My wife and I were playing cards with four old friends (CAUTION #1: Old friends should be remembered as they were; seen in memory, but not heard; like nudie photographs of old lovers, NOT to be revisited except in moments of utmost nostalgia/despair) and this one woman was losing pretty bad. Sore Loser I’ll call her, though I’d rather call her something else - in fact, that’s what I will call her, “Something Else.” I guess some of us were ragging on Something Else -- you know how nasty old friends in their cups can be. I was just trying to lose so I could go home.
Unfortunately, my wife was doing okay, and anyway she wouldn’t just up and leave because she suddenly decided she hated the company she was keeping. Just not that type. So, Something Else was losing and some of us were needling her and she said, “Fine. That’s okay. I make twice as much money as anyone here,” and I thought of those portraits of Jesus and the Apostles and imagined a cartoon bubble over Judas Iscariot with the words “Fine. That’s okay. I make twice as money as anyone here.”
I would have said something appropriately nasty to Something Else, but since I probably made half as much money as anyone there - if that - I had no ground to stand on, no VALUE beyond the dwindling pile of chips beside my folded hand.
Once the game was over, the whole gang, or a “democratic majority,” decided to do something cultural. So we parked ourselves in the “TV Room.” Can you imagine? Not the kids’ room or the parents’ room or even the dog’s room; it’s the TV’s room; that 50-something inch box lived better than most people on this earth - and rent free!
What was on TV? Everything about nothing, and folks selling a lot of nothing nobody needs to everyone. But that’s irrelevant, I assume. The designated Channel Zapper - our host, of course - finally stopped at one of the five hundred blind destinations - really I didn’t care if he stopped on the Lawrence Welk show. I hate that channel surfing shit, it bugs me out. I’m sorry, I’m just an anxious guy and there’s only so much Xanax the body can withstand without turning to aspic.
It was the Snoop Channel or the Snitch Channel or the USA/PATRIOT GOTCHA channel, I forget. This particular show was called the “Most Outrageous, Embarrassing Shit Caught On Video.” Whatever.
Just Plain Old Folks all over this great land indulging in chemically induced monkey-shines: college “kids” fucking on the beach after a drinking bout (spring break orgy shades of Dionysus - or Rome) - and getting busted; a Bride fondling the Best Man as The Groom is walking down a bush-lined path not twenty yards away - and getting busted; roommates picking their noses and peeing on their roomie’s bed - and getting busted; a chartered plane full of decadent party goers the women submitting to a wet t-shirt contest in mid-fight and the pilots obliging - and getting busted; a bunch of cafeteria workers stoned probably hanging out showing some T and A - and getting busted; and a bunch of other assholes videoed doing more or less harmless stuff and the videos unnecessarily handed over to THE AUTHORITIES (after all, that’s the moral imperative of video stalkers/snitches, isn’t it? Hand the evidence over to THE AUTHORITIES like good little rats).
It was ever so embarrassing for me to be human, watching this show, but the rest of our little group were laughing so hard I thought they’d piss in their pants - which could have been dangerous if one of us had a video cam and decided to hand the tape over to THE AUTHORITIES or the Snitch Channel (somehow they’re not one and the same, but it’s never explained how).
Of course the scenes of “regular folks” doing stupid embarrassing stuff segued into the cops busting people for doing not necessarily stupid, but “irregular” stuff (a man, dressed in expensive women’s clothing, driving a rusty old convertible), the narrator’s voice-over telling us “and if there’s one bunch of guys who KNOW ALL ABOUT OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR it’s the police” and something started to click of course (workers in some nightmare cafeteria kitchen job getting snooped on and sacked for kidding around, trying to add a few minutes of -- red alert! - amusement to their nightmare jobs? what gives?), but the wheels weren’t grinding full speed - damn sedatives! - and my wife was quicker to the draw.
“So that’s what these shows are about,” said she.
“What?” I asked, after a pause, since the rest of our gang of merry-makers were too agog at the sex and violence based humiliations to answer (of course they never showed any real T and A or genitalia, it was all blurred out, but you got the overall “idea,” and of course the faces were quite clear). “Assholes doing ridiculous shit so we can feel superior?”
“No,” she said. “Surveillance. It’s not about these morons exposing themselves - half of them don’t even know they’re on camera, or don’t think the videos will cause them trouble. It’s about not having any privacy anywhere, ever. I saw one of these shows before and the first thing I felt afterwards was not embarrassment for those women who degrade themselves, or even repulsion at the freaky men, but ‘this could be me.’ This isn’t such weird stuff they’re doing. Some of these people are just getting caught peeing in the woods or having sex in a “forbidden” zone. Trying to be human and have fun, basically. The thing I think about when I come away from these shows is that they’re trying to tell us ‘we’re everywhere; you can’t hide; you are always being watched.’”
Yeah. Shit, yeah. I became more than a tad paranoid. What hidden gadgets did these “old friends” of mine have socked away in their seemingly innocuous TV Room? Was the television ITSELF recording me? And if so, was my fly unzipped?
“See, look,” my wife said, pointing to the EMBARRASSING and OUTRAGEOUS moment when a guy tries using a mirror to look under a girl’s skirt but gets nailed by the security guards, who of course handed the video over to THE AUTHORITIES, which in this case happened to be the Fink Channel. “They’ll make me think I should be sympathizing with the woman, and I do, that guy with the mirror’s a creep, but the real message is that NOBODY can get away with anything ever. We’re always on camera.”
“Oh, are you two at it again?” said Something Else, who had as much money as Judas Iscariot but probably not as much as Pontius Pilot. “We’re trying to have fun here. Can’t you just lighten up?”
By then my synapses were juiced enough by my wife’s astute observation to overcome the Xanax haze, and I was able to make small but significant connections between Something Else, Judas Iscariot, and the evening’s after-poker entertainment in the TV Room:
FINK. RAT. STOOL PIGEON. TIPS. SQUEALER. TATTLE TALE. AGENT. NARC. 24/7 SURVEILLANCE. PANOPTICON. POLICE STATE. CALL THIS NUMBER NOW! STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL. VIDEO DIDN’T KILL THE RADIO STAR, IT SOLD HIM OUT TO THE AUTHORITIES.
Excellent book on all this, I remembered. “Snitch Culture,” by Jim Redden (Feral House).
I don’t think I’ll be going out much anymore more, regardless of the company. It’s not safe. You never know who’s watching, or if you’ll end up on TV with your gonads blurred, your face revealed, and your name on someone’s, or perhaps everyone’s, black list.
CAUTION #2: Anyone wielding a recording device - analog or digital - is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. If Judas had had a camcorder Jesus never even would have had a last supper. They would have bagged him early on for some “outrageous, embarrassing act” like walking on water, resurrecting dead guys, cloning fish…
Adam Engel carries no recording equipment but is something of a Narc himself: when in the midst of Rats, TIPS, Finks, Something Else, etc. he takes notes. One day, these notes might be quite valuable. After all, eventually Robespierre himself lost his head and Mussolini wound up hanging upside down dead like a stuck pig. If you suspect Rats in your basement, contact the AH HA! Hotline at: email@example.com