A DIY Solution To the Surveilled Life: Noam Chomsky and Brian Eno in 'Article 12'

In the hubbub over ‘the end of anonymity’ comes Article 12, a documentary that proposes a solution to the soft-Orwellianism of modern life.

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Aug 2 2011, 4:00am

In the hubbub over ‘the end of anonymity’ comes Article 12, a documentary that proposes a solution to the soft-Orwellianism of modern life.

The inspiration for the title refers to a key point in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, — "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation." And yet with every leak of sensitive data to unscrupulous officials, that demand becomes more of a tearful plea.

Directed by the Argentinian filmmaker Juan Manuel Biaiñ, the film examines how personal privacy has eroded with our complicity. Using a peeping-tom camera style, we are brought back to the individual human effect of having our every move, thought and purchase analyzed to reveal personal, financial, spiritual and sexual secrets. When Facebook makes privacy changes that affect half a billion accounts, it seems somehow irritating on a personal level, its global effects are abstract and intangible. But spy through the window of an unaware young woman, and the issue of privacy becomes considerably creepier, and universal.

In one scene, scientists prove what Banksy fans have known for years: rats under surveillance become neurotic. Apparently humans behave in the same way. Couple that with the notion that your data shadow has become more important than your physical body, and it's no wonder we feel angst. The only comparable time was the late medieval period, when the threat of an all-seeing God was the best way to control peoples' actions and thoughts. In a post-religious age, the lens of the omnipresent CCTV camera has replaced the eye of God.

The rapid decrease of civil liberties began with 9/11 and the ’War on Terror.' Unfortunately, the war in Iraq is also responsible, some argue, for creating a seven-fold likelihood of increased terrorist activity.

A key development of that war has been in the use of unmanned aerial drones. UAEs that once scoured Baghdad for still elusive weapons of mass destruction are now circling our cities for equally elusive targets. "You cannot beat London for Orwellian," says Emmanuel Goldstein, publisher of hacker journal, 2600. The quest for freedom is not the same path as physical safety. A psychologically developed adult should prefer a sense of liberty and the responsibilities that brings over a need for mollycoddling Big Brother bureaucracy.

The second half of the film captures a series of fantasy hacktivists as they run pranks on communications technologies in Times Square and the Telecom Tower, with possible methods for DIY revolution tossed in.

Brian Eno's preferred tactic of sedition is through the use of 'propergenda', the idea of talking about the news stories that really matter instead of falling in line with the "monolithic thinking that media produces". And he'll put his money where his gold-toothed mouth is, promising cash to anyone who intends to blow up a TV transmitter for the cause.

If financing another media overthrow, like the one that Rupert Murdoch has brought on himself, is beyond your post-recession means, a good place to start might be a handwritten letter to Eno, and a target. There are plenty of them.

Connections:
The Poetics of Surveillance Culture with Iain Sinclair
The Future and Surveillance in the Body Politic
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