Blast from the Past

Remember the days when drones were only used to bomb Muslims in far and distant lands? The Great Imperium then decided that its own subjects were fit to be monitored and surveilled by drones resembling a ‘Bird of Prey,’ ‘Spy Pigeon,’ ‘Flying Pizza Box’ and ‘Wasp.’

Fortunately, the joystick operators cannot yet take us out at will like they do those pesky Pakistanis and Yemenis. But as John McCain so kindly reminded us this past week, that day may not be far off.

The slopes just keep getting more and more slippery. 

The timeless Edward Abbey, a green anarchist made famous by his novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” once wrote a letter decrying the acquisiton of police helicopters in Tucson. One can only wonder what kind of snooping technology and egregious rights violations our children will be living with when they nostalgically wish for the good ol’ days of Napolitano-piloted ‘Flying Pizza Boxes’ and ‘Birds of Prey.’

Letter below:

Tucson Daily Citizen

20 September 1972

Dear Sir:
The police helicopter is an unnecessary evil. The money being wasted on that infernal and idiotic machine would be sufficient to add another fifteen or twenty men to the force. The helicopter cannot be justified as a crime preventive; noise pollution is a crime and should be recognized as such, and in all the stink and smog and clatter of downtown Tucson, no individual machine is more obnoxious than that helicopter.

Even if the helicopter could glide about quiet as an owl, it remains still objectionable on even more serious grounds: aerial surveillance of a supposedly free citizenry is an affront to us all, and one more significant step toward an authoritarian police state. There are far better ways to prevent crime than by sending Big Brother aloft to keep his beady 450-watt eye on us dues-paying citizens.

I would suggest, for example, that a few good men on bicycles (a la francaise), properly uniformed and equipped, patrolling swiftly and silently through their own neighborhoods, friends not enemies of the people they work among, could do far more to prevent crime than two official Peeping Toms roaring over our rooftops in their fifty-dollar-an-hour plastic bubble.

Let’s think about this, people. You too, City Officials.

Yours sincerely,
Edward Abbey—Tucson

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