An ad released by the Los Angeles Police Department urging the public to participate in an anti-terror snooping program is being described by numerous observers and news sources by a single word: Creepy.
The one-and-a-half minute spot, which can be viewed below, features a multicultural line-up of speakers explaining why they participate in iWatch, a “neighborhood watch for the whole city,” as the ad describes it.
“If you see, hear, or smell something suspicious, report it. Reporting is easy. Use the web or the phone,” the speakers state. “A single report can lead to actions that can stop a terrorist attack. Think about that. Think about the power of that. Think about the power of iWatch.”
And indeed plenty of people are now thinking about the power of iWatch, and many observers are not impressed. Allison Kilkenny, on her TrueSlant blog, says it won’t be long before iWatch will be exploited by people for their own purposes.
These kinds of anonymous hotlines are ripe for abuse, and there exist endless possibilities of innocent citizens being reported by their neighbors for the crime of “Living While Being Arab.”
After the 9/11 attacks, we were told the solution to terrorism was to have citizens spy on each other, and not to, say, elect a competent government. That’s when TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System) was born, an initiative to recruit one million volunteers in 10 cities across the country that encouraged them to report suspicious activity that might be terrorism-related. An investigative political journalist, Ritt Goldstein, observed in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald that TIPS would provide America with a higher percentage of “citizen spies” than the former East Germany had under the notorious Stasi secret police.
The LAPD is “creeping out America” with the ad, states KNBC in Los Angeles. The station cites outgoing LAPD Chief William Bratton, who said that “a single terrorism incident would do more harm to the city’s image and economy than 50 gang murders.”
“Absolutely true — but do we really have to be so creepy with the promotional videos?” asked the station in its report. “This is LA. There are probably one or two writers, actors and directors that would be willing to cut out some of that creepiness.”
Tina Dupuy at the media-affairs blog MediaBistro writes that the ad “is universally thought to be creepy and not unlike we’ve imagined PSA’s on Orwell’s telescreens to be like.”
But our reaction is why did this take so long? Hello! September 11th 2001 was like eight years ago. It’s taken the LAPD this long to ask Angelenos to be on the look out for anything suspicious in regards to terrorism?! What, did they get stuck in traffic for the better part of a decade?
This video is from LAPD, broadcast Oct. 3, 2009.