Monday, December 11, 2006

Small brothers are watching you...

A CNA article on televised sting operations, run by the media, in India

India's feisty television news channels have tapped a seam of public disgust by using revolutionary sting operations to expose official corruption and social ills that have made some lawmakers so nervous they are trying to limit media power.

"The media is reflecting public anger," said CNN-IBN senior editor and anchor Sagarika Ghose.

It's an interesting concept - reminiscent of someone pretending to represent an extremely rich person and approaching a prominent football coach to tap him to coach that rich person's football team.

Anyway - it's part of the conundrum. On the one hand, the idea that someone could be watching your every action leads you to be very careful that what you're doing is not wrong - not illegal, not embarrassing, etc. But on the other hand, who's to determine what's wrong? In the CNA article, it mentions a lawyer who's defending a (presumably) reviled man in a murder court case, who's being questioned on TV. It is probably ethically wrong to murder, and it might be that the majority of people in any society would think that it is ethically wrong to defend that murderer in court - but that does not in itself make the action wrong. To people who care about the legal system, any man is entitled to a defence, including the most heinous war criminals.

So let's take it closer to home. Suppose you're an ordinary Singaporean who deals with ugly Singaporeans every day. (well, if you in Tokyo, say you deal with ugly Tokyites everyday - I believe Singaporeans aren't uglier than other countries' citizens, we just have an idealism gap). You can't get on the trains because people don't move to the centre, once you're on you see lots of elderly and pregnant women standing around, and you always miss your stop because some stupid idiots are standing right in front of the entrance trying to squeeze their way on and you can't get out. Or you're a driver, and always curse at people who road hog in the fast lane (or even better, both lanes!), change lanes without signalling, or occupy that yellow box that is supposed to allow you to turn into the main road.

One day, you and every other irritated Singaporean decide to use those flashy camera-phones to good effect, and snap pictures of all the offenders. Mugshots, car plates, etc. Post them onto a website where you can rant with everyone else. There's a wave of publicity, and suddenly everyone is more polite. See an ugly Singaporean? Whip out a camera and the person shies away and hides his face. Feels good, no?

Then one day you log on and see your face, featured. Or, you're doing your own thing, and someone points a camera your way. How do you feel? Slightly self-conscious? And if it seems that people are condemning what you do, would you alter your actions?

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