When it comes to the so-called Surveillance Society, I believe journalists are the ones who are meant to debunk the theories around this concept.
Sure, according to theorists like Focault — and his idea of the Panopticon, where we believe we are always being watched, and thus modify our behaviours to satisfy those who overlook us, even though it is not always true we are being watched — it is not a theory or a hypothesis, but a fact. And, surely, we must all know by now that everything we do on the internet will be seen by other people, whether it is the government or the intelligent agencies, however unbelievable.
It’s like the theory of Santa Claus — let’s get into the Christmas spirit! It’s the last blog post, after all. When we are children, we believe one single man is able to deliver millions and billions of presents to all the children in the world in less than 24 hours. And, even if we know it’s technically impossible for that to be a fact, as children, we still believe in Santa. Or, maybe, we want to believe in him.
This links to the theory of being surveilled. We ask ourselves, among the, let’s say, three billion in the world with access to internet, how is it possible for a limited number of people in the higher society to watch over every single thing we search for? Three billion! All connected at the same time! Impossible to surveil everyone! But then, we still believe that we are being surveilled, and I think one of these main fears come from cookies.
You know the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Let’s switch that to “Whatever you write online, stays online.” What does this mean? That even if you think you’ve deleted something off your profile, it hasn’t really been deleted off the database that’s somewhere in the Pentagon — this is just an absurd guess, I have no idea where all the deleted information is actually stored, but thinking it might be in the Pentagon was pretty fun.
Back to journalists, I think it is the investigative journalists that will have the most fun with the Surveillance Society theories. Debunking them and digging deeper, and thus exposing the government, is so interesting, but at the same time dangerous. Why? Because if they ever spot an anomaly, something that is going against their norms and beliefs, they’ll delete it and close it down and, maybe, ruin your life. Side note: remember Snowden? Yep, he’s in exile now.
Another example when it comes to media is this film called Black Elephant. It was a film, maybe better described as a documentary, by a Chinese journalist who travelled to Thailand and exposed the way they mistreated elephants. It showed how the citizens would make the elephants’ ears bleed by poking and pinching at their sensitive skin in order to make them do stuff that entertains tourists, thus earning some profit from it. However, try to find it. Type it on Google, search for it on YouTube. It is nowhere to be found. The government in Thailand has somehow managed to remove everything on the Internet about this film. In some sense, it’s a way in which the Thai government has monitored what others have to say about their country, so maybe they’ve been surveilling those who even remotely mention Thailand online. Which other possible way could they have found out about this film?
The only possible reason I can think of from the top of my head as to why surveillance online is positive, is when it comes to crimes. With the help of an IP address, it is so easy to find out who’s hacking who, who searched for ‘how to make an explosive’, or who sent a very incriminating message online to another person and then deleted it thinking it would disappear forever. It’s because of surveillance that people thinking many terrorists have been found. On Google, when typing in ‘effectiveness of mass surveillance’, it is followed by the suggestion ‘surveillance stops terrorism’. This can’t be too bad, can it?