Surveillance: A Welcome Necessity or a Frightening Imposition on Liberties

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The increasingly pervasive presence of surveillance seems a peculiar and increasingly urgent feature of twenty-first century culture. Discussions about the need for national ID’s, the presence of surveillance cameras on street corners, recent concerns about phone tapping and listening into people’s conversations had been reflected in the popular media in movies such as “V for Vendetta”. However, using Foucault’s work on Panopticism, surveillance has always been a feature of early and late modern culture. It is imposed on both individuals and societies in general and focuses on the surveillor, either through the single authority figure or via the larger infrastructure of government interventions. The movie and the Panoptic model questions the degree to which such surveillance is a welcome necessity or a frightening imposition on liberties.

The citizens in London in this story have allowed their government too much control and power, because they were afraid of war, terrorism, and disease. The government is able to keep control through constant surveillance, or what Foucault would call, the Panopticon. The finger man idea, which is citizens policing citizens is a direct idea from Foucault’s Panopticism. The major effect of the Panopticon is to “induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic function of power” (Foucault). Within the film you can see many instances of surveillance, such as vans with thermal imaging to see through walls of houses and hearing devices that allow all your personal conversations to be recorded, and the curfew which restricts your movement, just as a jail cell. The Panopticon is no longer architectural. Thus, the city of London is turned into one giant pris...

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...tector can seize power and control the masses. The call for a greater examination of government practices and the twentieth century leaders are not far from the oppressors in this work. Without a thoughtful examination by the people, government corruption can ensue and freedom as it is currently known will cease to exist. The people must never forget that government only exists when there are citizens under it, oppressing one’s society can lead to a revolution that V could have only imagined.

Works Cited
1. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. France: Gallimard, 1975. Print.

2. Kozin. "Responsepaper (rkozin)." Google Sites - Free Websites and Wikis. Web. 16 Mar. 2010. .

3. V for Vendetta. Dir. James McTeigue. Perf. Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. Film.

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