Here Thar Be Monsters!

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12.10.12

Outsourcing Your Security

When someone says "smart home monitoring" to me, I immediately think of a very intelligent person watching out for their own stuff with a big gun.  But, I suppose other people have other ideas.  For instance, watch this video that I picked up off of Joseph Farrell's website:



Disturbing, I know.  Gave me the willies.  And Joseph does a good job of analyzing the implications of such a technology, but I want to look at the audio/visual programming and psychological underpinning of this video.

The first thing that struck me was the red background.  Red, of course, has cultural connotations of 'danger' and 'fear'.  They could just have as easily chosen blue, which would have implied comfort and relaxation.  So you are immediately hit with a fear trigger from the first frame.  Granted, you may not have been conscious of this reaction, but that's the whole point.  Propaganda works best when it slides underneath our filters and conscious reactions.

The next thing that hit me was the music.  It sounds like the old 'Peanuts' theme music.  It's bright and bouncy and just slightly industrial implying that everyone in the video is busy and productive.  Obviously, the service being sold is for people who are too busy to look after their own affairs   In fact, they are so busy they don't have time to worry about their kids.  They need their house to do it for them.

The next image that hits you is the generic house.  It's a colonial cottage style that is obviously middle class suburban America.  Nowhere else on Earth looks like that.  So we know the target audience here: busy white middle class American breeders who are so busy trying to keep their heads above water financially that they need their house to do all the work for them.  How do we know they are white?  Look closely at all the human figures and ask yourself what race they are.  Plenty of clues.

And that brings us to the next weird thing about this video.  There are no people, only shadows.  There's no individuation or identity, just silhouettes going through the motions of life.  In other words, the people who would use this system have no individuality.  They are just demographic cogs in a larger machine, unwilling or unable to stand out from the masses.  The people in this video have no substance.  Even the narrator's voice is a kind of bland all-American accent with a 30-something timbre to it.

The first image that really creeped me out was the one that goes with the line, "...is supported by two networks simultaneously."  The house is shown with rays coming out of the top of it, one set white, the other black.  What are they telling us here?  That one network is good and in the open, while the other is covert?  Why don't the rays go in the same direction, implying both being controlled by the same party?  This tells me that one of the networks is being monitored by someone else, and not necessarily for good purposes.

The next line really irritates me: "...giving you absolute peace of mind when it comes to keeping your home protected."  What?  No lingering doubts whatsoever?  There is no possible way to bypass this system?  There are no variables that can cause failure, such as blackouts, sunspots, cutting cables, etc.?  Just look up the word 'absolute' in the dictionary.

And why just my home?  Look at the video.  The only things in there that are distiguishable and have any character and detail at all are the home and the technology.  The people and stuff in the home are just consequential, and all of it is subservient to the bells and whistles in a box.  And who are these 'trained security personnel'?  TSA?

Then there's that strange shot of the family running out the door with all their gear on their backs while a shadowy character with something on his head that looks like a ski mask and holding a pair of bolt cutters is kneeling next to a utility box of some kind.  Since no action is taken to stop this character, we can only assume that it is a government 'authority' or 'trained security personnel'.

And while all of this is going on, we see the 'central monitoring center' with a couple of guys standing around a monitor looking as if they are watching your daughter in the shower.  Hmmm...maybe it IS TSA, then.  Or Catholic priests.

At any rate, there is never any sign that the 'central monitoring center' takes any action, such as call the police or send a patrol around.  They just monitor the situation.  Great.  A lot of help that is.  I could have done the same things with my Smith & Wesson .357 double action revolver.

Now we are told that we can monitor our home in real time from our computer, smartphone or the touch-pad.  To me, that says that anyone can hack into my home because anything sending out that much information on that many channels is far too easy to cut into.  The nerdy kid across the street could be having the time of his life turning your home on and off while you're away.

I feel so secure now.

Now let's look at all the emotional hot buttons this video is pushing in order to make you feel afraid.

First, of course, is the classic 'children' ruse.  Threaten the children and people will do almost anything to protect them.  It's the old circle-the-wagons effect.  This has been used with great effect in the last 50 years or so, with things like Amber alerts and little Adam Walsh (remember him?).  This is a really easy button to push.

Next, they threaten your home.  Well, naturally that'll get your hackles up and make you want to do anything to protect your stuff.  After you've spent yourself into a hole to buy the house and fill it with gee-gaws, you certainly are afraid to lose it all, especially since you won't finish paying for it all until you are 90 or so.

The video then goes on to create a whole new fear for you: carbon monoxide.  Now, how many people do you know sit around wringing their hands over carbon monoxide levels in their houses?  I can't think of one in 51 years of experience.  But gosh, your home could be full of the stuff.  And if one odorless, invisible gas is filling your home, how many others?  And does the system monitor those, as well?  That one line could turn anyone into a full-fledged worry-wart.

But not to worry.  All these wires, networks, touch-pads, smartphones, computer terminals, 'trained security personnel', and 'monitoring centers' are there to give you 'peace of mind', 'security' and 'safety'.

Frankly, everything about it scares the shit out of me.

The video is so well done that you even think that all this will save you money, too!  That's right, paying thousands of dollars to amass all the crap you need to make this system work for you will save you a few pennies a month on your electric bill.  WOW!  What a deal!  No word if it will stop the leaky faucet or the running toilet, though.  That would save me some extra pennies on the water bill, too.  And how about gas leaks?  Didn't mention gas leaks, did they?

Another joke?  When the kid comes home, the home sends an alert to the woman's (not the man's) phone to say, "The front door was opened at 4:01 PM."  We are supposed to assume that the woman automatically knows this is her kid?  Or maybe the kid is wearing a ID chip that the rest of the text message gives the kid's identity heart rate, adrenaline levels, and urine output for the day.

There are so many things wrong with this video, none being the quality of the production or the propaganda being transmitted.  It is a high-quality piece and carefully crafted to scare you into submission.  And every bit of it was done with full awareness of what they are trying to achieve and the messages being sent.  How do I know that?

Well, a committee was formed by the client.  They determined what they wanted to say and how they wanted to say it.  They put the package out to bid and found a production company that 'got it' and presented a proposal that said as much.  All of this was vetted by executive managment at key milestones along the way, and the final product was approved by marketing, sales, executives, and legal.  Every image, word and idea was thoroughly parsed to say exactly what the company wanted you to see, hear and feel.

So everything I've just explored, plus what Joseph Farrell stated, were all clearly and deliberately intended by both the client (the company) and the production house that created it.

Now doesn't that make you feel more secure?