Scandal 3×08 ‘Vermont Is for Lovers, Too’: Sight and sound

Source: ABC

What is it to be constantly observed, even if the observation is seemingly benign?

Red Emma’s, an independent socialist bookstore in my neighborhood, relocated this year to a location on North Ave., much closer to my apartment. As part of their reopening festivities, Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground you may remember from the 2008 election, gave a reading and talked about his experiences and views about past and contemporary politics. I’m honestly more of a fan of Bernardine Dohrn; Ayers is a little brocialist for my taste. When I got to the new location and found a seat, it took me all of 10 minutes to spot an obvious undercover cop. Then I saw two more. Three seemed about right, so I stopped looking.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

There were also two patrol cars out there on the street, lights constantly flashing through the windows. Had a uniformed cop come inside, I doubt anything would have changed or different words would have been said; leftists are brave to a point, though mostly a cowed people in this country. No one would have objected, certainly. You’re used to this sort of thing. Cops stick out pretty hard anyway: they don’t look like hipsters or aging radicals, even if he’s straight out of the academy and has a beard you can tell, even if she’s got some background and can spit hot Marx you can tell.

Surveillance is one of the primal truths of the America we live in, and the only real guard is to become lost in the data. I generate an amount of data that would be inexcusable a generation ago, as do we all, and we all understand that someone’s watching, even if “someone” is only Facebook, or our employer, or the police, or a marketing firm, all the way up to the NSA. But to find some piece of data in that mountain, someone has to go looking for it. You have to attract attention. The Weather Underground’s tactics wouldn’t work today; they’d be caught in an instant. They phoned buildings after planting bombs so that everyone would evacuate, just to avoid loss of life. That’d be a losing strategy these days.

The funniest thing is that there’s no way to really understand that data even if you go looking for it, which is what makes Fitz’s now constant protests towards telling Olivia anything just so damn funny. He’s clinging to this idea of himself as the guardian of freedom, as the guardian of the office and the country, when all he’s done so far is use that office to become even more bogged down in the conspiracy laden crapshoot politics of the national security state. Not telling Olivia is just one more laughable step down the road to madness. What drove you mad when you saw Cthulhu wasn’t the horror, it was the unknowable complexity.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

And one of the foremost truths about the exponential torrent of data is that it puts everyone on defense. We’re defending ourselves, even if all you’re doing is changing your Facebook privacy settings or blocking someone on OkCupid or DMing instead of Tweeting. And for the panoptical surveyors, all there is the constant scramble to control, to react, to “catch” the “threat” just in time. Sometimes it’s an idiot trying to blow up his pants, but more often, it’s an aging radical with kids who last went to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. We shouldn’t be asking why Rowan is imprisoning Maya; we’ve seen his desire for control, we’ve seen what he reaches for.

Ditto James and the giant goober. Cyrus has this great plan, sure that he can manipulate DDL into making a move on James, and doesn’t even think for a second about, well, how stupid is plan is. I mean, seriously, they’ve already hired an escort, just grab another damn escort! How hard is that? Instead, he sends James, so sure he’s figured out how everything’s going to pan out. And you know how it’s going to turn out. It’s obvious. To us. Be we don’t have limitless surveillance. We aren’t convinced that we’re on the offensive. We happen to know we’re on defense, and know how things can go wrong.

To this extent Fitz and Liv have been living a bizarrely charmed life, with so little seriously threatening their relationship so far. They live on the cusp, for the most part watchers, immune from the surveillance we all face. What else is a scandal than something private observed by the populace, our own little slice of The Lives of Others, plus the prurient pearl-clutching that defines us as a people?

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

For a long time media companies followed mostly self-imposed standards that strictly defined what could be reported, standards that didn’t stop those scandals from being talked about amongst the professional media set. Then, when it’s first reported, the waves of media types descend and talk about how everyone “knew” that, they just didn’t share it with us. With the rise of Twitter and blogging and (yes) sites like Gawker, there’s slightly more parity, we’re almost as privy to as many of their secrets as they are of ours, which is why you’ll hear “important” people call those things crass. But it’s a meaningless line, because all the hypocrites are still on the other side.

Stray thoughts:

  • Love when Charlie tries to be likable.
  • I could use a continuous loop of Lisa Kudrow telling people to take things down a notch.
  • How do you end up a doctor at a secret prison.
  • Awww, they’re calling it a honey trap. How sweet.
  • “This old alligator hunter,” lololololol Mellie you lunatic.
  • Loving Abby being sassy and domineering. It’s obviously her comfort zone.
  • Cyrus…Cyrus…
  • Srsly, why is it so easy to humanize fathers? Rowan is a horrible person, but he’s proud of his daughter, who he had no hand in raising. WHAT A GREAT DAD.
  • Fitz needs to get off his high horse and put it down on the track.
  • Oh goddamn it guys, THEY’RE SO IN LURRRRRRRVE.
  • Quinn, stop being useless. Really, girl, you’re so much more than just a…decent head of hair?
  • Liv: hates sweets, loves wine.
  • Love Mellie’s I’m-bullshitting-now voice.
  • Wow. So many positions. Great…great job guys.
  • Fitz shows that a true man sexes a lady up before he tells her that he’s going to kill her father.
  • I like that Harrison is 1 on Abby’s speed dial…..
  • AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HARRISON AND THE DAUGHTER/SISTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Man cave, James in the v-neck, you can see what’s gonna happen.
  • Not well thought through, Cy.
  • At first I thought James was faking and I was like “I see what you did there, James,” but then…
  • Nooooooooo Kudrow noooooooooo.
John M.

works for a legal newspaper in Baltimore and lives within three blocks of Tilghman Middle, the alley where Omar and Brother Mouzone have their showdown, and Pearson’s Florists. He enjoys putting his liberal arts degree to good use by watching a lot of TV and reading a lot of internet. He occasionally blogs (about Dawson’s Creek) on tumblr.

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