The Sixth Estate

I’ve been watching the news, and I noticed a distinct change. Now every story has surveillance video that goes with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an attack, a car accident, or police brutality, there’s always someone taping.

I don’t know if this is good or bad.

Let me clarify: Big Brother is watching us, but it is not some super-powered dictatorship. We are Big Brother.

The surveillance tapes I see on the news are almost always from stores or cell phones. We are recording (and policing) ourselves. The internet surveillance that we usually deal with comes from companies trying to better target product to audience, though we can be sure that the govt gets a hold of it too. We are casually revealing information about ourselves on social media without thinking of the ramifications. The govt doesn’t have to watch us, because we give them what they want.

I don’t know if this is good or bad.

Of course, the govt and law enforcement can always subpoena these tapes, but they rarely have to. What store owner isn’t going to let the cops look at them? If there’s a crime near their store, they want it taken care of or else it could hurt business. I’m more concerned with the govt looking at our info, but again, we choose to give it away. We let them into our lives, because we feel that the tradeoff is worth it.

I believe that human curiosity, the need to connect with other people, and the thirst for information is stronger than our desire for privacy. We want to know, NEED to know, and we’ll trade knowledge in exchange for knowledge.

The thing is: while they’re watching us, we’re watching them. Groups like Anonymous consistently reveal information on shady doings. Civilians record police acting outside of the law, and apps allow you to send it straight to the ACLU or (usually) Youtube. Fights get recorded. Hate-filled rants get shared and shamed. Powerful Tweets and memes get passed around and open eyes (or at least open a dialogue. Whether the dialogue becomes people comparing each other to Hitler is up to the debaters).

We’ve become a second layer of police. If the media is the Fourth Estate. and bloggers the Fifth Estate, than we are the Sixth Estate, keeping an eye on what the others miss. We might be the most powerful of all.

I don’t know if this is good or bad. I do know that we have the power if we want to use it.


cosmic-cat tripping balls redux