The New York Post weasels out

refuses to tell both sides of the story

In mid-March 2003, the SCP-New York were contacted by telephone by Brad Hamilton of The New York Post. Despite great reservations -- The Post is a Rupert Murdoch-owned, right-wing rag that forever destroyed whatever integrity it had (i.e., very little) in February 2003 when it referred to France, Germany, Russia, China and any other country that refused to go along with the USA's murderous invasion of Iraq as "the Axis of Weasel" -- Bill agreed to speak with Hamilton, who interviewed him at length on the telephone on 17 March 2003. In anticipation of a Sunday 23 March 2003 publication date, Bill was photographed by a Post photographer on 21 March 2003. But the article didn't run as scheduled because Hamilton's editor(s) evidently decided that covering the Academy Awards in detail was more important. But when he was asked about it, Brad Hamilton said, "Well, you know, there is a war going on." Bad excuse: there was a war going on when the original publication date was set.

And then, without the advance notice Brad Hamiliton promised to give, the article or, rather, an article ran in Sunday 13 April 2003 issue. Rather awkwardly entitled "Big Brother Apple: Spy-cams see all in city" this article was credited to Hamilton and someone named Ashley Cross; it included information provided by Bill -- "One surveillance expert [sic] estimated there are about 9,000 cameras focused on city streets 24/7, including Web cams that transmit live video that can be viewed over the Internet" -- but neither quoted nor even mentioned him. The reason for this weasel-like behavior was easy to divine from the completely one-sided content of the article: Bill is opposed to the indiscriminate use of video survillance, and everyone else quoted or mentioned in the article is in favor of it. That's right: the article didn't even include the obligatory denunciation from the ACLU.

Accompanying "Big Brother Apple" was a series of photographs. Predictably, the largest photograph -- it was huge, easily as big as the article itself -- showed "Dave Raven, co-owner of Lotus, [who] monitors the feeds from the 36 cams posted around his club." A smaller picture showed a pin-hole camera, and bore the caption "DIM VIEW: The proliferation of security cameras is raising privacy concerns around town." But who, exactly, is concerned with the right to privacy? No one; the caption was a blind reference, a dead end; as we've mentioned, the article itself was completely one-sided (i.e., pro-surveillance and indifferent or even hostile to privacy concerns).

The smallest photograph depicted Bill Brown pointing at a camera and bore the caption, "Bill Brown (left), a founder of the Surveillance Camera Players, leads a tour of the city's hidden cameras. The Post found 20 cameras poised to capture passers-by in just six blocks of Times Square." Such a mention was worthless, for it didn't explain why Bill offers his tours, nor how one can find out (more) about them, nor who the fuck the Surveillance Camera Players are.

It got worse. Obviously inspired by the SCP, which has mapped out surveillance cameras in Times Square twice since 2000, "Big Brother Apple" was also accompanied by a map of camera locations in Times Square. Not credited to anyone, and captioned "They're watching you: Here's an example of how many cameras are trained on the public," this map is best described as a pollution of the information stream. It was filled with errors (webcams were confused with privately owned surveillance cameras) and omissions (most of the privately owned cameras were not marked).

But the "dirtiest" part of this map was the fact that, unlike every map ever made by the SCP, it matched camera locations with the names of the people or groups that operate these cameras. That is to say, where the SCP rather obliquely refers to the camera at the southwest intersection of Broadway and 48th Street as "privately owned," the map published by The Post identified the private owner (Morgan Stanley, in this case). Other high-profile corporate names that were recklessly (and rather arbitrarily) dropped were the Marriott Marquis Hotel, Viacom, NBC News and TGI Friday.

In one instance, this matching of cameras and names actually helps the SCP's efforts: a camera located at the north side of 43rd Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenues was identified as an "NYPD cam," despite the fact that the New York Police Department has denied that it operates any surveillance cameras in Times Square! But, in the long run, this matching may well hurt any and all similar mapping projects (the SCP's included): it could be construed as knowingly providing information that could be used in the commission of a crime or act of war and, as such, a criminal act in and of itself.

One final note: "Big Brother Apple" appeared on page 23. On page 7, there was an article originally published by The Sunday Times of London and entitled "Chilling files reveal Big Brother Saddam was watching all." As always, reading "between the lines" (or, in this case, between the pages) can be very instructive. Note well that "Big Brother" watches "all" in both tyrannical Iraq and its recent "liberator," the USA; that the watching in both places is secret; that the Iraqi secret police and the FBI, despite their apparent differences, target the same people (Communists); and that Big Brother's (secret) existence is "chilling" in Baghdad but merely "of concern" in the Big Apple.

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By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998