Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Smile, you're on candid camera

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Many years ago I became acquainted with a part-Maori man named Robert who would often come into my office unannounced and tell me that God spoke to him. Initially I was sceptical, but I came to realise that the utterances, apparently from higher plain, were actually full of wisdom and were articulately expressed. So instead of looking for a reason to appear too busy to see him, I would resignedly accept his visits and listen to his dialogue.

I particularly remember on one occasion when he told me that on the previous evening God had told him that soon all crime would cease. The reason being, according to God, was the proliferation of video cameras; nothing it seems would ever be done again in secret. To some extent George Orwell had already forecast this, but 1984 had come and gone with little change in the crime rate. About this time the District Council had started installing CCTV cameras in the CBD so I thought there may be a grain of truth in this divine forecast.

I got to think about this last week when we were privy to the trial of an Australian named Gable Tostee who was accused of murdering a young New Zealand lady who had willingly strayed into his fourteenth floor apartment.

Thanks to CCTV footage the information available to the prosecution was mind-boggling. Warriena Wright’s and Tostee’s movements were readily discernible as they moved from place to place including a few minutes in a nightclub, buying beer at a bottle shop and then arriving back at the Gold Coast tower where Tostee, a carpet layer, was able to afford a luxury apartment. After Ms Wright’s disastrous fall Tostee was seen aimlessly wandering around the adjacent suburb and casually consuming a pizza on a park bench.

What God didn’t think to tell my friend Robert was that in the distant future a fellow named Steve Jobs would come up with an iPhone that not only had a video capability, but an audio device allowing the user to record conversations, secretly or otherwise.

Tostee recklessly switched on the recorder on his smartphone at some stage during the evening. Just why he would choose to do this when all manner of shenanigans were going on in his apartment has never been explained, but the outcome was that the whole evening was either filmed or recorded.

The ensuing banter and subsequent distress cries from Ms Wright, when played for world consumption in the courtroom, were particularly upsetting for her mother, Merzabeth Tagpuno.

The audio device did not just bring down Tostee. A man and his wife used it to record a ten-minute tryst between All Black half-back Aaron Smith and an unidentified young lady behind the door of a disabled toilet at Christchurch airport. Smith would have had a lot of explaining to do to his fiancée and the man who made the recording, and then blamed his wife for exposing it publically, says his marriage is also now under stress.

Meanwhile Steve Jobs is probably up there sitting at the left hand of God; they’ll both be shaking their heads and saying, perhaps in unison: “They reap what they sow.”

“If there is a technological advance without a social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery” – Michael Harrington


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