Camera As Judge and Jury
In responding to the summary dismissal of LeGarrette Blount from the University of Oregon football team for punching a Boise State player, an acquaintance marvelled at the disproportionate influence the camera had over the judgment of officials on the field. In identifying “the camera” as the prevailing arbiter of right and wrong in that incident, it inspired me to look closer at the technology that spawned its seeming omnipresence in our lives.
Not only has the explosion in transistor chip/computer technology given us laptop computers 10,000 to 15,000 times more capable than the mainframe that coordinated the Saturn/Apollo Project, but we have the Internet, the Global Positioning System, literally hundreds of cable channels, and more information than we want or need. Amidst this kind of competition, high tech equivalents of the National Enquirer have found a new marketplace: Witness extensive coverage of the “sermons” of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and “funerals” of James Brown and Michael Jackson. We see it also in the blog responses to online editorials and news articles where filters for logic and civility are far more porous than in the printed media. I dare say that a few organized political partisans can appear much larger (and intimidating) in the blogosphere than their actual number.
At some point official judgment must either be respected or discarded in deference to technology. If the latter becomes our fate, trials in the court of high technology would never end and the evidence would be infinite (security cameras, highly sophisticated, but inexpensive personal movie and still cameras, credit card records, records of cell phone usage, computer browsing records, tight shots of the referee’s eyes when play was actually happening, etc., etc.,…).
In courts of law the judge must sometimes declare compelling evidence to be impermissible because of the way it was acquired or because of the time at which it was presented. Perhaps we have reached such a time in our daily lives with the pervasion of technology in information we receive and transmit.
I’m not defending LeGarrette Blount’s crude and unsportsmanlike conduct, but I am wondering if we have permitted image-recording technology to assume undue influence at the expense of due process.