Photography and Authoritarian Obtuseness

Following on from the discussion about photography in public places, I see that Neil Harding demonstrates yet again an ability to see the world only in shades of black and white. Those of us who believe that photography in public places is perfectly acceptable and should not be subject to police harassment – with which, incidentally, to his credit, Neil agrees – are being hypocritical if we disapprove of the plethora of CCTV being used by the state.

Just noticed this piece of genius footage over at Devil’s Kitchen. I love DK’s suspicion of authority, believe it or not I share the same distrust of the police etc – but if you are going to defend the right to film in a public place (which I also agree with), you cannot go around slagging off CCTV like these ‘libertarians’ do. They are inconsistent and they must know their argument on CCTV doesn’t stand up at all from a libertarian point of view.

There is no hypocrisy here. An amateur photographer taking a picture of a crowd scene as a memento of a day out, for a competition at the local camera club or, perhaps, to hang on the wall is not monitoring his subjects’ behaviour, he is not following them about taking multiple images to use at a later stage against the subject as is the case with CCTV – as, indeed, happened to Graham Rigg.

This difference has been pointed out to Neil – indeed Scunnered did so in the comments of Neil’s piece.

When I am taking a photograph of you in the crowd on Brighton beach, I am not taking it for the purpose of seeing if you are behaving yourself as I think you should, or for the purpose of keeping you under control if I feel that you might have breached my standards of decorum

However, I might just consider it worthy of inclusion in my forthcoming publication, featuring idiots parading in public

However, with characteristic obtuseness (or sheer ignorance – it is difficult to tell) Neil either cannot or will not recognise the difference.

All that said; I do not have any particular objection to the use of CCTV per se. A shopkeeper cannot be everywhere at once and may choose to use one to keep an eye on the shelves that are out of sight. It is a private premises and this is a perfectly legitimate use of the technology. Indeed, there may be limited uses in public places where the risk may deem it appropriate and there are insufficient police officers to patrol – although, there damn well should be. What I object to – and indeed, others object to, is the indiscriminate plethora that are used to monitor us virtually from the moment we walk outside our front doors. It is the desire by the state to track and monitor us, to record our journeys, our transactions and the minutiae of our daily lives that is so abhorrent.

For the stupid, the obtuse and the plain authoritarian, the difference between the amateur photographer snapping a crowd scene and the state monitoring of the public is one of intent. Reasonable, rational people can see this. Neil cannot. Indeed, even when it is explained to him why CCTV is mistrusted as Scunnerd did rather explicitly, he still fails to see it:

And you think you are a libertarian?

Sigh… How can anyone discuss anything with someone who does not even understand the terms being used?


Update: Further comment on this one from DK. So, too, the Landed Underclass who takes a slightly contrarian view and struggles a little with the difference in intent.


Further Update: In response to the apparent confusion regarding intent as raised by LU, I would suggest that there are four different scenarios under discussion here rather than two as initially believed.

  1. The street photographer who simply wants an image for personal pleasure. Whether there are people present in the picture is immaterial to him. Indeed, the picture may be preferred without people at all.
  2. The individual who, suspecting inappropriate or criminal behaviour on the part of police officers, chooses to record a particular event with the intention of gathering evidence – whether overtly or covertly.
  3. The police who, either covertly or overtly carry out surveillance on suspects during the investigation of criminal activity.
  4. CCTV used to routinely monitor the population passing through a particular location all the time and without discrimination when there is no reason to suspect criminal activity.

I have no problem with number one. Numbers two and three are pretty much the same thing, the only difference being the role of the photographer (police or member of the public). Again, I have no problem with this. It is number four to which I object. It is not the role of the state to monitor my whereabouts. Where I go, what I do and with whom I do it is none of the state’s business. I would like to keep it that way.

1 Comment

  1. I have to admit to authoritarian thoughts occasionally. When I read people like Neil I do feel they should be locked in small rubber rooms for the protection of themselves and the rest of society.

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