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Archive for May 18th, 2012

I am a BIG follower of things Sci-Fi and “Action / Adventure” pop-culture, and to me one of the best new shows in the last several years is a drama called: “Person of Interest“, which can be viewed on CBS on Thursday nights at 9:00pm.  The show began airing in 2011 and has won the People’s Choice Award for Best New Drama.  …And yes, it is all THAT!!
As someone who is extremely conservative on matters of personal freedoms and the Bill of Rights, the show has an initial “objection” factor which is normally (for my tastes) not easily overcome.  Essentially, the show’s premise is that post-9/11, the government has built a super-surveillance system to look for terrorist activity and/or threats to national security.  In order to do this, the system monitors EVERYTHING – phones, emails, private and public video surveillance cameras – everything.  The system doesn’t generate extensive results, though.  All it provides is a Social Security Number (SSN) for somebody (NSA, FBI, CIA) to look at (into) to find the problem/issue.  This is referred to as “actionable information” in the series.
Now the creator of the system has limited the actionable information for the government to only terrorist or national security issues, but the system is fully capable of generating actionable info about other types of crimes, too.  In the case of the weekly series, the info is about people who are either going to be murdered or who are about to commit murder.  The system doesn’t say which is which – so the “heroes” never know if they are helping the victims or the perpetrators.
The series has two main heroes: the computer nerd who invented the system and the bad-ass who has to be the muscle for the nerd (and the system).  There are also two other minor-heroes – cops who are drawn into the vigilante (hero) fight against evil.
Now, IF you can set aside the personal liberties issues, this is a terrific show.  It has action – fights and explosions, drama – nick of time rescues and last second escapes, great acting with multiple surprise plot twists (always one and sometimes two an episode), and, of course, great technology – surveillance (duh).  And the kicker is there is a slowly evolving relationship amongst the four characters which serves as the over-arching story line for the series.  All in all, it is a truly interesting and entertaining series.
What’s the problem then?
It is supposed to be fiction…  There is not supposed to be (in America) government surveillance of ALL citizens at all times.  We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights.  Well, we may still have them, but now we also have the “God” system, too.  If you don’t believe me try reading this article in Wired Magazine (April 2012): “Inside The Matrix“.
It appears the NSA (and all the other alphabet-soup agencies) are building exactly the super-God system depicted in fiction by this series.
Now, if I WERE the paranoid, conspiracy theorist kind of person, I would say TV is being used to show how such a system “could” be used to benefit society beyond fighting terrorism.  Since I’m not that kind of person, I’ll just put it down to a “happy coincidence” that TV is being used to make the system palatable to conservative civil libertarians like me.
The only problem is, while I’m happy to see a God-system on TV, I don’t actually want such a system to exist in reality as I have too little confidence in the human nature of government security bureaucracies.  Call me old fashioned and naive, but I still believe in innocent until proven guilty and restrictions on government regarding unlimited searches of my personal / private interests without probable cause and a search warrant.  Like I said, I guess I’m just an old fashioned conservative about some things.
If we are all inside the box, can the real “1984” (Orwell’s)  be far away?
By the way, last night was the season finale and it was SUPERB!  I can’t wait for the series to come out on DVD.  Gotta have, gotta have, gotta have it!!
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After what I owe to God, nothing could be more dear or sacred than the love and respect I owe to my country.
  —    De Thou
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