JamCams get stuck
May 1, 2003 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Trying to avoid the traffic in London? Try BBC's JamCams. The only problem is they're all down for maintenace today. Just like they were last May 1st. And the year before that. Nothing wrong with scheduled maintenance.

Except today is the day of the annual MayDay anti-capitalism marches. The last lot of maintenance was planned for protest days too. Last year Fujitsu webcam of Trafalgar Square ended up pointing at the sky halfway during the protest. Anyone want to place bets on how long this webcam of trafalgar square lasts before it's plug gets pulled?
posted by twine42 (26 comments total)
I read the articles, but I don't really get it. Why would the police/the BBC/Fujitsu/whoever disable their webcams during a protest? Do webcams somehow benefit protesters? What's the conspiracy?
posted by blue mustard at 5:56 AM on May 1, 2003

Weird - it's not like the BBC won't be reporting it on the news anyway. Maybe the News24 people don't want the JamCams treading on their territory :)
posted by viama at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2003

Count me in as someone else who doesn't really understand the conspiracy - especially as the BBC asked for amateur shots of the anti-war march earlier this year. Isn't the BBC a leftist anti-American propaganda machine, in which case it would support the protesters? Oh no, I forgot, it's a state-owned, right-wing government mouthpiece. Or is it? I'm confused.
posted by Summer at 6:07 AM on May 1, 2003

I really can't understand the reason for it, but it's happening.

Three consecutive years of Mayday protests they've switched off the cameras in London. The same for the antiwar protests earlier in the year. Why do it? Like you say, it makes no sense, but it's clearly a deliberate act.
posted by twine42 at 6:21 AM on May 1, 2003

Why do it?

So that we can't see any disturbing police brutality? Except that I'm fairly sure those protestors have cameras too. I can't decide just how Orwellian this whole thing is or isn't. I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories, but this doesn't seem quite like a coincidence either. Thanks for pointing it out twine42. I'm intrigued now ...
posted by walrus at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2003

Holy shit, today's my birthday!
posted by delmoi at 7:04 AM on May 1, 2003

Maybe they switch off the cameras for upgrade on these days because there will be no traffic, just people walking on the streets.

But it is quite a coincidence that they always have upgrades during protests
posted by sebas at 7:17 AM on May 1, 2003

Maybe the maintenance manager decided to fuck with everyone by scheduling the downtime on may 1st.
posted by angry modem at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2003

Maybe they switch off the cameras for upgrade on these days because there will be no traffic, just people walking on the streets.

Is traffic barred then? According to a friend who works in Oxford Street (and to whom I have just spoken via her mobile telephone), there are lots of people shopping and having a normal day. Course, the protest isn't scheduled to go down there until later, but I don't think they just close the entire city centre for the day ... just the bits where there are protestors. And I would think that's exactly the time one would want to use a traffic cam. Otherwise traversing London could be even more painfully slow than usual.
posted by walrus at 7:36 AM on May 1, 2003

Oh, and happy birthday delmoi.
posted by walrus at 7:39 AM on May 1, 2003

Good point walrus, if they want to do scheduled maintenance they could as well do it on a Sunday morning.
posted by sebas at 7:49 AM on May 1, 2003

maybe they aren't really off. just publicly offline.
posted by th3ph17 at 7:51 AM on May 1, 2003

Screw this speculation. I shall email the BBC and ask them. If I receive a reply, I shall post it here. There is probably a simple explanation for this whole phenomenon, but I'm damned if I can think what it is.
posted by walrus at 8:18 AM on May 1, 2003

I suppose if the BBC is acting in accordance with the authorities it could be because they're scared protestors will use them to organise or to spot areas where there's light policing. I don't think this is very practical though. You'd be better off wandering round with a mobile.
posted by Summer at 8:20 AM on May 1, 2003

They're not the BBC's cameras. They're Transport For London's cameras.
posted by Grangousier at 8:28 AM on May 1, 2003

Reading summer's recent comment: if this is true, it's skirting on the edge of Orwellian. What irks me, if the BBC (or even Transport for London) have responded to a police request to do this, is not their doing of it but the "maintenance action" horseshit. Why not just tell us the truth? After all, we're supposed to be sensible adults living in a democracy. Surely we can live with a little police paranoia?
posted by walrus at 8:32 AM on May 1, 2003

There's something odd going on...as The Register pointed out during the anti-war demonstrations.
posted by salmacis at 8:57 AM on May 1, 2003

There's a layer of subtlety I'm missing here. Maybe it's because I'm not a Londoner...

Ken Livingstone is the mayor, right? And he was very opposed to the war, right? Now, he's also the chairman of Transport for London. So why would he let the cameras deliberately go dark on the war protest in February or today for that matter? Does he not actually wield any power at TfL?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:08 AM on May 1, 2003

Well, generally people in power don't like any sort of protest or opposition to them. That's just natural. Therefore, they don't want people to easily see evidence of that, or encourage people to protest. The thing I'm interested in, is if they only do this sort of thing when leftys are protesting, or if the same sort of thing is done when the far-right or people they like are protesting. Do they not like protests in general, or do they just not like the "wrong" (to them) sort of protests.
posted by gyc at 9:41 AM on May 1, 2003

Well, generally people in power don't like any sort of protest or opposition to them.

See that's the thing I'm having trouble with, because in general I agree with you. But if you check the Guardian link above Livingstone has actually participated in anti-war events in London in the past, so it seems odd that he would be part of a cabal trying to black them out. Maybe he only wants coverage of certain "sanctioned" events though.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:03 AM on May 1, 2003

I would be happy if they turned off the cameras here, especially if they left them off. It is creepy to be watched all the time.
posted by thirteen at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2003

Well, putting on my conspiracy tinfoil hat for a moment...it's much easier to under-report the number of protesters if the cameras are off. If there is any anarchy, staged or natural, it becomes relatively easy to make those images the ones that get the most airplay...if the images of people protesting peacefully aren't publicly available.

(For example...the U.S. WTO protests in Seattle...the images everyone saw and the meme that stuck was that the protesters were all black-masked anarchists bent on destruction...when in fact, that wasn't the case and nobody knows where those assholes came from.)

Even if I take off the tinfoil hat, I find this to be odd...simply because of the sheer number of times it happens during protests.

On the other hand, I'm enough of a libertarian that I'd rather not have the cameras at all.
posted by dejah420 at 10:17 AM on May 1, 2003

perhaps they are just lulling us into a false sense of security ("oh, the cameras are ALWAYS off on Mat 1st") so in 3 years time, when the invasion begins on May1st, no one will know.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2003

Maybe people like Livingstone have the cameras turned off so there is no evidence for the police when the protestors start throwing rocks at McDonalds and getting all unruly. Seriously, I think most of the protestors would be happy to know that there is actually less surveillance when they are exercising their political rights. Also the Fujitsu cam was working fine.
posted by monkeyman at 10:44 AM on May 1, 2003

Um... isn't it obvious?
They don't want anarchists using the cameras to gain a logistical advantage, reporting to the others on the ground, what the police are doing, and devising countermeasures, etc.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:33 PM on May 1, 2003

Why not just tell us the truth?

Well said, walrus. Precisely.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:25 PM on May 14, 2003

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