Closed circuit tv is everywhere these days. I remember realising some time in 2002 or so that if I wanted a knee-trembler in a side-lane in London then I should be prepared for security guards to watch and replay. These days of course it would be the entire bloody Internet.
But what, I want to know, is the thinking behind putting a CCTV in a crematorium? What actual events which have taken place in crematoria would have been the better for the presence of CCTV? I’ve led a very sheltered life; maybe CCTV tapes from crematoria are turning up in court cases and insanity pleadings and judicial reviews every day of the week. Maybe people do vastly inappropriate things there all the time and CCTV is just one flimsy strand in an endless, hopeless fight against it. Perhaps it is just naive of me to assume that it is a thoughtless and lazy intrusion done in the name of mindless security, and who cares that it objectifies individuals at the time of their greatest grief?
It feels like prurient voyeurism hypocritically masked as deep concern. I found it disturbing. It clicked into place with a comment from James Poniewozik in Time Magazine about Virginia Tech, Web 2.0 and the web-enabled way in which the shock and the grief of the killings and the killings themselves are being experienced, both by those who were there and by the rest of us.
Yet technology also conferred a shroud of privacy amid the spectacle. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith noted seeing students silently text-messaging before the Tuesday memorial service. “It feels like there is an undercurrent of information being passed that doesn’t reach to our level but is remaining within the Virginia Tech family,” he said.
Good. These are people who have been as traumatised as is possible in the West, barring rape and war. Give them their privacy, for goodness’ sake!
There are issues clanking around in my brain with regards all this. Words like respect, privacy, objectification, de-personalising, de-humanising are all bumping in to each other. I am shocked by Smith’s comment, and shocked that he isn’t.
I don’t know where these thoughts are leading me. As I looked directly into the eye of the CCTV camera in the crematorium, I realised once again that this is one of the things I find disturbing about living in the future.