Friday, November 17, 2006

"Big Brother" is us

The past few days have revealed that our society, which complains that cameras from the LAPD on Hollywood Boulevard and in MacArthur Park (and other areas) would be intrusions into the private lives of citizens, has more cameras at more opportune times than the government will probably ever be able to have.

I don't think we should ever hear a complaint of "Big Brother" again because this week just proves a growing suspicion: we're all voyeurs. Forget police videos (LAPD or otherwise), the public is obsessed with the private lives of others. From YouTube to true Reality TV (from the game show contestants to those in need), the general public loves to watch.

We are Big Brother. Not the government or the police; American society - LOS ANGELES - is Big Brother.

And to that, I say: so be it.

Now, as an LA City Nerd, I really can only speak to the issues in LA. So, looking at the latest, riveting (we're all voyeurs, remember? even yours truly) video of police confrontation, what is evident to me is that the people around the situation who are filming are trying to capture the moment. Why? For their friends? To show the arrestee later on? As evidence because they see something awry? But many students were snapping photos with camera phones, and the main camera person was obviously trying to get a more clear view. I'm not saying what took place was appropriate based on what is evident from the clip; but I'm intrigued by the reaction of those watching and, really, those filming. The real reactions of the people on the screen stir emotions in the viewer from the safety of their computer. (I had to laugh when the student yelled out, "We want your badge number!" What people should really ask officers for is their serial number. The badge number is not really that commonly used for identification.)

Are these amateur videographers, or cell phone cinematographers, trying to capture a moment for the sole purpose of YouTubing it? In a disposable society like ours, where digital media can be erased if unneeded, everything is worth capturing. There are no mistakes anymore - nothing is forgotten unless deleted.

And so, what was the top videos today on YouTube? You guessed it: the UCLA Taser video posted yesterday. (There are two different versions, ranked 2 & 3, but combined they were viewed more than 10,000 times more than the #1 clip: a Fast Food Nation "Behind the Scenes" [read: voyeuristic] clip.)

I think we can look no further than this webpage. People visit blog pages of individuals because they can read into someone else's "personal" & "private" life. Do people visit LA City Nerd because they want to learn about getting their street paved or who to call in LADOT to get the walk time extended? Maybe. But aren't there people who want to know if they can find some inside information about what goes on in politics. That's what made Mayor Sam thrive early on, and so many other personal blogs, too. What's up with the now-Blogger Toddler, or how is that view from a loft? What's really happening a The Daily News and on set?

People want into the life of others.


The Unsomnambulist said...

Interesting commentary, worth further discussion.
I, for one, am not a big fan of blogs about people's personal lives and deepest secrets - but I am interested in reading about how people deal with the world at large, and tips on how to deal with the city.
So, I'd say that there's different levels of voyeurism. But in my opinion, its no different than watching the news, except from a different POV.

Certainly YouTube has given people the incentive to shoot video whenever possible. They now have a medium to show it, whether it be just to friends, or in the hopes of getting ten minutes of fame. Regardless of motivation, I hope good comes of it - that it forces police to reevaluate their actions... and that it just doesn't modify behaviour so people look better on camera.

Zach Behrens said...

That was a great read...