Insights · March 8th, 2007
Apparently there is a custom followed by some French youths to incite violence, often involving innocent strangers, film the violent acts, and publish the resulting video on the web. The term for this is “Happy Slapping.”
French authorities, understandably, want to stop this.
They’ve picked the wrong method: a law against any posting of violent videos by a person who is not a professional journalist. Think Rodney King. Think about the fact that we need, as a people, to be able to record violent acts by police or armed forces or other people in power against those who have less power, and we may need to be able to distribute the information. In these days of government cameras, surveillance, large databases, etc., it’s critical that the transparency goes both ways – that governments can hold their people accountable and people can hold their governments equally accountable. Two-way accountability is how we can avoid the future of Orwell’s 1984 (yes, I know that’s a little retro now, but it was a good illustration of what can happen if government holds all the power).
A better choice might be to use the actual videos to capture the “happy slapping” perpetrators and hold them accountable to the actual other laws they’ve broken.