Cameras, Corporatism, & Chuck Berry


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There are several variations of this quote, incorrectly attributed to the hated fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini:

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

While it is unknown who first made this statement, one thing is certain: almost everyone in the US (if not the world) can point to an example of a violation of a perceived boundary between business and government that rubs them the wrong way. Most people also feel that “corporate persons” have too much influence.

The latest harebrained corporatist scheme proposed by the Mayor is even sillier than the hiring of a California based ad agency to identify and market regional assets that are in need of some corporate sponsorship, in the form of naming rights and being branded the “official ___ of Pittsburgh”. Hopefully this goes better than the sale of our water has. First they sold it to the Brits (shame on you, Tom Murphy, with your Hibernian posturing), who then merged with the Germans, who constantly raise rates and ignore the crumbling infrastructure. This kind of nonsense doesn’t go over so well, in other places.

Given the cutthroat world of corporate mergers, takeovers, and bankruptcies, is there any way to be sure that your public park is named after a company that even still exists? Enron Field and Erickson Stadium come to mind.

Despite the aesthetic and linguistic nastiness that municipal branding creates, the outward signs of corporate ownership is a kind of honesty. It looks like shit and if the corporate sponsored college football bowl games are any indicator, these names don’t exactly roll off the tongue, but a comedian once suggested that politicians could wear race car-style jackets covered in corporate logos, so we know exactly who owns them.

This is even worse than the diversion of already depleted public funds to promote tourism. Maybe this is just sour grapes on my part, since no one will take me up on my idea to showcase our 19th century patronage machine-style local government, ala Colonial Williamsburg.

The City is proposing a merger of public and private surveillance systems. While not as absurd as the Lake Erie Homeland Security Radar System, if this was a video store, I wouldn’t know whether to file this under “comedy” or “horror”, but the possibilities for both (and combinations of the two) are endless. This also includes a ‘gunshot detction system’ for Point State Park, an are where a firearm hasn’t been discharged since the French and Indian War. I’m not sure where the $826,000 for the initial phase, is coming from, but I could have sworn the City was broke, and just installed cameras last year. If there are any doubts about the ineffectiveness of heavy surveillance, there’s this place called London, and if their cameras and microphones are helping, someone forgot to tell the people who regularly attack civilians there.

The Mayor was inspired by the work of another fortunate son, who like most of their kind, also rose to a position of power through the difficult process of being born:

“The mayor of Chicago, Mayor [Richard M.] Daley, has a goal to have a camera on every street corner in the city Chicago, and he’s well on his way to achieving that,” Mr. Ravenstahl said. “If you would sit in the 911 center in the city of Chicago, [you would] see your ability to, with the touch of a button, look at different buildings, different intersections.”

Daley (I’m not making this up) wanted to meet to meet with him

After seeing Mayor Ravenstahl on the Late Show with David Letterman

City Council’s ardent champion of symbolic, non-binding civil liberties, Bill Peduto, was not afraid issue his tough demands for a “transparent set of rules on who views , who’s authorized to view it, and that it’s not being specifically targeted”.

It’s no mystery why the starstruck Ravenstahl would be in favor of centralizing public and private camera systems. This could help him keep track of actors, Broadway stars, golfers, and whatever Sienna Miller does, if he could view hotel lobby cameras to make sure he’s not missing out on a photo-op or autograph.

Would “barely legal tanning bed cams” be linked up to the Wal-Mart shoplifting cameras? Will the Chuck Berry-style toilet cameras be integrated into the system? Nanny cams? The live polar bear and tiger feeds at the zoo?

Will your employer be granted access to footage that shows you didn’t really have the flu or interviewed for another job? Will your pastor view the ATM camera footage at a strip bar and question how you spend your time and money? Will your HMO drop you, because they’ve seen footage of you smoking outside of work? Government, business, and religion all share a common interest: monitoring and controlling our lives, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the worst when they team up to do it.

What can you do? It’s your life, and complex, high-tech toys are fussy. They don’t like dust, static, water, fire, and other basic common things. Reclaiming privacy and dignity demands the use of imagination and whatever other tools we have laying around. For further reading, check out “The Pig’s Eye in the Sky”, from Modesto Anarcho!, The New York Surveillance Camera Players, and Anarchism in Action’s “Guide to CCTV Destruction”

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