Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Get real

Further proof that the air in those ivory towers of academia sometimes gets a bit too thin. Some assistant professor of culture and communications at NYU argues in the Post today that reality television is merely the first step in John Ashcroft's quest to catalog our brain waves. And I just thought that was the Patriot Act.
We don't immediately think of reality television -- with its ever-present cameras and microphones -- in relation to the larger context of government surveillance. Perhaps this is because, in a post-Sept. 11 era, the recording and watching of others -- and ourselves -- has become a component of our everyday lives.

But reality TV does play a crucial role in mitigating our resistance to such surveillance tactics. More and more of these programs rely on the willingness of "ordinary" folk to live their lives in front of cameras. These people choose to have sex, get married, give birth, compete for prizes, work, fight, weep and brush their teeth in front of millions. We, as audience members, witness this openness to surveillance, normalize it and, in turn, open ourselves up to such a possibility.

She goes on to cite bloggers as people who open up their private lives to public scrutiny. Whatever, lady. All this crap I write? 90-94% bullshit. Talk about gullible. She probably really believes that her internet lover really is a muscular anthropologist with tenure.

"Many of the rest of us," she notes, "just allow video cameras and computers to follow our every movement through city streets, stores, subway stations, schools and apartment buildings." Allow is a funny word. I don't like that camera snapping pictures of my car as it zips through red lights on Constitution Ave. any better than the next guy, but you know, it didn't really ask my permission.

But back to reality TV. I may be normalizing public surveillance of private lives, as she suggests, but if John Ashcroft is the spiritual muse for America's Next Top Model, then I'm with him all the way down the runway. At least he'll have given me something amusing to watch while the federal agents red-flag my Amazon wish list.


Post a Comment

<< Home