Our intrusive world

You have to love Leonard Pitts at times. His most recent commentary that was republished in the Spokesman-Review this Labor Day, 8 September 2009 involved just how wired and interconnected we truly are.  Where he describes cameras mounted at ATMs, our purchases logged in various retail stores, we can be ratted out by our e-mails and etc.  And it all began with his having left his cell phone in his car while he was taking a plane trip.  He then included an article in “Wired” where the author was going to do his best to “disappear” off the grid and set up a reward for anyone who could “find” him.  An interesting challenge to be sure.  And to put it bluntly, amusing as hell.

Even though Pitts put it rather narrowly about the more private intrusions into our personal lives I am very prepared to put it into a far broader perspective.  Any more, we take it for granted that our lives are going to be “intruded upon.”  You set up an e-mail account to communicate with family and friends, to track whether someone is posting comments to blog or you are learning about people who want to “add you as a friend” on Facebook or who want to “follow you” on Twitter and here come a massive flood of ads into your in-box.  And the repetition of these ads is nothing short of astounding.  Esp when they were first seen on TV.  If I wanted to buy a snuggie, I get catalogs that actually features snuggie.  If I truly wanted a tweeze, the moment they were sold in stores I’d consider whether it was a luxury I could well afford.  I don’t need endless ads that become useless spam in my in-box and then have to be wearily over many hours cleaned out of my web-mail account.  Over 6,000 ads before I find e-mail of far more importance?  Excuse me, but I can do without that.

Or of far greater importance still, is that the people who currently clamor about our far too intrusive gvt are living with on a daily basis and are probably taking for granted all other forms of intrusion.  Businesses that put up security cameras at ATMs are correctly trying to protect themselves from theft.  Cameras set up along various routes in big cities can correctly be in response to high crime areas.  Or when people drive through stop lights and the camera can be used to send along tickets to the malefactor in question.  Or the owner of the car being driven.  But, when purchases are being logged at customer service counters by that oh so quick and efficient bar code; that is the business attempt to discover what was most being purchased on that given day or even just how much of a profit is being realized through the frequency of bar codes being passed through a scanner.  You may indeed be “faceless” as far as the corporate office is concerned, but your purchases decidedly are not.

Of course I can understand all that.  But, it is still intrusion, isn’t it?  And private enterprise is equally intrusive if not more than gvt itself.  Yet, what we hear most often is the complaints of “big bad government.”  Take Fox News and their “majority of those polled.”  Fox News Channel has to rely upon those who actually watch that channel (I don’t) for people to be polled.  And invite the same people who are actually watching the channel to visit their web site to actually participate in any polls.  Interconnectedness to be sure.  But if 98% actually agree with the talking heads of Fox News that is because the 98% are viewers who watch Fox News and agree with its format and political positions already.  The 2% who don’t agree are those who watch Fox News with an eye to disputing what the talking heads have to say.  But that such a poll is hardly “scientific.”  Not if Fox News is only taking the pulse of its actual viewers.  Fox News Channel depends on “intrusiveness” by the viewer, the interconnectedness ultimately being loathed by the fellow who “wants to disappear” and will offer a reward for any of his readers to try to find him in 30 days.  Well, I don’t loath the technology and won’t stay unhooked from the grid.  But I could still do without the tons of useless ads in my e-mail in-box.

On the other hand, there is a degree of irony when it comes businesses that want to go “unwired.”  They still have websites to generate business and it takes technology to publish their catalogs.  I am not about to be opposed to technology when advantages can be had to having it around.  And if I want to “disconnect,” well, just shut down the computer, shut off the TV, and go take a walk.  As for my cell phone, I happily leave it at home.  I don’t panic at the thought of leaving it behind.

Yeah, you just have to love Leonard Pitts, jr.  It is what he inadvertently says in his commentary that leads to far broader avenues of discussion.


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