Saturday, March 9, 2013

Candid Camera

You know you're a camera geek when you go to read an article about the DOJ standing up for photographers who photograph or video the police, and when you notice the picture that goes with the article is of a full-frame DSLR with a "protective" UV filter mounted on it, your first thought is: "Amateur. Just use the lens hood."

Photo-geekery aside, I'm impressed that this story hasn't gotten more play than it has. It's become an irregular refrain from certain law-enforcement officials that members of the public who have nothing to hide should have no reason to be concerned about police surveillance. (And by extension, those people who feel they have reason to be concerned...) Given that, there should be a greater push by law-enforcement for transparency. Not to avoid hypocrisy, but simply the slippery slope of only giving a rip about one's own interests.

Not being an idiot, I understand that when the police become twitchy about being photographed, it's not because we're on the way to officers water-boarding people or having "black jails" which become roach motels for critics of the police. (At least, not anytime in the foreseeable future. That kind of police state lies at the end of a fairly long road, and I have a hard time taking seriously people who say that we're barreling down it at top speed.) Instead, it's because they understand that they rely on a certain level of public trust in order to do their jobs effectively, and as such, they've come to the understanding that they're entitled to that trust to a certain degree. And so it follows that they're sensitive to anything that might lead to an erosion of that trust. And while a picture may be worth a thousand words, and a video clip a million, the words that come to mind may not always be an accurate reflection of what was happening at the moment the shutter was pressed, and they almost always miss what transpired half an hour (or half a minute) to either side.

Still, the antidote to bad information is not ignorance, it's more information. I understand that I don't know anything that I wasn't a witness to, and if someone tells me what happened, what I then know is what their personal perspective on it was. The blind man who describes the elephant as being rather much like a tree isn't lying, or even truly mistaken - he's simply incompletely informed and not fully aware of that fact. "Citizen journalism" (aside: Aren't ALL journalists citizens?) is nothing more than adding more blind men to the panel. The more perspectives that are available, the more accurate a picture can emerge, even if some, or even all, of them are deliberately skewed.

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