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16/03/2015 at 22:15

Thunderbirds are go – StingRays a no-no

StingRays should be manta-ray shaped – and bright green in colour

StingRays a no-noBrussels, 16/03/2015. I’ve often wondered about that box at the top of the local telephone pole. For those who remember the TV series, the immortal line “Thunderbirds are go” always accompanied the launch of the rescue team on their latest mission.

For those attempting to communicate in the 21st century, StingRays are just the opposite – not a “go” acknowledgement but for most people a no-no – the latest weapon used by certain government agencies that seem determined to monitor everything their citizens do.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that StingRay boxes – em, they are supposed to be secret, but only if you don’t read campaigning materials on the internet – are being deployed by law-enforcement agencies across the United States. Which means, certainly, that they are also being used in Europe, since those same government agencies are not slow to use the latest technology in their attempts to track citizens – em sorry, I mean terrorists.

All you have to do these days is demonstrate a mildly inquisitive or questioning nature about the activities of said government agencies, and hey presto, you might well find yourself face-to-face with this latest manifestation of puppet-kingdom gadgetry.

Such a shame then that the reality is an innocuous looking grey or black box. Much better if the manufacturers had made it look more exciting – the shape of a manta-ray perhaps, and coloured bright green. Then children could play their own I-Spy games in the street, shouting “I spy a StingRay!” when they see one perched at the top of a telegraph pole.

Cities could even maintain a count of how many StingRays they have, and proudly display those counts in a “StingRay league table”, with the leaders using their position in the table as a means of justifying their claim on central government for greater support.

The number of StingRays deployed per region could even be used by national governments as a new method of establishing the most deprived areas – since those areas are, presumably, the ones most likely to host the disenfranchised.

Meanwhile, some enterprising media person could use that same data to compile a new guide to “Areas you’re most likely to feel threatened”, thus boosting his or her own status as an investigative journalist and therefore a legitimate 21st century superhero.

But, but, these are attempts to predict the future – and such attempts are almost always doomed to failure. Back here in the present day, I see yet one more reason to not buy a smartphone, and further reinforcement of my reluctance to communicate anything over networks that are not wired.

Which reminds me, perhaps it’s time for that august publication (Wired) to make a comeback – and since I prefer not to be monitored while reading it online – in print please. The magazine could even print an international StingRay league table!

© Philip Hunt, 2015.

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