If you don't think you need an all-seeing doorbell, that's bad news for Amazon, which is selling one called Ring. So now the company is trying to recruit a crime reporter to make sure that stories of scary crimes (or non-crimes, like "stranger alerts") get to you as fast and as often as possible. The goal is obvious: Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Not only will you be grateful for your doorbell cum security detail (or hurry up and buy one), you also might no longer want to go outside, because now it seems so terrifying. Instead, you'd want everything delivered straight to your bunker...er...home.
Hmmm. Is there a company that delivers everything to your doorstop, negating the idea of community?
"Home security like never before" is how Amazon describes its product in this video, which keeps featuring stocking-capped young men casing a house (different races -- collect all 24!), and a happy blonde lady in her driveway, radiant in the knowledge she is not about to be clobbered. The video also shows two school age kids as they come through the door when mom is out, joyful as puppies, and monitored as closely as maximum security prisoners.
Josh Benton in The Atlantic has written an extremely engrossing piece on doorbell dystopia, including a deep dive into why the majority of people believe crime is going up when it has been going down for decades. As he points out, what Amazon is doing by hiring a crime editor is not gathering information, in the traditional news sense. It is not trying to frame the world in any kind of robust, meaningful way. In fact, "A company that sells security-optimized doorbells has only one incentive: emphasizing that the world is a scary place, and you need to buy our products to protect you."
Ring already has an app called Neighbors that, judging by its marketing, encourages people living in bucolic suburbs with wrought iron gates to feel as if they’re in the last un-zombified neighborhood in The Walking Dead (I assume this app is where this new managing editor’s work product will be found):
The Neighbors App is the new neighborhood watch that brings your community together to help create safer neighborhoods. With real-time crime and safety alerts from your neighbors, law enforcement and the Ring team, the Neighbors App proactively keeps you in the know. Criminals target neighborhoods, not individual homes. But with real-time crime and safety alerts from your neighbors, you’ll stay one step ahead of crime.
Basically, it’s an app that makes you want to see your neighborhood the same way that this screenshot [scroll down in article] does: Suspicious Stranger Crime Crime Stranger Crime Suspicious Suspicious Crime Crime Crime Crime Suspicious Stranger Crime.
So think about this managing-editor job. Ring wants to be “covering local crime” everywhere, down to the house and neighborhood level. So one managing editor, plus however many other people are on this team, is supposed to be creating a thoughtful, nonexploitative editorial product that is sending journalistically sound “breaking news crime alerts,” in real time, all across the country. Are they really delivering news or just regular pulses of fear in push-notification form? If that’s the job, it is literally impossible to do responsibly.
Let Grow believes in kids and communities. These go together: The more you know your neighbors, the more likely you will be to send your kids out -- and vice versa.
When Benton used the app, Ring alerted him to the fact a lawn care guy had knocked on someone's door (terrifying!), a fire had happened two towns away (so relevant!) and two people in matching t-shirts with clipboards had been wandering the neighborhood (clearly nefarious).
Regarding those clipboard-carriers, one user asked if anyone knew them -- "perhaps concerned about Islamic State infiltration of the Boston suburbs," writes Benton. “Call the police,” a commenter replied.
Note to Amazon if you're listening (and we're pretty sure they are): Streaming fear of strangers and a "Call the cops!" mentality into the collective bloodstream is not a new kind of neighborliness. It's a new level of lockdown, as calming as, "Hit the floor!"