Catacombs addicts : the mysterious roamers of Paris’ underground

In the Catacombs of Paris, adventurous people illegally roam about and hold night parties. These revellers or so-called urban explorers are all enjoying the freedom of the underground. Welcome to an unknown area of Paris.

Crédit: Les Compères

A small group of explorers threads its way through endless, narrow tunnels plunged into darkness. Their torches alone can light the path. A smell of damp hangs in the air. In the bleak labyrinth, the visitors come across obstacles: muddy water, cat-flaps, patrols… This is not an Indiana Jones movie, but nightly activity right under Paris! The City of Light is known for its great monuments, typical narrow alleys, street cafés and restaurants, but not as much for its 230-mile underground maze. Every night, especially at weekends, several groups of people make the Paris underground come alive.

“Cata-addicts” (people addicted to the Catacombs, called “cataphiles” in French) frequently go underground where they illegally organise meetings and parties in galleries. The majority of them go down to the Catacombs to get drunk in an odd atmosphere. But others pursue different goals. Some wander through the labyrinth of tunnels to discover new places, others work hard to dig their way into new galleries.

The Catacombs are former quarries, where gypsum and limestone were extracted until the 18th century to construct Parisian buildings. For the last two centuries, the underground tunnels have officially sunk into silence. They are closed to the general public, except for a very small part tourists can visit. The official museum – seventy feet underground – offers quite a spectacular tour: visitors go through a dimly lit tunnel surrounded by millions of skulls and bones transferred from Parisian cemeteries in the late 18th century. But this ossuary gives a distorted image of the Catacombs as a whole, because there is no light whatsoever in the unofficial parts of Paris underground, and not many bones outside the “museum”, except under Montparnasse.

There have always been people illegally visiting the closed parts of the catacombs, as the graffiti left on the walls by former “cata-addicts” show. The Catacombs are mainly narrow tunnels, but there are also bigger galleries, including some underground “monuments” (like a German bunker dating from World War II), where visitors like to gather.

Anthony is a “cata-addict”. This 23 year-old student engineer has visited all the Parisian and suburban quarries. He is part of a team of urban explorers: “What pleases me the most is discovering new things” says he, “I also like to take interesting pictures, like many cata-addicts, in order to show people everything that is worth seeing underground. But to be honest, we also go down to have dinner with other underground fans, drink alcohol and have fun. The Catacombs are a bit like a squat which is always free.”

Crédit: Les Compères

But the Catacombs do not exactly offer a nice walk in the park. People who go underground – most of the time through manholes – risk being fined by the police. The Catacombs hobby, somewhere halfway between underground camping and spelunking, requires elaborated equipment: boots and overalls, helmets with front lights, acetylene torches and even oxygen detectors for the most adventurous “cata-addicts”. Not to mention the hammers, chisels or drills used to dig holes between the galleries.

Underground night clubs

Most of the time, “cata-addicts” meet in select groups, but sometimes they open their doors to outside visitors and initiate them into Paris underground. They call them “discovery tours”. They include long walks through the maze as well as underground parties – in both senses of the word. Galleries are turned into makeshift night clubs, with a bar, lighting effects, DJ turntables… Electricity is diverted from the Parisian subway. A few years ago, night parties were organized under the Trocadéro.

Nicolas, 23, is not a “cata-addict” but he has occasionally gone down to the Catacombs with urban explorers. He remembers his “tour” under Paris:

“We went through a manhole and when we got down the ladder we had our feet in the water. I was wearing a pair of jeans and sports shoes, this was not exactly the best outfit! There are some difficult passages, where you have to crouch down or even crawl for several minutes to go through holes the size of cat-flaps. You must definitely not be claustrophobic! I felt a bit oppressed in some parts. But fortunately there are also big galleries, where everybody can stand and where we put some lights and music. There was also alcohol and spliffs [marijuana cigarettes]… just like in every party! When I look back, I’m happy to have gone there. I don’t know if I would be ready to do it again, but it was a good experience.”

Anthony, for his part, says he is ready to do it again and again. He has never grown tired of the freedom offered by the underworld: “When you are in the Catacombs, you lose track of time. Personally I’ve already stayed underground more than 24 hours. Sometimes you go out thinking you’ve spent 3 hours in it when you’ve stayed in fact the whole night!”  Life under Paris is punctuated by several unofficial events, like the “cata-marathon”, “cata-sprint” or “tractofolies” (people meeting other groups and exchanging leaflets). “Some of the cata-addicts are completely disconnected from the real world. They go underground almost every night” says Anthony.

Discovery tours and night bashes are less and less frequent though, as Anthony explains: “Discovery tours are very complicated to organize, especially to allow everybody to go in without trouble. Large night time parties are cause for concern, because when cata-addicts are drunk, tensions between each group get stirred up.” Indeed, the world of cata-addicts is not all about peace and love. It is fragmented between several clans, torn by conflicts and secrecy.

The Paris underground is more complex than the caricature offered by the French media. The phenomenon of “cataphilia” (people spending nights in the Catacombs) is increasingly known by the general public. But what people see through the media coverage is only drinking, danger, and defiance. You cannot deny that alcohol and parties are a big part of the game. But they are not the whole story.

“Cata-addicts are like you and me”

So who are these urban explorers? Are they lunatic, unconventional, extremist people? None of that, says Anthony: “Some reports tell people not to go underground because it’s “dangerous”.  They say there are weirdoes in the Catacombs, as well as Nazis or cranks performing black masses… But that’s not true! There are only people like you and me, people who go underground because they enjoy the freedom of it.” Engineers or people working in the public buildings and the works sector are part of the “300 to 400 people” regularly visiting the Catacombs, according to Anthony.

However, not all the “cata-addicts” are the same. Didier Mauger, a police captain at the head of the underground intervention squad (“catacops” is their unofficial name), frequently patrolls inside the Catacombs. He says that people visiting the Catacombs are divided into very different categories: “There are underground fans, who just walk around. They are very respectful of this place they love. There are also active addicts, who try to dig holes in order to open passages between two galleries. And there is the most troubling category, who are young people who mostly go underground to breach the law and enjoy freedom. They are damaging the catacombs, tagging the walls, throwing parties and drinking alcohol. The problem is that you have to go out after that.”

Crédit: Les Compères

Captain Mauger is quite sad to see how “cata-addicts” have progressively changed. He cannot help feeling nostalgic: “There are many more people in the Catacombs than there used to be. When I went to the Catacombs for the first time in the 80s, there were no more than ten regular cata-addicts. I have seen the damage caused by the new generation. The graffiti is not esthetic at all. Therefore we can’t be as flexible as we used to be. Last year we patrolled 108 times and fined 267 people. They have to understand they can’t do everything they want here.”

In the Catacombs, the revellers and explorers do not necessarily mingle. Cata-addicts belong to different groups and don’t get on well, as Anthony explains: “Everyone has their own philosophy of underground activity. Even passionate people disagree sometimes.” Cata-addicts are obsessed with secrecy. They strive not to give too much information about new areas they find, in order not to attract people. “Usually, you can’t keep a place secret for more than one or two months. There are many hackers among the cata-addicts, who try to get information on the internet.” The pressure from other groups can sometimes be quite harassing: “Underground exploration, especially in the Catacombs, is a battle for secrecy. My fellow explorers and I have been fed up with these ongoing tensions. There is constant cause for endless and pointless arguments.”

Did you say dangerous?

Internet and the media have fostered the growth of cata-addiction. A broader public is now trying to get access to the unofficial Catacombs. Captain Mauger wishes it would not have happened, for two reasons. Firstly, it has increased the proportion of disrespectful revellers in the Paris underground. Secondly, people are not conscious of the dangers of such an idea. “Going into the Catacombs is a bit like sailing or hiking” says Didier Mauger. “When the weather is fine, everybody think they are able to do it. But if tougher conditions arise, and supposing you aren’t specially trained or equipped, you can easily get into trouble. It’s the same in the Catacombs. People think it’s not dangerous, but when you’re 70 feet underground and have no ways of communicating, every little incident, like spraining your ankle for example, can turn into a big problem.”

The police captain remembers several rescue operations: a man stuck in a cat-flap, another one lost underground in the dark without a battery in his lamp, or another badly injured by a rock fallen from a wall. “Without his helmet, he would have been killed” says Mauger. Anthony disagrees with the notion of danger in the Catacombs, contrary to the quarries in the suburb where he usually goes: “In suburban quarries you can sometimes lack oxygen or be exposed to a deadly fall, but not in the Catacombs. I don’t think they are dangerous.”

The Catacombs are not big enough for the most passionate explorers like Anthony. They prefer to go wandering in suburban quarries: “It’s quite the same, except that nowadays the Catacombs are like the highway of urban exploration. You always bump into people, most of whom are rednecks who go underground just to booze. The walls are covered in graffiti and it’s not even beautiful. Suburban quarries are wider and quieter areas”. Urban explorers do not only go underground. They climb roofs and cranes, infiltrate building sites or industrial wastelands, go into sewers and abandoned mines. The Catacombs are only a small part of their playing field. But at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is the same: to have a good time.

Lire la version française sur Rue89

Crédits photos/vidéos: Les Compères (DR)

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As sly and dangerous as Fox News

The US conservative channel Fox News is echoing the fear and anger of anti-Obama America. By any means necessary.

(article datant de mars 2010)

When Barack Obama won the US presidential election in November 2008, hardcore conservatives and dyed-in-the-wool Republicans were overflowed by a wave of enthusiastic optimism. All over the world, and especially in Europe, people celebrated the election of the first US black president and gleefully welcomed a Democrat after eight years with unpopular George W. Bush. For a time, notorious conservative figureheads like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly were overshadowed by the success and silver tongue of the new president. Even the famous radio host Limbaugh, saying “I hope Obama fails”, sounded bitter and powerless.

But now that Obama’s honeymoon is over, one year after he was sworn in, the ultra conservatives are back on track, alive and kicking. The fears of white middle class America have been more and more recurrent in the news cycle. Sarah Palin has reappeared thanks to a promotional tour for her new-released book. The Tea-Party Movement has federated discontent and given a high media profile to anti-Obama America. But it could not have had such visibility without US conservative channel Fox News, which has provided blanket coverage for the comeback of right-wing Americans. Fox has been the most watched cable news network for a decade and is proposing an editorial line which is very hostile to Obama. The fighting with the Obama administration, blatant in the daily news coverage, has taken a more concrete turn these last months.

Not covering the news but making it
The feud between Barack Obama and Fox News has intensified throughout Obama’s first year in office. Fox News had already smeared and personally attacked the President on every possible issue during the political campaign (Jeremiah Wright, ACORN affair, etc.). Then, last July, Glenn Beck, a very popular Fox News commentator, said that Obama had “a deep-seated hatred of white people” and was “racist”, after the president declared that the police (white officers) had “acted stupidly” by arresting a prominent black Harvard scholar in his own house. Tired of being lambasted by Fox, Obama decided to fire back and waged war on the channel in October. White House communication director Anita Dunn said Fox News was “opinion journalism masquerading as news” and thus considered it as a wing of the Republican Party and a political enemy.

Obama has stepped into a dangerous game. He is challenging Fox News on its favorite field: direct confrontation and controversy. Last October, he boycotted a Fox News Sunday morning show while he had appeared on many other channels. A few days later, an attempt from the White House to exclude Fox News from a pooled interview with one of its top officials aroused criticism from the other networks, including liberal ones. Obama was accused of handling the media too aggressively. Fox News commentators relished the controversy and pounced on the opportunity to self-describe as victims of the White House’s relentless effort to shut the network down.

Fox News also attracted attention these last few weeks by hiring former VP candidate Sarah Palin as a political commentator, despite the mockery of other networks and newspapers. Palin, who embodies religious and conservative right-wing America, is not usually praised for her expertise. But she is back on the political scene, and that is what matters most for Fox. On February 6, Palin spoke at the Tea-Party Convention in Nashville, accusing Obama of “immorality” on his massive public spending. As a matter of fact, Fox News has acted as a sort of megaphone for the Tea Party movement. In an in-depth analysis, Media Matters, which describe itself as a non-profit progressive research and information center, showed that Fox News has promoted the Tea-Party protests in the majority of its programs and presented them as a response to Obama’s fiscal policies. It also pointed at the frequent banners, in the lower third of Fox screen, giving information about the protests. The Huffington Post broadcast a video which caught a Fox News producer revving up the crowd at a Tea-Party protest in order to make it look more impressive on TV. Such evidence indicates that Fox News is flouting journalistic values to drift into partisan support. This is not rare, nor new.

A history of conservatism… and controversy
Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the notoriously right-wing media mogul. Roger Ailes, the president of the channel, is a former media strategist for Republican presidents Nixon, Reagan and George Bush senior. When Ailes took over the new network in the mid-90s, he promised to “restore objectivity” and do “fine, balanced journalism”! “Fair and balanced” is actually the slogan of the channel, as well as “We report, you decide”.

In 2004, the documentary Outfoxed by Robert Greenwald aimed at showing that Fox News was in fact a biased channel promoting right-wing views under the cover of objective journalism. The documentary was based upon Fox internal memos giving marching orders to the journalists. It also stated some of the channel’s wrongdoings: no separation between facts and commentaries, not enough plurality of opinion, grossly biased “political experts”, smear campaigns, conflict of interests, disinformation, distortions of fact, selective news coverage… The “Fair and balanced” journalism appeared to be a sham.

The danger with Fox News is precisely that it is pretending to be real journalism, and therefore has more power on people’s mind. Outfoxed‘s point was that Fox had tremendously helped electing George W. Bush in 2000, by prematurely announcing his victory, and in 2004, by bashing the Democratic candidate John Kerry and brainwashing viewers with a “Bush will win” tune. The documentary also reported a study which showed that Fox viewers had a distorted vision of reality. It has probably not changed today as the Huffington Post published last week its “Top Ten most egregious Fox News distortions”.

Behind very prominent conservative and traditionalist figures such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and now Glenn Beck, Fox News have dominated the cable television market. People identify it as an “ideological channel” (last October, a Pew Research Poll showed that 47% people see Fox as “mostly conservative”) but still watch it because of its attracting way of simplifying issues. The conservative channel plays on people fears and portrays the world in black and white to attack Obama and impose right-wing ideas. From George W. Bush to Barack Obama, they have turned from biased supporters into zealous watchdogs, not to say fierce opponents.

More than surfing on Obama’s slumping popularity, Fox News is leading the protesters and providing them a medium to get their message across. There are obviously some reasons for voters to be angry at Barack Obama at the moment. But Fox News is not the best opposition representative, because it cannot possibly help having a sound political debate.

Don’t joke with guns in America !

The gun story of basketball star Gilbert Arenas reveals the complexity and hypocrisy of America’s relation with firearms.

(article datant de janvier 2010)

Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas (Keith Allison/Flickr/CC)

Gilbert Arenas is one of the funniest NBA players. Always ready to joke and horse around, the eccentric point guard of the Washington Wizards has delighted fans and journalists for several years with his crunchy blog posts under the pseudonyms of “Hibachi” or “Agent Zero”. He is also a great basketball player who signed a $111 million contract with the Wizards two years ago. And despite many severe injuries, he was still the leader of his team this season. On top of that, Arenas is a very unselfish man, engaged in many philanthropic activities.

But none of that really matters now. For many Americans, Arenas is no longer funny. His implication in a gun story, and furthermore his lack of maturity handling the media storm which followed, has deeply undermined his popularity. On January 2, the New York Post reported that “NBA all-star Gilbert Arenas and his Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton drew guns on each other in the team’s locker room during a Christmas Eve dispute over a gambling debt”. In fact, what really happened did not look like a Far West duel. The basketball star has been betrayed by his strange sense of humor.

After losing at a card game, Arenas owned Crittenton a 25 000 dollar debt, but refused to pay. A row broke out between the two and Crittenton said he would shoot him in the knee. Therefore Arenas decided to “play a joke” on his teammate and laid down four unloaded firearms on Crittenton’s locker seat with a note reading “Pick one”. Crittenton did not appreciate the note and, according to several sources, drew his own weapon, without pointing it at Arenas though. Here are the facts, and if details are still to be checked, what really matters is that Arenas confessed storing four guns in his locker. He is now under the fire of critics.

The shooting season is open
Arenas said he had brought his firearms to the stadium because he wanted to keep them away from his young children at home. Yet it is strictly forbidden to bring weapons to the sports arenas. The guns were unloaded, and no ammunition was found in his locker, but it was still quite awkward to joke about it. Worse still, Arenas had no license for his weapons. To cap it all, after the story was disclosed, Arenas did not seem to realize the severity of his behavior. On his twitter account, he made fun of the situation: “I wake up this morning and seen I was the new JOHN WAYNE… media is too funny”. He sarcastically answered to the media on the subject: « You guys, I wanted to be a bank robber on the weekends ». During a pregame team huddle, Arenas mimicked gunshots with his index pointing at his beaming teammates (cf. photo).

That was too much for NBA commissioner David Stern, who decided to suspend the NBA star indefinitely. « The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us » said Stern. Both the NBA and DC police are currently investigating to unveil the last details of the story. Meanwhile, Arenas has pleaded guilty to felony weapons possession in a court hearing in DC. After his lawyer reached a plea deal, he is facing up to six months in prison. The NBA could take its own disciplinary action.

In a country where image is so important, and where a sports icon like Tiger Woods can burn his wings in a split second, Arenas’ career is clearly threatened. According to experts, the Washington Wizards may put an end to his huge contract. A large banner of Arenas outside the Wizards’ Verizon Center stadium in downtown Washington was taken down after the incident, and the team removed all Arenas-related merchandise from the building’s souvenir stands. Adidas announced it was putting an end to the 8 year and $40 million sponsorship deal signed in 2003 with the Wizards’ star.

The story triggered a firestorm in the NBA, most of the reactions around the league sounding like “you don’t joke with weapons” or “I’m profoundly shocked and disappointed”. Such statements are a bit surprising, not that Arenas’s behavior is excusable, but considering that a majority of NBA players have a gun (75% according to a player’s estimation), because they feel safer with it than with a bodyguard. “You can’t tell somebody how to protect their family” said player TJ Ford about the league’s efforts to prevent players from having a firearm and carrying it with them. “We cannot legally forbid them to have guns as the American Constitution gives them the right!” commented the NBA director of security Bernard Tolbert.

Acknowledging the real issue
Is Arenas’ bashing really a matter of gun license? Or is it all about the image and reputation of the NBA? We say sportsmen have to give the example. These last years, some scandals of players carrying or even drawing guns in public have actually caused some concerns. Yet, as Ford says, “there are a lot of regular people that have weapons and not only athletes”. Indeed, an estimated 45% of American households own at least one gun. The problem with firearms is certainly broader than a simple athlete bringing unloaded guns to a locker room.

There is undeniably a cultural acceptance of guns in the US. A Gallup poll last October revealed that only 28% of Americans are supporting a ban on handguns, the lowest level in 50 years (60% approved gun control in 1960). After the Virginia Tech shootout last year, some pro-guns advocates said that students should be allowed guns on campus to defend themselves! In June 2008, the US Supreme Court overturned a ban on handgun ownership in Washington by ruling that bearing arms was an individual right enshrined in the Constitution. The National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most powerful lobbies in the country, is gaining new members every year.

Gilbert Arenas is facing legal charges linked to his possession of guns without a license. But the main criticism was that he brought guns to the locker room and made fun of it… Isn’t that a little hypocritical? As if being serious and keeping your gun at home was solving the problem. Karl Malone, an NBA legend and lifetime member of the NRA – he had his first gun at eight – said quite relevantly that Arenas must not “take all the charges because he is a superstar”. Choosing a scapegoat is always a good way to deter attention from the essential.

The real issue is not about Gilbert Arenas taking guns to the workplace, but about gun control in America. In the US capital, the basketball team used to be called the “Washington Bullets”. In 1997, the owner Abe Pollin decided to change the name to “Wizards” because of the negative and violent connotation of “bullets”. This is typically the type of action which shows that Americans sometimes have a contradictory behavior towards firearms. But if no law is passed to fight against guns, being politically correct or bashing Gilbert Arenas will not change anything.

Internet Eyes : Be perfect, your fellow citizen is watching you!

Crime deterrent or “snoopers’ paradise”?  Online game or “serious business”? The opening this November of the website “Internet Eyes”, which awards points for people monitoring CCTV cameras and denouncing real crimes, has sparked much debate in the UK. The country is getting closer to a “Big Brother-ish” society. But even George Orwell had not thought of turning citizens into snitches!

(Article datant de décembre 2009)

“This could turn out to be the best crime prevention weapon there’s ever been.” Tony Morgan was quite proud to unveil his new concept last October: a website called “Internet Eyes” which enables people to take part in the fight against crime. The principle of the website is simple and looks like a normal online game. People subscribe for free on the website and can watch live up to four CCTV cameras installed in shops, businesses and town-centers in the UK. If viewers witness a crime in progress, they can alert the owner of the camera via SMS and MMS. The “players” collect points and the best informer wins 1000£ at the end of each month.

On Internet Eyes’ homepage, the catchy phrases read: “Aid crime reduction and be rewarded for your actions. How does a reward of £1000 a month sound?” But not only is the website aiming at people who want to feel useful, try to win easy money, and who are not afraid of spending boring hours in front of their computers. Internet Eyes is also targeting those who run a business and would like the CCTV system they paid for to be more efficient. “There are over four million CCTV cameras in the UK and only one in a thousand gets watched” says Tony Morgan to justify his undertaking. James Woodward, computer specialist and co-founder of the website, makes the same case: “CCTV isn’t watched, it isn’t monitored, and not enough cameras are watched at any one time. What we’re doing is we’re putting more eyes onto those cameras so that they are monitored. »

Making CCTV more efficient
Internet Eyes’ creators have a point. Indeed, several reports are showing that the police don’t use CCTV properly. Last August, an internal report commissioned by London’s Metropolitan Police estimated that in 2008 just one crime was solved per thousand CCTV cameras in the capital. The problem is that it is humanly and financially impossible to put a police officer behind every CCTV camera that exists in Great Britain. The CCTV system is victim of its own success ! Moreover, it would take unimaginable time to rewind recorded films and look for the suspect for each case. The only solution seems to be live surveillance, so that it can be preventive. For now, hoodlums tend to know that the camera which is supposed to deter them from acting is actually unwatched.

Therefore Internet Eyes hopes to reduce crime and gain the confidence of private business owners, so that they accept to pay the weekly 20£ subscription in order to get their cameras monitored by the public. Morgan and his partners are banking on a deterrent effect: when the system has proven his efficiency, they plan to display “Internet eyes patrols here” signs on the shops’ front doors. On its webpage, Internet Eyes proudly spreads out the equation “Increased crime detection = Greater deterrent = Reduction in stock loss”.

Now, even before wondering if it is morally acceptable, one should ask himself a more basic question: can it work? The website is counting on the viewers’ activity, as Morgan puts it: “Crimes are bound to get missed but the cameras will be watched by lots of people 24 hours a day.” Are they really many people who are prepared to spend their time watching unfrequented shops or streets, knowing that only one person each month will win the prize? TV addicts and digital natives may have idle hobbies, but still. Tony Morgan affirms that “it gives people something better to do than watching Big Brother when everyone is asleep.” From Big Brother reality show to Big Brother society, there is only one small step. And that could be the center of the problem. Is England, along with other countries, turning into a nation of watchers?

Something rotten in the kingdom of snoopers
The first thing that seems weird in this project is the awkward mixture between a so-called “game” and a crime detection service. The system based upon virtual points and money rewards could be an open door to a race for denouncement. To say nothing of its immoral aspect: the website wants to attract people by promising them money to denounce their fellow citizens! Tony Morgan says it is just a way to motivate people: “I wanted to combine the serious business of stopping crime with the incentive of winning money.” One could notice that, after all, it is not far from the “WANTED” signs with a “generous reward” offer stuck up on the walls in the Far West days.

But at that time sheriffs were chasing criminals. In Internet Eyes’ world, the notion of crime is far broader than that and not necessarily as epic as one could think. On the website, it is specified that “shop lifting”, “burglary”, “vandalism”, and “anti social behaviors” are to be denounced. In concrete terms, that means you can earn points in the game by spotting people spitting or throwing papers on the floor, leaving their dogs’ mess on the pavement, putting rubbish in the wrong bins, or committing the most minor misdemeanors while driving their cars! Imagine all the small offences you can do… Surveillance society is entering a new dimension, on a “Big Brother” scale.

The Daily Mail also reports that Internet Eyes’ website has planned “to feature a rogue’s gallery of the so-called “criminals” along with a list of their offences and which internet user caught them”. Such initiatives make the civil rights campaigners hop mad, and call the website a “snoopers’ paradise”. Charles Farrier, of No CCTV, condemned a “distasteful and worrying development” and said “this is a private company using private cameras and asking private citizens to spy on each other. It represents a privatisation of the surveillance state”.

Internet Eyes’ owners say that if there is anything to blame in the story, it is the CCTV system in itself, but not them, who are just trying to make it work. “Everybody is on camera already, it is just that no one is watching the cameras” points out Tony Morgan. In this game, people from other countries can sign up and monitor the cameras. In the long haul, Morgan even envisions a worldwide system. Some people see it as a step forward in crime prevention. But one should wonder about the morality of it and think over the phrase: reign in the “snoopers’ paradise”, serve in hell.