High-Tech Security System Turns U.S. Embassies Into Panopticons –

April 14, 2007

High-Tech Security System Turns U.S. Embassies Into Panopticons –

My wife had her interview on the day of the 2000 elections. It was quite a day at the Consulate – they had a panel discussion hosted by the business affairs guy, who seemed like he was fresh out of UCSB and who just abbreviated a professor’s name to “Sam” when he couldn’t pronounce it. When I left for lunch, Gore was president, and when I came back, all chaos had broken loose.

Anyway, while I was watching CNN on what was certainly one of the biggest TVs anywhere in the Third World, my wife was somewhere else in the building waiting on yet another interminable line. (I tell you, if you thought camping in a Circuit City parking lot or outside Ticketmaster was a great American tradition, you’ve never slept with thousands of engineers and programmers on a Third World footpath waiting for an unlikely chance to get in the door to a US Consulate.) A female security guard pulled her over and pointed to a video screen and said, “Is that your husband?” Out of all the scary security things she saw there – guns, fences, electronic locks of various sorts – that was far and away the one which left the greatest and most chilling impression.

Anyway, this is the opposite of the Panopticon. Not just of the real Panopticon, even of the whole point about the Panopticon in “Critical Theory for Lazy Journalism Students” which I’m sure was the title of the textbook the author read.

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