The joker on the wall

Now, what do we have here? Political graffiti making a point, but about what? Sarkozy an evil joker in a 1984 surveillance society where we have to submit to the will of the party… Is that the image we are supposed to take home from this clandestine poster? And is the “no alternative” supposed to be a reverse psychology to convince us to vote for someone else in 2012? And is it not a little early for presidential election speak? Let us see what we can make of this poster.

To start with the latter, it is perhaps not completely too early to talk elections. Since this poster was put up a few days ago, Jean-Louis Borloo quit Sarkozy’s right-leaning UMP party to create a new party, an alternative to both the UMP and seemingly ever bungling socialists. That adds another option to a list of possible futures for the country. But even besides Borloo’s ambitions, it is very unlikely that there will be a lack of serious candidates. Couple that with the current president’s serious popularity issues and we are bound to have some animated debates when the campaign season starts. To claim “no alternative” even as a stunt, I would have to conclude, is just false.

But what about the evil joker and the surveillance society? The former probably has more to do with your political preference (and perhaps his jester looks and lack of sophistication) than with him as a political figure. If you do not think he is doing a good job, consider that if he was actually evil, he would be doing a LOT more damage. Similarly you could say that compared to other countries, surveillance in France is not that bad. Is that a sufficient argument? I don’t think so, there is still enough room for criticism.

The most important battle ground for surveillance today is probably the government’s attempts at controlling the internet. But internet surveillance (unlike cameras or excessive police power issues) also has a large personal responsibility component. Could the DDR’s secret police ever have compiled the level of detail attained by the personal files in Facebook?  Surveillance and privacy today are not only about government using its powers, but also about protecting us from each other in a digital world. Without proper regulation, we will all terrorize each other. We have left the realm of just a 1984 Big Brother, you need a new image for a new beast. Unsurprisingly, copy-pasting from the past does not always work.

So what should we conclude about the poster? That the maker should put more effort into his work? From the above, I think we have to conclude that he did not properly think it through. Graffiti is extremely ephemeral, as it might not be there the next day. The least the vandal/ artist/ activist can do is be up to date! What kind of an example would you be setting for future insecure vandalizing kids. I’m just sayin’.

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