it’s almost ‘1984’ and the Borg. It’s just that they haven’t been mentally connected to the internet yet, so they aren’t yet like the Robomen of the Dalek Invasion of Earth.

But it’s early days yet. Give the Tories time. They are Borg. Resistance is futile. We will be assimilated.

Cameron Joins the Borg for the Sun

April 6, 2015

Star Trek’s Borg: The Future of the Conservative Party

On Saturday, I reblogged an edition of Russell Brand’s The Trews, where he takes apart a promotional video for David Cameron made by the Sun. Apart from the general horrendous bias of the video and its flagrant omissions of what Cameron has actually inflicted on the poor, sick and unemployed of Britain, it was also notable for the weird extremes its sycophantic tone took. It wasn’t enough to show Cameron’s working day, lobbing him soft questions, and trying to present the butcher of the poor and homeless as somehow warm, cuddly and caring.

David Cameron as Nature Documentary

No! They had to take viewer identification to a completely new level. They fixed Cameron up with the type of camera they usually fix on animals in nature documentaries, so you could experience what it was like to be him as he walked down 10 Downing Street’s hallowed corridors.

This presented the highly amusing spectacle of the prime minister being wired up in the same way the Beeb has put cameras on wild birds, seals and walruses, and, most recently, cats and dogs. There’s even a form of camera that can be purchased by ordinary members of the public, who want to put it on their pet to see what their pooch is doing. It was one of a number of doggy gadgets that Warwick Davis tried out on the One Show. This ended up with the nation’s favourite Ewok yelling down the computer screen as his canine best friend decided that it would take a dip in the house’s fish pond.

With Cameron similarly wired up to the TV, all that was needed was a voice-over by David Attenborough giving details of his territorial behaviour, nesting, and mating rituals.

There is a more serious side to this. The camera placed on Cameron to present his pov takes the whole exercise into the issue of cultural hegemony, the Fascist cult of the leader, and the potential loss of individuality and personal freedom through the internet.

Cameron’s Camera and Marxist Theory of Hegemony

Marx claimed that the ideologies informing and governing societies, such as religion, were constructed in order to disguise and legitimate the power of the economically superior ruling groups. This was developed by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci into his theory of hegemony, in which the ruling classes grip on culture and its manipulation is part of the process through which they rule.

Part of this involves the lower orders and subordinate groups taking over and viewing everything through the eyes of their social superiors. One of the problems in history is that frequently the only materials that survive from past ages, is that produced by the ruling class of aristocratic White males. Thus the view of the past can be skewed very much towards the viewpoint of the governing aristocracy. If you look at culture generally, it frequently, but not always, was made by members of the ruling classes, and so reflects and promotes their class interests.

This isn’t always the case, and there are severe flaws which have effectively discredited Marxist aesthetics, which puts everything down to class. Nevertheless, it is broadly true in many cases.

This exercise with Cameron’s personal camera took this to its ultimate extreme. Not only were you being asked to identify with Cameron’s worldview, but you were also being manipulated into identifying with him personally, as a real, embodied being walking the corridors of power. This is as close a personal identification you can get with modern technology, failing having galvanic stimulators strapped onto your body, so you can carry out every movement he does.

The Fascist Leader Cult

Absolute glorification and identification with the leader is also one of the central tenets of Fascism. The cult of a charismatic leader was supposed to bring the ordinary citizen into a more personal, dynamic relationship with their government than was possible in democracy, with its grey, stultifying, boring bureaucracy. In practice, the reverse was true, and the cult of the leader proved far more boring and bureaucratic than the democracy the Fascist leaders had overthrown. And particularly as the Fascist apparatchiks were generally mediocrities and non-entities, carefully selected for their lack of talent and charisma so that they would never challenge the authority of the Fuehrer or Duce.

This was partly the purpose of the Fascist spectacles – the speeches from balcony and rallies in Nuremberg Stadium: to reach out to the masses and propagandise them through the leader’s personal charisma and oratory. And Hitler in particular stressed his personal connection with ordinary Germans and the submerged masses. In one of his speeches, he declared ‘everything I am, I am through you. Everything you are, you are through me.’ People and Fuehrer thus in Nazi rhetoric and ideology were almost indissolubly linked, the one a personification of the other.

Cameron’s donning of the camera to present his personal view took that concept, and attempted to make it technological reality.

We are Borg. Your technological and biological distinctiveness are at an end. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Remember the Borg in Star Trek? This was their answer to Dr Who‘s Cybermen. The Borg were a race of humanoids, who had taken cybernetics almost as far as it would go. They had become cyborgs, combining the organic and machine. This technology had made them so interconnected, that they had lost all individuality. Only the Borg queen had an individual identity. The rest were merely drones, serving the collective, which was itself a gestalt intelligence or hive mind, like a giant anthill.

Star Trek’s producers state that when they created the Borg, they did so deliberately to play on American fears of collectivist societies, like those of the Japanese. And, we might add, like Communism. But the part of the Western political scene now that has the most totalitarian ideology is that of the Conservative right. Through sanctions, workfare, work coaches, fitness to work assessments and so on, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers have created an extensive bureaucracy of surveillance and control, which is intended to monitor almost every aspect of the benefit claimant’s life. It harks back to the utilitarians’ ideology of control in Jeremy Bentham’s prison design. These were to have panopticons, a watch room from where every corridor and the movements of all the criminals in the prison could be observed and monitored. This, it was believed, would allow the authorities complete control over the prisoners and facilitate their reform.

The same ideology now permeates the Tories’ views of the poor and benefit claimants. At the moment the personal cameras are just being used to get people to identify with their leaders. How long before someone wants to use them to monitor us in the next extension of totalitarian power from a party determined to ‘discipline and punish’?