A couple of months back a particular story hit the wires that caught my eye. In 2011, Apple had filed a patent for technology that would allow the company to remotely shut down phone cameras with no warning or notice. The technology does not exist as yet – or rather it’s not available for public consumption – but you didn’t need to be Kojak to realise there was something rather shifty about how the story was being reported.
A great number of outlets took the usual party lines and reported on how Apple were ‘doing their bit’ to curb music piracy; in this instance the recording of concert footage by audience members. I won’t give credence to these outlets for their dumb and ditzy PR prattle, but you know who they are, I’m sure. In much the same way Uber gets a free ride (circumstantial pun, pls dismiss) by these same websites who simply C&P their press releases, Apple too were getting the same treatment.
Pray tell, where can we find objectivity and debate when much is being done to suppress it outright?
Interestingly, RT carried the story with a different (read: CORRECT) angle: the power Apple would grant themselves in being complicit in the shutdown of civil liberties. Consider the following scenario: a protest taking place in the streets of any city in the United States against a police officer who had shot and killed a young person under unclear circumstances. Hundreds – thousands even – take to the street. Pictures are taken, video footage captured, live streaming occurs. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat all ripe for use and uploading of this event. And then…a blackout. At the behest of authorities or even at their own discretion, a multi-national corporation has snuffed out the basic rights of protest and sharing of information with the flick of a finger. Confusion reigns. Tensions grow. Tempers fray. Who knows what could happen next?
It’s not so far-fetched. It’s not the type of scenario that leaves you shaking your head and mouthing “no, that would never…”, is it? And the fact it doesn’t fill you with dread is dread inducing in itself. Phew. This is getting tough.
I was lucky enough to speak with Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre who shared many similar sentiments regarding the bizarre and worrisome potential of Apple’s patent (N.B. these questions were replied to a couple of months ago, life conspires against you sometime, hence the delay. Many thanks to Anton for taking the time to speak with me in the first place).
The idea of other outlets reporting on the ‘issue’ of piracy and privacy at gigs is a simple one; a distraction. “Why not pin it on the artists?” quips Anton. “The mean old artists won’t let me take selfie, back to the stage, to show off on Instagram!”
As a touring artist with much experience, Anton has never taken umbrage at filming and photography at gigs but instead finds fault with the established and probably now-immortal selfie culture that pervades; the idea that entitlement to a stranger’s personal space, particularly that of a musician, actor or somesuch, now exists.
“The idea that I should be caught in human quicksand because people want to post a photo documenting how rude they are is disgusting – no means no. If you have to push me to take a photo with you, you are lucky someone doesn’t sucker punch you.”
But – again – the problem with Apple’s patent isn’t in protecting the people’s personal space – most individuals are more than capable of doing that themselves – but in its potential infringement on…well, just about anything really. In this instance, an attack on civil liberties and the right to protest. This isn’t saying Apple will do that – of course not! – but we’re talking Very Worst Case Scenario here, alright?
Photography, filming and streaming is very much a symptom of our age, and so be it. Yet the nature of that blurs the reality of it. If access is blocked and the published media does not appear who can say what happened anymore? With contempt for and suspicion of mainstream media at perhaps its highest levels in the West, any ‘official’ version of events sans citizen journalism will be forever scrutinised and disparaged.
“Think of the gun violence caught on tape – mostly police against blacks in America – and the reactions,” says Anton. “Think of riots or anywhere something unsavory is about to occur; in this day if it isn’t caught on film, did it happen?
He who controls the film controls or contains the media or flow of information. This goes for corporations or basically anyone with the money or power for such a device.”
Of course such scenarios are not without precedent. As the USA gears up for the Clinton/Trump live televised debate – a Vince McMahon wet dream if there ever was one – we may do well to remind ourselves of the power and technology these people can wield, and why a Very Worst Case Scenario may be a little more that?
“Remember Hillary Clinton recently gave an outdoor speech to her wealthy donors and something remarkable happened? They activated a pink noise sound cannon that made it impossible for the press outside to hear the speech even though she spoke through a PA with powerful speakers.
“Add this tool – the ability to kill video and photo – with what we use in Germany; selective disabling of cell tower zones meaning they can shut every single phone off in a block. Then add sound cannons and we are looking at a dark future – literally a media blackout at the flick of a switch.”