Is photography a crime? There is a keen website dedicated to answering that question when it comes to recording the public activities of the police — Photography is Not a Crime! — and we need more sites like that one dedicated to freedom and transparency.
The “PINAC” website reminds me a lot of Retraction Watch — where the public are forced to take on the watchdog role that the mainstream media used to own. Now it’s up to us, the regular folk, to preserve our freedom on-the-record and when we’re told we cannot record the public actions of the police, and other officious totems, we have a serious problem in the community.
The PINAC cause especially reminds me of the PATH Train ban on photography in the name of “Homeland Security:”
The other day, I was riding the PATH Train from New Jersey to Manhattan and the Conductor — he’s the guy who manages opening and closing the doors and making announcements while the Engineers “drives” the train — came up to an Asian couple and demanded the woman delete the photograph of the train she took right before boarding. The woman was confused and embarrassed, but she followed the order and the Conductor watched her remove the photograph from her cellphone. If she’d been using a traditional film camera, would the Conductor have confiscated her entire film roll? The woman’s boyfriend took a more aggressive perch, and said, “There are no signs prohibiting taking pictures.”
The Conductor brusquely retorted, “There are signs everywhere. Look for them.” Then the Conductor left the car. A few minutes passed and the Conductor came running back into our car to retrieve the train keys he’d left dangling in the control panel switchbox so he could bawl out the woman. I thought to myself, “Which is a greater threat to the people riding a PATH train? A tourist taking a photograph, or a Conductor who leaves his keys behind for the taking?”
I can understand why a private citizen would not want to be photographed in public against their will, but I have never understood why the police — or airports or train stations — try to forbid photography. What are they trying to hide? You can’t stop the photography. You can only drive it underground where it will gain more surreptitious mass and power against the punishing authority. Information, and the public behavior of public servants, demands to be held up for tight scrutiny in the full light of day or we risk repression and a revolt of the populace against a false, but menacing, civic cudgel.
The police need to take the purview of Anthony Weiner as he tries to resurrect his political career to become Mayor of New York City by re-penetrating the body politic in the wake of his own private penis envy. Weiner is not hiding from his self-destructive viral wang shot — he’s now, quite smartly, bringing up the topic of his bulge at every opportunity, with lots of apologies, and he tells every interviewer who asks that he’ll gladly chat about his infamous crotch shot ad nauseam.
This — “Weiner Effect” — quite quickly turns from a verboten, and lurid “gotcha” topic in one man’s skivvies, to one where you begin to moan, “Anthony Weiner, please take your cock out of your mouth and put it back in your pants, and stop talking about it.” Now that’s a political genius at work: Take your most vulnerable asset and beat it off in public.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the next contributor to “Photography is Not a Crime” is Anthony Weiner, as he offers up his classic dick shot as ongoing evidence that, unlike the police, he has nothing left to hide and absolutely no shame.