Note: This is the Season Finale of VICE. Season Three and Four have been confirmed.
Overview: Camden, NJ, one of the poorest, most drug-ridden cities in the country, has a murder rate 12 times the national average. In 2011, the city cut its police force almost in half, with nearly 80,000 residents regularly policed by 12 cops at a time. The state stepped in to overhaul the department, introducing an experimental “Metro” security apparatus equipped with futuristic technologies like gunshot detecting, triangulation microphones and automatic license-plate readers. As similar surveillance systems are implemented across the country, VICE goes to Camden to see how these tactics are working, how residents feel about their loss of privacy and what the future of policing might be.
A decade ago, the crisis in Darfur was a cause celebre. American politicians, activists and celebrities took to the media to condemn Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his brutal genocide, sending out a call for justice and rallying aid for his victims. Today, world attention has waned, despite the fact that President Bashir remains in power. People continue to die, and millions of refugees remain in overburdened camps filled with malnourished children. Without sufficient aid from the international community, Sudanese rebel groups are stepping in to fight for justice on their own terms. VICE goes to refugee camps in Chad and Sudan to meet the victims the world has forgotten, as well as the rebels poised for civil war.
Expectations: This concluding episode seems to be about people taking the power into their own hands. One is a domestic issue and the other a foreign affair. Whether you believe the actions taking place are right or wrong is a subject for debate. Some sort of action needed to be taken in both situations and VICE exposes them.
First is the story close to home in Camden, New Jersey. In order to try to justify the heavy scrutiny this city in under we need to see the proof that it is just a wicked bad place to hang out. Are we going to just get statistics or are we going to see the crimes and the criminals on the streets? We clearly are going to get both sides of the story, those who are watched and those doing the watching. It should prove an interesting look into what all cities in America may expect in the future.
The last segment revisits an ongoing war that does not have the attention it once did – the gruesome conflict in Sudan. Our correspondent does not seem, according to the Overview, to get close to the camp of the Sudanese President so we are not closer to cracking that nut, but we will get to acknowledge the scope of the refugees’ displacement and just how rebels are taking the matter into their own hands. It is all a question of whether the oppressed have a chance, whether there is hope. It is time to watch the VICE season finale to find out.
Gut Reactions: We are off to Camden, New Jersey the Surveillance City with correspondent Vikram Ghandi. The police of that city are taking power into their own hands in an elaborate and expensive effort to make that city safe. Cameras, microphones and a wall of monitors have got Camden covered. Vikram spends time at the station’s hub, the patrol car and on the streets to get all sides of the story. Just like those cameras he gets every angle.
We get the interview representing the side of society that welcomes the surveillance; they feel safer. We also get the side that feels their privacy is violated. The police force is just doing its job and is doing it thoroughly. The question may pop in your mind though, as you watch this, that the policing is a bit extreme. It as if you are guilty until proven innocent – stand on a noted drug corner to long and you are stopped. If there are no suspicions held then move along or get ticketed for loitering. Wow.
Having said that though the segment does raise the thought of how much work should the police do to protect their locale? I am of the opinion that society is at fault for the crimes and ills and there are consequences for it. It has always been the case that “one bad apple spoils it for everybody.” It is not fair, but it is a truth. Do we want to see cities across this country to become Police States? No, but the level of corruption and crime in a locale needs matched with an equal force to be effective. If Camden is the precedent for this kind of action you must see it as unfortunate but necessary. It is not too late to oppose my thoughts; that is what the comment section below is for.
The Forgotten War concludes the season with correspondent Ben Anderson. This is another one of those incidents where the media has decided to stop reporting an issue thus putting it out of people’s minds. Just because it is no longer “news” doesn’t mean the issue has resolved. The horrible reign of President al-Bashir continues even after George Clooney stops drawing attention to him.
We get a good look at the issue but not a complete one from Mr. Anderson. He was not granted, or may not have even sought out, an audience with anyone in the Sudanese government to get their side of the story. But we do have the story of the displaced and a look at the rousing efforts of rebels poised to take back their country. A valiant rebellious party does not always seem like the party to root for but in this case it does.
It is one thing to toil in the trenches, sort of speak, for your cause because that is all you know, but the victims of this conflict were thrown into a media frenzy and were promised or just expected great assistance and humanitarian aid to better their cause and maybe even stop the regime. There was so much talk and buildup and then – it stopped and the problem still persists. Those with a fire in their belly then learned that the best way is not to count on others but to take power into their own hands and bring change themselves and the rebel fervor was born and Ben Anderson got us to the heart of it.
Surprisingly, whether it was through film editing or not, you were not left feeling this was a doomed cause but a chance for change. I don’t know if it was VICE’s attempt to try to end the season on a hopeful note or not but sadly, that message and imagery couldn’t quite convince this viewer that there is hope for the “little guy can win in the end.” But then, you should never dash hope.
In Conclusion: This final installment was a good place to end the season. It didn’t go out with the big media hype of the basketball diplomacy flap of Season One. It went out reminding us that there are problems in the First World countries, like the U. S. and that across the globe there are those still oppressed and victimized even when we’re not looking. And it made clear that something, anything has to be done about it. Good luck with that.
This episode of VICE can still be seen on 06.17 at 10:15pm and 06.19 at 12:10am on HBO and is always available on HBOGo. Let’s go to the Debrief.
This is a solid Q & A with Vikram Ghandi here. All those issues must be raised. The cost of such a system ($62 million in Camden); who polices the police; what do civil liberties groups have to say about it and what is to come. It is a multi-faceted issue that is not going to go away – it has only begun.
The statistics state 500,000 refugees in a year. Where is George Clooney now? Al-Bashir still reigns. Where is President Obama now? We cannot handle every dispute and problem in the world but this one, thankfully brought our attention Ben Anderson’s findings, is just atrocious. I’m rooting for the rebels!
Last Thoughts: Another season complete and I loved the journey I was on. I have walked away from it a bit disappointed however. It seemed I was on that journey pretty much on my own. I would have loved more comments and discussion after each posting. It doesn’t deter me though; I will be back for Season Three and Four whenever they surface on HBO’s schedule. Until then I have VICE Magazine and VICE News to consume. Thank you VICE on HBO for a great season and for adding all the insightful correspondents into the mix. Peace.