Surveillance Meets White America

surveillance drone

Photo by Kevin Baird via Flickr Creative Commons

The other day I was sitting in my living room in Brooklyn looking out over the East River toward Manhattan. Suddenly, a small plane streaked into my field of vision. It startled me because it was flying very low and appeared to be headed into the building across the street. Then, thank goodness, it dipped behind the building and out of sight.

I rushed to the window to see better, then realized that it was flying very low over the East River—and that it was not a plane at all but a huge drone. It was much larger than a helicopter and looked like a flying saucer with four, rigid legs. It had little lights on the rim and was eerily reminiscent of some science fiction film from the 1950s.

As I watched, I saw a half dozen or so police boats out in the harbor, blocking the mouth of the East River to water traffic, and several more up under the Brooklyn Bridge, blocking watercraft from coming down the river to enter the drone space. There were clumps of flashing red lights at various points along the FDR Drive, which runs the length of the river on the Manhattan side.

Since the river was completely clear of civilian traffic, I’m assuming this was a practice run. I’ve seen many emergency drills around the city over the last decade, but never a drone. This one flew back and forth, up and down, obviously piloted remotely from elsewhere—maybe from the emergency bunker that Giuliani built at the Brooklyn end of the bridge shortly after 9/11. If young guys wearing camouflage and toting machine guns in Grand Central Station is unsettling—and it is—this drone was absolutely dystopian.

Drones Are Everywhere

Drone at Sunset

Photo: Ed Schipul via Flickr Creative Commons

I was reminded of that movie from 1991 called Boyz N the Hood, where you constantly hear the sound of surveillance helicopters in the background, flying over the black neighborhood of South Central LA. While writing this, I couldn’t recall the exact name of that film, so I Googled it and, what do you know, I uncovered an article from The Atlantic in 2012 called “Eyes Over Compton,” about the LA County Sheriff’s Department secretly testing mass surveillance technology, taking high-rez photos over Compton, CA. Just a coincidence, I’m sure, that most of those who live in Compton are black.

So now it has apparently come to this. Surveillance drones over everyone’s neighborhoods, justified by the tired rationale of keeping us safe. When did safety become our highest priority and who decided it, anyway? People come to New York to be free—to remake themselves into who they wish to be, separate from family, stereotypes and the baggage of the past. That’s the same reason many of our ancestors came to the US in the first place.

Of course, some of our forebears came here against their will, packed into ships like cargo. One way or another, they’ve lived under surveillance since the beginning, whether they were in South Central or Compton, Ferguson or Staten Island. It’s time the rest of us, of every culture and background, stopped living in denial about what’s up in the Republic. The Surveillance State is knocking at our door. How shall we answer?

Seeking Pro Bono Clients for my Students

Dear Friends:

This fall, I am teaching a new undergraduate course in the Public Engagement division of The New School called “Communications for Advocacy and Activism.” I hope to recruit several advocacy organizations and social enterprises as pro bono clients for the course. I thought you might be interested in applying.

Students will be divided into teams of 3 to 4 people to serve as pro bono consultants to the organizations selected. They will be working under my supervision and will develop a project based on your organization’s needs and interests. The projects they undertake must be focused and specific so they can be completed by the end of the semester on December 21. The students will perform actual work for your organization, not merely develop a grand strategy and then leave it to you to implement.

Some examples of the projects I envision are below. If there is something specific that you would like us to consider, your ideas will be welcome.

Possible Projects:
– Create a follower engagement campaign for an existing Facebook or Twitter account.
– Produce a series of video clips to promote your organization in social media.
– Create one or more photo essays suitable for your website and social pages.
– Develop and run a publicity campaign in digital and/or traditional media.
– Write a speech or other public presentation with visuals and/or leave-behinds.
– Plan and execute a fundraiser, media briefing or other live event.
– Create and run a crowdfunding campaign.
– Create a printed or digital brochure, e-book or fact sheets.
– Write and illustrate articles for your website.
– Design business cards, logos, stationery or other materials.
– Create a public service advertising campaign and research placements.
– Create a series of short podcasts.

If this idea interests you, please leave a comment with your email address and I’ll get back to you. I hope you will consider participating.

Bonnie McEwan
PT Assistant Professor
The New School

Sustainable Marketing: How We Got Here

1) In the beginning marketing was a simple exchange between two or more people. Beaver pelts for salt and nails. Wild berries for a bolt of calico cloth. It took place in a physical market: the big rock over by Joe’s cave or, later, the bazaar at Samarkand or, later still, the

Police protect profits

Traditional marketing is about generating and protecting profits

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

2) Once humans learned to produce excess stuff for trade, marketing came to include luxury goods for the elite. The place of exchange was the known world, reached via the Silk Road or the sea routes to ancient Britain.

3) Marx came along and said those who owned the means of production (capital) had all of this extra stuff that they had to sucker the masses into both creating (the workers) and, eventually, consuming (See Henry Ford).

4) Having to sell excess stuff begat advertising. Don Draper created clever ads that seduced us into consuming more and more stuff. Some countries got rich and consumed even more stuff. Eventually, even poor nations became consumers.

5) Philip Kotler made marketing seem scientific with his 4 Ps. More marketers with more stuff to sell used the Ps to create more demand and bigger markets.

6) Mass media fueled a lust for stuff by many rather than just a few. More stuff was produced and consumed by more people. Everything was growing except Earth’s ability to support all of us and our stuff.

Plastic in tree tops

Sustainable marketing keeps plastic out of tree tops.

7) Now, with our backs to the climate change wall, anyone with any sense (that’s us, folks) needs to figure out a kinder, gentler, more sustainable marketing system that is focused on only 3 Ps — people, planet, and yes, profits. But profits can’t come first any longer.