Amazon and MGM market Nation Ring, their upcoming reality show hosted by comedian and former NSA agent Wanda Sykes, as “a new twist on the popular music video show genre.” But more than 40 different civil rights organizations are now denouncing the program as a dangerous piece of pro-surveillance corporate propaganda and calling on studios to cancel the show before it sees the light of day.
Today, Fight for the Future, MediaJustice, the Race and Economy Action Center and dozens of other civil rights groups affiliated with the Cancel Ring Nation campaign released an open letter to leaders from MGM warning them of the “dangerous precedent that MGM is setting”. normalizing and promoting Amazon’s harmful network of surveillance cameras. The letter, addressed to MGM TV President Mark Burnett and MGM President of Unscripted Television, Barry Poznick, details the dangers Ring cameras and the culture associated with them pose to vulnerable communities and affirms that Nation Ring is just the latest item in Amazon’s Ring-branded “surveillance network” sold as entertainment.
“Ring has a long history of using race-coded dog whistles and arms racing to promote their products,” the letter states. “And the accompanying Neighbors app gamifies the profiling and criminalization of black and brown individuals. Footage from Ring cameras was used to track and monitor protesters who took to the streets, exercising their First Amendment rights, following the murder of George Floyd. These are not isolated incidents. Racial profiling and racist policing are core parts of Ring’s fear-mongering business model.
However Nation Ringisn’t airing yet, it’s not hard to figure out what kind of series it’s modeled after based on the few details Amazon and MGM have shared about it so far. But unlike other candid clip shows where you might see “neighbors saving neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions and silly animals” filmed in moments of pure coincidence, Nation RingThe images are all of ubiquitous security devices that Amazon sells on the promise of protecting people from harm. What Amazon does not try to make clear to consumers when it sells Ring cameras to them is that it will, upon request, provide law enforcement agencies with access to users’ images without warrant or consent and that Ring has partnered with over 2,000 police and firefighters. departments. It’s been true since before Nation Ring was announced, but Cancel Ring Nation’s letter highlights how, in a post-deer world in particular, people should understand how Ring cameras can be weaponized against them and how that weaponization can be exacerbated by programs like Nation Ring.
“Ring doesn’t just give law enforcement agencies access to surveillance data: it provides them with backdoor access to a mass surveillance network that operates independently of the Fourth Amendment and any surveillance,” the letter states. “In the wake of Roe’s reversal, footage from a Ring camera could be used to pursue an aborted patient going out of state for health care – either filming the clinic, capturing him leaving an Airbnb , or by proving that he was not at home for a few days.
Whereas Nation ring shoots footage that Ring users themselves choose to share, what’s troubling is how the show – just by existing – presents Ring cameras as a source of entertainment through their normalized use . The letter notes that while there will be individuals who consent to be part of Nation Ringthere is no way to protect unsuspecting groups “from harm resulting from Ring’s surveillance communities as a whole, particularly marginalized communities targeted by police.”
“Not only MGM’s Nation Ring further normalizing harmful neighborhood surveillance will deepen the pockets of a business that profits from the criminalization of communities of color and monitors the comings and goings and actions of millions,” the letter reads. “Nation Ring is an advertisement for a dark vision of the future, in which private megacorporations monitor our every move, sell us out to law enforcement, and profit from racism and hate. Does MGM approve of this future? »
Nation Ring is slated to premiere on September 26.