Freedom, Security, or Privacy?

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In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, millions of Americans called for increased government security measures for fear of letting such crimes recur. However, this new surveillance involved the loss of some fundamental freedoms among all, as portrayed in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film Minority Report. Conflicting fears of crime and restriction, addressed by a fictional system of law enforcement extrapolated from post 9/11-security measures, are portrayed with their implications to show the pros and cons of crime prevention systems. The adverse effects of the 9/11 attacks on U.S. politics and even core beliefs led to rampant fears of crime among the American public; however, these fears soon morphed into claustrophobia when major advancements in law enforcement technology arose, thus inspiring Minority Report’s portrayal of how crime prevention could upset the delicate freedom-privacy balance via the casting of fallible yet innately honorable people as heroes and of manipulative authoritative figures as villains.

 

When lax security measures were identified as the inlet for the 9/11 terrorists, the American public began to fear the influx and spread of crime, which the government responded to with tightened restrictive security measures. The American public viewed threats to their security as percolating through relaxed borders as well as propagating within the nation (“The 9/11 Commission Report”).This caused a sense of near-paranoia in the country, “making fear reduction even more salient for… state and national officials” (Cordner). To prevent the terrorist problem from infiltrating into or increasing in the country, the government came up with new technology solutions that focused on “preemptive military strikes - that is...intended to prevent future attacks” (Shenkman). This approach included using remotely controlled drones (Shenkman) to fire on suspected terrorists. In its pursuit to predict crime and thus stifle it before it occurred, the government overlooked the fact that since the crime had not happened yet, targets could never be labeled as criminals - they were still only suspects. Thus, it could run the risk of prosecuting a “suspicious” person who may have never even had an intention of committing the crime. However, such was the extreme to which fear of crime’s adverse effects seized popular emotions that Americans were willing to criminalize several people who may have never committed a crime before, just to catch the one wrongdoer before any “damage” occurred.

 

Not only was this new explosion in technological advancements highly efficient, but also it was adopted by or forced onto the public remarkably quickly, almost too deeply in some people’s opinion. Foresighted experts began to see how inextricable these surveillance technologies were becoming in the common citizen’s daily life (Young), and how that curtailed people’s right to defend themselves against accusations. The 2000s decade soon became filled with debates (Fischer) of exactly how much freedom individuals had to sacrifice for the government to keep them secure. The highly repressive Patriot Act, which asserted the FBI’s power of detention or search often without the suspect’s consent or knowledge, was promptly passed “before [the US] determined what happened and why [during 9/11]” (Fischer). This silencing of crime before it even happens is poignantly portrayed in the Minority Report scene where guard Gideon reveals the thousands of suspects, imprisoned before they committed the crimes predicted by the movie’s crime prediction system, in cold-storage “capsules” in the Hall of Containment (Spielberg). The scene is heavily populated “with colorless chrome and glass objects of curved or circular shapes” (Buckland), which increases the shadows and reflections in the movie along with cool or neutral colors like blues, whites, and grays. This spreads a cold, impersonal, forbidding, and near-claustrophobic atmosphere behind the scene’s central focus on the movie’s law enforcement system, thus reflecting the unease of the 2000s’ public over their perceived loss of freedom and fair trial rights.

 

As Minority Report explores the delicate freedom-security balance, it portrays the potential caveats of legally stereotyping nuanced characters as “innocent” or “guilty,” reflecting what many Americans had come to fear about the tightened post-9/11 surveillance measures. In the Minority Report scene where an aggrieved John Anderton resolves in front of PreCrime boss Lamar Burgess to avenge his son’s kidnapping by precluding would-be criminals from committing the crime in the first place (Spielberg), the viewer can see the clashing of many personality facets. On one hand, Anderton is wrought with near-extreme grief over his son’s loss, which makes him blind to the flaws of a crime prediction system and how he might be imprisoning innocent citizens with no criminal intention. However, the viewer still identifies him as a hero, because Anderton is an innocent man caught in a faulty yet unforgiving system with no room for appeal. On the other hand, the viewer instinctively designates Burgess as a villain due to his Machiavellian pursuit of establishing his law enforcement company PreCrime. Although Burgess does have the noble goal of preventing felony occurrence, his willingness to use even murder  for suppressing all challenge to the arrest of would-be criminals is conceived by viewers as villainous. This contrast of “light” and “dark” is emphasized by the movie’s use of “bleach-bypassing” to desaturate color (“Minority Report (2002) - Trivia”), thus giving a washed-out yet high-contrast look to the scene. This emphasizes the bleak, dreary aspect of imprisonment technology like Burgess’s, while reflecting the Jekyll and Hyde facets of both Anderton and Burgess, thereby provoking questions over the possible consequences of the repressive government security measures after 9/11.

 

The adverse effects of the 9/11 attacks on U.S. politics and even core beliefs led to rampant fears of crime among the American public; however, these fears soon morphed into claustrophobia when major advancements in law enforcement technology arose, thus inspiring Minority Report’s portrayal of how crime prevention could upset the delicate freedom-privacy balance via its casting of fallible yet innately honorable people as heroes, and of powerful, oppressive law enforcement authorities as villains. Americans scrambled to define just how much of their freedom they were willing to relinquish to the government for guaranteeing their own security. With legal consequences on the line, nuanced human nature seldom allows definitions of good and evil to be indisputable!






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