Dec 092007

“CCTV is in operation throughout Birmingham City”, warns the poster, threatening “Big Bother” for troublemakers.

At first the poster seems baffling. It seems to be comparing the use of CCTV cameras in public places to the totalitarian state warned of by George Orwell in his novel 1984, in which, you will recall, “Big Brother is watching you”.

But the key is, you might not recall that at all. Or at least, the designers of this poster campaign might not recall that, or maybe they consider it unlikely that vandals have read much Orwell. No, the assumption is that an association will be made with the television series Big Brother, which, of course (of course?) took the name of 1984‘s venerated Leader, along with his desire to monitor all.

Now, the efficacy of surveillance cameras as a means of fighting crime is questioned by many sources, but you can look into that yourself by typing “cctv crime” into your favourite search engine. If you can be bothered. But for the moment, let’s just note that in Britain the public can apparently be safely assumed to be ignorant of such archaic phrases as “a Big Brother society” and therefore largely oblivious of the civil liberty issues that might be involved. After all, such issues require some thought, and watching Big Brother is less bother.

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