A TfL CCTV camera

Above: A TfL CCTV camera. Credit: Oscopic.

Freud CCTV

Estimates vary on the precise number of CCTV cameras operational in the UK but it is no less than 6 million cameras. CCTV culture in the UK is such that one expects to be under observation almost anywhere. The British are under surveillance.

For J. G. Ballard the authentic horror of this situation was not the fact of the general public being watched and spied on with abandon, but rather, the public's apathy about this state-of-affairs. For Ballard, the lack of any significant adverse reaction to cameras-everywhere (e.g., mass protests, high-profile pressure groups, awareness events, media blitzes, online petitions, etc.) was puzzling and troubling.

His proposition as regards the probable explanation for this apathetic acceptance was Freudian in its basic orientation: the public enjoy (likely unconsciously and not necessarily with conscious awareness) the infantilizing eye of the camera that closely mimics the watchful eye of the child's parent, guardian or nanny. This proposal fits with the term "nanny state" that is often used as an expression of derision and mockery for the British government--the owner-operator of much of the surveillance equipment.

Equally, for Ballard, again Freudian in orientation, another possible explanation for the mute acceptance of CCTVs is the likelihood that on some level (i.e., consciously or not) the presence of the CCTV camera-eye appeals to human narcissism: a deeply-held belief that our lives are well-worth filming and recording; to be watched in this way, as Ballard stated, "means that somebody cares."

(9 April 2018)