LEE CAMP: While Pandemic Destroys So Many Lives, The Surveillance State Celebrates

If they’re able to track “violators” who follow within a flying spit particle of someone else, then it stands to reason they could choose to track pretty much any other type of behavior. 
 Lee Camp

Special to Consortium News

If we don’t fight back against the secretive surveillance state growing steadily around us, your wife/husband may find out you love a Cinnabon more than you love her/him. And that might be just the beginning of it.

While many of us remain quarantined — inexorably welded to our home/apartment/RV in an abandoned Walmart parking lot — the surveillance state is actually stretching its legs, brought out for a run by our friendly neighborhood oligarchs like a young golden retriever let off its leash on a nice day. Unfortunately, in this case what it’s retrieving is all of our information, movements, thoughts and desires.

Right now violations of American’s privacy rights do not hold many people’s attention. We’re too busy adapting to a new, confusing, and anxiety-filled form of existence. (Last week I myself finally saw my dentist, my therapist and my prostitute all via Zoom calls. Unfortunately, I had performance anxiety – but that was with the therapist [flaccid super-ego].)

More Americans have now been killed by Covid-19 than were killed during the Vietnam War. (I mean Americans killed in Vietnam of course. “Others” killed have never much mattered to us.) As the virus death toll rises, various governments around the world have discussed using smart city technology to trace where infected people go and who they come in contact with. At first that sounds great. What kind of psychopath doesn’t want to end this pandemic? But it turns out there’s one problem with allowing the moneyed rulers to track every man, woman, and child. That problem — stop me if you guessed it — is that they’re tracking every man, woman, and child.

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As was written in the crazy anarchist rag known as Forbes Magazine:

“…the use of masses of connected sensors makes it clear that the coronavirus pandemic is–intentionally or not – being used as a testbed for new surveillance technologies that may threaten privacy and civil liberties. So aside from being a global health crisis, the coronavirus has effectively become an experiment in how to monitor and control people at scale.”

Oh goody! I love being gerbilized for the ruling elite. (Maybe they’ll give us yummy treats – like carrots or cucumbers.) And it’s not just your phones they’re tracking in these “smart cities.”

Forbes again:

“Making use of a traffic light indicator system, their algorithm is able to anonymously identify and label people who maintain safe distances, while flagging violations.”

If they’re able to track “violators” who follow within a flying spit particle of someone else, then it stands to reason they could choose to track pretty much any other type of behavior. Such surveillance activity can effectively shut down all dissent or resistance, both large-scale and small. For example: would my hobby of mooning every Bank of America be an arrestable offense? Is a gentlemanly mooning illegal now? I thought this was a free country. What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled asses?” Apparently, they didn’t mean it. Now our asses have to be covered and they can’t even be huddled — they have to be 6 feet apart.

Data Governance and SMART cities, @NTusikov lays down the concerns. (Giulia Forsythe, Flickr)

Point is, the reason police officers post up every two blocks in minority neighborhoods is ostensibly to “catch” people committing crimes. But as we know from the stats, most of these “crimes” are really nothing — loitering, noise complaints, open alcoholic beverages, possession of a half a joint. Essentially the surveillance creates or stirs up the “crimes” in order to lock up people of color, thereby protecting the class structure and insulating the rich.

As we’ve seen in dictatorships the world over (most of them friends-with-benefits of the American government) a police state can be used (abused?) to arrest anyone the rulers desire. Now imagine a state where those political elite know exactly how and where you walk at all times — what you do, where you do it, and why you did it.

Dystopian Hellholes

They’re calling this kind of surveillance “smart cities,” but a more accurate term would be “dystopian surveillance state hellholes.” However, that name doesn’t fit on the signage as easily as “smart city.” It’s similar to how landlords give the shittiest apartment buildings grandiose names like “The Cromwell” or “The Victorian.” When you see a name like that, you know it has “the Bed Bugs.” But they often throw in “Le Black Mold” free of charge. Hence, the fact they’re calling these “smart cities” scares the shit out of me.

Army researchers investigate how the internet could complement military assets in urban operations. (U.S. Army)

Even if this technology is only used to help with the Coronavirus outbreak right now, what makes you think the top execs at America Inc. won’t keep using it after the pandemic is over? As we know from the historical record — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, etc. — if a government acquires a tool that swells its power, it never relinquishes that tool. No one in power ever says, “You know what? These nuclear weapons are kinda dangerous. We better get rid of them. And this unlimited surveillance of American citizens doesn’t feel right anymore. Do me a favor and click the OFF switch on that big machine with the sign that reads ‘Watch Everybody.’”

As Edward Snowden stated:

“Five years later the coronavirus is gone, this data is still available to them — they start looking for new things. They already know what you’re looking at on the internet, they already know where your phone is moving, now they know what your heart rate is. What happens when they start to intermix these and apply artificial intelligence to them?”

Think about that. If the government and big tech know someone’s web searches, purchases, standard travel behavior and their heart rate, A.I. systems can basically figure out everything about them. They can know who you are, what you want, when you “misbehave” in societal terms. The systems could define “misbehaving” as criticizing power structures, pushing back against authority, or not giving in to the standard cultural institutions like marriage, car ownership, sports team allegiance, owning a treadmill you have an emotionally abusive relationship with, falling for a timeshare in the Virgin Islands you don’t want and can’t afford, etc.

“I’m Edward Snowden – Stop Watching Us, Berlin,” 2013. (mw238

Monitoring Your Pulse  

The surveillance state can know that your heart races every time you see a fucking Cinnabon. They can know you have a gambling or alcohol or Adderall problem. They can know your pulse doesn’t race when you see your wife. In fact, on the list of things that grab your attention, wife isn’t even on thesame page as a Cinnabon. She’s below Cinnabons, sharks, and a good pass in the NFL. Wife is just below a partially warmed-up gas station burrito on the excitement index.

Back to Forbes for another groundbreaking revelation: “… those doing the monitoring …may not always have our best interests at heart.”

I realize this pandemic frightens us all and turns our lives inside out. I realize it has taken “normal,” beaten it thoroughly, changed its clothes, given it a fake mustache, and then dropped it out of a helicopter from 30,000 feet. By the end of this pandemic, “normal” will only be identifiable by dental records. But even so, we cannot give away all our rights, all our privacy under the guise of “security.”

Any salesman will tell you, one of the best tools to sell someone something they don’t need is fear. Want someone to buy the expensive car? Tell them it’s safer and ask them to picture their children in a car accident. Want someone to buy the home security? Paint a mental image of a big bad burglar stealing their entire Phil Collins vinyl collection. After 9/11 companies even sold parachutes to office workers to keep under their desk in case they needed to jump out the window. Didn’t even matter if their office was on the second floor. Can’t be too safe.

Fear makes us idiots. Fear makes us listen to the lizard brain instead of the smart guy in your head. Don’t let the oligarchs use fear to trick you into giving up what little right to privacy and freedom you have left.

If you feel this column is important, please share it.

Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his standup comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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23 comments for “LEE CAMP: While Pandemic Destroys So Many Lives, The Surveillance State Celebrates

  1. May 8, 2020 at 18:11

    Very disturbing article by Lee Camp. My takeaway is that one should be very cautious around Cinnabons. Apparently they can be addicting and cause obsessive compulsive reactions and can lead to marital strife.

    So to get back to the ubiquitous surveillance state, what are the chances somebody in a castle/mansion in Switzerland will try to limit the number of Cinabons sold to any one customer? Truly Orwellian nightmare.

  2. dean 1000
    May 8, 2020 at 12:30

    It is not too late. Professional criminals and intelligence agents may already have pocket size jammer/spoofers that make stingrays & tracking devices believe they are 2 cell towers away from their actual location w/a body temperature of 105 degrees.

    A simple little box can prevent a cell phone from transmitting its location. A pocket sized jammer/spoofer could make your phone conversations sound like the “Robot Ringtone” to NSA/Telco recording devices.

    If government does not play it straight with emergency tracking, spoofing apps and hardware will become available. Electronically talented civil libertarians will make diy schematics available online. The components and plug-in circuitboards are in your computer store now. Some of these little devices will make a ‘woe is us’ pessimist grin. There is always an alternative.

    Good one Lee.

  3. KLS
    May 7, 2020 at 20:51

    ” They can know your pulse doesn’t race when you see your wife. In fact, on the list of things that grab your attention, wife isn’t even on thesame page as a Cinnabon. She’s below Cinnabons, sharks, and a good pass in the NFL. Wife is just below a partially warmed-up gas station burrito on the excitement index.”

    Please, CN, edit out this boorish misogynistic BS.
    Women read this blog.
    Women support this blog with monthly donations.
    Make it clear to your writers that this kind of thing IS NOT FUNNY AND NOT ACCEPTABLE AT THIS BLOG.

    • May 8, 2020 at 11:52

      If you really paid attention, this was more critical of the man than the wife. It was in no way misogynistic. It was not critical of the woman. It points out the man’s shallowness.

      Pay attention.

    • May 8, 2020 at 18:01

      Good Lord, KLS, what’s a matter, you can’t recognize satire?

  4. Bianca
    May 7, 2020 at 11:35

    Thank you for cutting through the rubbish and focusing on what matters.

    I LOVE the idea of following the infected people.

    Follow them what for? To find everyone an infected people were in touch with? And to do what with that? Have the infected people been quarantined? No. Have the persons they were in contact with TESTED? Of course not! NY tests only if one gets hospitalized, if someone is important, or a community screams. And policies ENCOURAGE people not to come to hospital unless VERY sick, and if such person is so obstinate as to refuse to die before reaching hospital, ambulances are ordered to deal with cardiac arrests and NOT bring the person in.
    That is called flattening the curve, a Potemkin Village version of well-run, not overwhelmed hospitals.

  5. May 7, 2020 at 11:35

    It’s worrying how fatalistic these comments generally are. It’s too late. It’s too deep. Who cares? ect.

    John Chuckman calls Edward Snowden (and like minded) views as naive, dangerous, unstable and anarchic in one breath, whilst agreeing with his dystopian outlook the next (privacy and rights as obsolete as butter churns).

    We must remember that a computer still cannot think outside its box. Binary code can move in a million different directions, but those directions only move in a straight line. That is why if you get a bill you disagree with it can take weeks or even months to put it right.

    Computers may have massive memories and impeccable logic, but they cannot think.

    Massive world wide computerisation is more about the laziness and money saving methods of corporations than it is about the ‘intelligence’ of computers.

    If a computer adds 2 + 2 and makes 5 its broken, not considering its options.

    Even the most sophisticated algorithm is only as good as the information it gathers.

    We as a people don’t have to ‘put up’ with anything we don’t want to. We don’t stop or destroy technology by changing the way those in power behave, we simply challenge the negative uses AI can be used for.

    • May 8, 2020 at 06:23

      The ruling class can easily enact dystopian rules/laws/military actions and measure them as inputs and outputs & then rinse, wash & repeat for their benefit.

      History has shown how the people that are prone to exploiting the populace have used the information available to them to take advantage of human beings Achilles heels whilst positioning those exploits as beneficial to “society”.

      This manipulative sector of society will not suddenly choose to neuter itself because they know fear in the herd generates & allows control.

  6. Tom Kath
    May 6, 2020 at 19:31

    It is a waste of time appealing to, or trying to shame, the great majority who already don’t WANT to be free. On the other hand, it is good to provide a bit of solidarity for the rather small minority that must provide a future for free people.
    Maybe you can’t have your smartphone and your freedom too!

    • Skip Edwards
      May 7, 2020 at 12:49

      I have often considered smashing my android cell phone to bits. The addiction it has created in so many of us is at least on par with many “drug” and alcohol addictions and abuses. However, for my smashing my phone to accomplish anything millions of us would have to do it. We must return to the good old days of land line phones if society is to regain its sanity and return to the much needed person-to-person socially interactive closeness. If we don’t choose to do this, just like a drug addict or alcoholic, our lives are doomed to the whims of the pushers.

    • KLS
      May 7, 2020 at 20:56

      “We must return to the good old days of land line phones”

      Absolutely. Much harder to surveil. Use a flip fone for emergencies only (maybe traveling alone).
      Just say no to carrying your minder with you.
      Also, much better reception/sound quality on land line.

    • Smedley
      May 8, 2020 at 06:24

      Thank you.

  7. Sam F
    May 6, 2020 at 18:59

    Proper epidemic contact tracing does not require any secret activity, camera tracking, or enduring databases.
    If US politicians had any patriotism or intelligence, they would prohibit domestic surveillance beyond criminal cases.
    They would also long ago have got money power out of mass media, elections, the judiciary, and their own finances.

    The US has nearly the worst record in the world of virus response; daily new cases decline only minimally.
    The US and UK have far more cases per day per capita than W Europe, which is far worse than the rest of the world.
    Some states (HI, VT a few others) have almost eliminated new cases, but most are nearly constant or increasing.

    So people are dying not for lack of knowledge, but due to widespread lack of concern of politicians for the people.

    • Bianca
      May 7, 2020 at 11:19

      Exactly. Thank you for making this point. It is not a secret that implementing Epidemics management practices results in epidemics control.
      No Western country implemented containment, quarantine or epidemics control testing. Why? Because public health was decimated — so they just winged it? It would have cost money to contain outbreak to a region. It would have cost a lots of money to quarantine the infected.

      But we have a brilliant solution — let us WATCH infected people go around infecting others! Electronically WATCH infection spread! China is doing it, right? Rubbish, China quarantined infected people. Any use of technology China had is to help identify people to test — after a new infection was identified.

      The entire Western elite — led by US and UK decided to be too smart by half. They were to let the virus spread , and THEN decide what to do. Like in Italy, closing northern regions inly after the contagion engulfed the whole country. Widespread closures would not have been necessary had we contained outbreaks in NY and few hot spots elsewhere. Instead we let virus now take its deadly march up and down Acela corridor.
      Now they are panicking. Must reopen but do not know how and who will take the blame.

      Let people decide! Sure, decisions have been made for us, especially people in nursing homes and long term care facilities. No compassion for victims. Just clapping and airshows for health care workers — instead of combat pay and benefits.

  8. May 6, 2020 at 17:46

    You got it Lee, Thanks for consolidating all the views on this George Orwell nightmare that is in motion.

  9. Pissedoffalese
    May 6, 2020 at 17:43

    Does it not occur to folks to just leave the fucking telephone at home?

    • Skip Edwards
      May 7, 2020 at 13:03

      Pissedoffalese, It seems an easy enough solution. However, just as the “just say no!” solution was a failure we will see that your rationale will unfortunately fail, too. We have become the mice in a cage experiment. And just like the mice going to the sugar water, or worse, instead of the nutritious foods, we will not “just leave it at home.” It has been proven over and over that Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” solution to teen age sex will not work. We need to destroy the phones and get the pushers off our streets and out of our lives. Society, in order to survive, must rid itself of this scourge.

  10. rosemerry
    May 6, 2020 at 15:43

    Thanks Lee, but so much was achieved in this field by George W. Bush and his gang that the US population is completely used to it. The fact that now so many will voluntarily give up their lives to facebook, twitter, instagram etc and these are their means of socialising and getting news means that the extra uses of the data just confirm that they are zombies.

  11. Uncle Bob
    May 6, 2020 at 14:40

    Alongside the Fear tactic comes Shaming and the modal verb, should.

  12. May 6, 2020 at 10:34

    I’m sorry, people can satirize and rant and criticize all they want, but the surveillance state is here to stay.

    Americans already permitted layer after layer to be built around them – the FBI, the Patriot Act, the NSA’s intrusion into everything, the American high-tech and Internet service industries becoming auxiliaries in information harvesting for the Dark State.

    As capabilities with technology increase, we will only see a deeper burrowing into the fabric of society.

    There is no other direction this can go, because there is no one with real power in America – as the leaders of both political parties and the plutocrats they serve – who wants it any other way.

    Technology is wonderful, but it changes things, changes them forever. And it does that just as surely in the service of darkness as in the service of light.

      May 6, 2020 at 11:09

      And from the point of view of those with power, voices like Edward Snowden’s are naïve and even dangerous. They represent a form of instability or anarchy.

      Indeed, the very definition of what is light or dark depends on your point of view, and the point of view of those with power is entirely different from that of those who have no power.

      I’m pretty sure that all real meaning of “privacy” and of many traditional “rights” in a society such as America have become as obsolete as butter churns.

      Just consider, it cannot be long before we have AI that literally understands what you are thinking.

    • Anonymous
      May 9, 2020 at 09:40

      This second comment of yours is something people need to spend more time thinking about – how “light” and “dark” basically refer to ally and enemy, as they almost always have. People treat them like absolutes and forget that we mostly think in heuristics these days; archetypes are shortcuts and not actual observations.

      But as you’ve said, privacy and rights are things of the past. It’s black mirror in real life – or at least it will be soon.

  13. Anonymous
    May 6, 2020 at 09:50

    Well written. Unfortunately, people have been blindly accepting every new suppository measure since the 90s – far more than parachutes were introduced after 2001 and Americans ate it all right up. Look at some of the absurdly un-American things that passed, like youth curfew laws, and you can see that they have absolutely nothing to do with fear of terrorism in retrospect.

    But this is how Americans really are. Notions of safety and comfort always come first; freedom is unnecessary and bravery is foolish. Your article is several decades too late for this country to make the impact it needs to stop this country from turning into a satire of the founding fathers’ intent – though I certainly hope it reaches more ears than just the choirs’.

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