The Spectacle Blog

A Diatribe Against Speed Cameras

By on 8.16.13 | 1:10PM

While the science fiction action film Elysium deserved the mixed reception it received, it did prompt viewers to partake in a valuable intellectual exercise. Director Neill Blomkamp has created a police state wherein robot enforcers can recite your misdemeanors and major felonies and treat you accordingly -- without restraint or accountability. Actor Matt Damon, playing protagonist Max Da Costa, endures a bone-breaking "slap on the wrist" for his sarcastic remarks to one such robot enforcer.  

In Elysium, the ruling political elite live contentedly in their sky kingdom above the planet, having exempted themselves from the misery they have imposed on the rest of humanity without regard to ethics or the rule of law. Sound familiar? Blomkamp’s future earth is believable because it is happening on a smaller scale today. Our political elite is ushering in a surveillance state while simultaneously exempting itself from the consequences of its decisions. On a large scale we have a privacy-pulverizing NSA, and on a small scale we have speed cameras.

Many critics will mention that local governments that decide to put up speed cameras are motivated by easy, predictable, and consistent revenue, rather than legitimate concerns for the security of their citizens. 

Have you ever tried to reason with a speed camera? Some Maryland citizens have. One speeder took down a camera in Howard County with a slingshot and some marbles. Maryland residents have spraypainted camera lenses and destroyed them with a hammer or a shotgun.

In December of last year, a speed camera in Baltimore was proved to have given multiple erroneous citations. It issued a ticket to stationary vehicle. The police blamed it on an electromagnetic anomaly. Contesting a traffic citation costs both time and money, and in Montgomery County, where traffic cameras gross more than $30 million in annual net revenue, less than one percent of victims contested the speed camera charges.

“It’s all hearsay evidence, and there’s no way to contest the accuracy of the camera and how it obtained your speed,” attorney Charles Rittgers said about Miami speed cameras. He argues that the use of speed cameras violates due process rights backed by 200 years of law.

Let’s take a mental journey. Imagine if we had cameras for other fine-able offenses. Loitering cameras. Littering cameras. Now imagine if those cameras could fly. Now imagine if those cameras could kill.

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