Amazon and MGM are marketing Ring Nationtheir upcoming reality TV show hosted by comedian and former NSA agent Wanda Sykes, as “a new twist on the popular clip show genre.” But more than 40 different civil rights groups are now speaking out against the program for being a dangerous piece of pro-surveillance corporate propaganda and calling on the studios to cancel the show before it ever sees the light of day.
Today, Fight for the Future, MediaJustice, Action Center on Race and the Economy, and dozens of other civil rights groups affiliated with the Cancel Ring Nation Campaign published an open letter addressed to the MGM leadership, warning them of “the dangerous precedent MGM is setting in normalizing and promoting Amazon’s malicious network of surveillance cameras.” The letter, addressed to MGM TV chairman Mark Burnett and MGM president of unscripted TV Barry Poznick, goes into detail about the dangers Ring cameras and their associated culture pose to vulnerable communities and states that Ring Nation is just the last piece of Amazon’s Ring-branded “surveillance network” being sold as entertainment.
“Ring Has a Long” history from using racially coded dog whistles and weaponizing race to promote their products,” the letter reads. “And the companion Neighbors app gamifies the profiling and criminalization of black and brown individuals. Images from Ring cameras were used to track and monitoring protesters who took to the streets and exercised their First Amendment rights, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. These are not isolated incidents. Racial profiling and racist policing are core components of Ring’s business model, which capitalizes on fear.”
although Ring Nationhas not aired yet, it is not difficult to understand what kind of series it is modeled on based on the few details Amazon and MGM shared about it so far. But unlike other candid clip shows where one can see “neighbors rescuing neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions, and silly animals” on camera in moments of sheer coincidence, Ring NationThe footage is all from ever-present security equipment that Amazon sells with the promise of protecting people from danger. What Amazon isn’t trying to make clear to consumers while selling them Ring cameras is that, when asked, it will allow law enforcement access to the images of users with neither an order nor permission and that Ring works with more than 2,000 police and fire departments. This has been the case since before Ring Nation was announced, but the letter from Cancel Ring Nation highlights how, in a postalroe especially in the world, people need to understand how to weaponize Ring cameras against them and how that weaponization can be exacerbated by programs like Ring Nation.
“Ring doesn’t just give police services access to surveillance data: it gives them backdoor access to a massive surveillance network that operates independently of the Fourth Amendment and any surveillance,” the letter says. “In the wake of Roe’s turnaround, footage from a Ring camera could be used to prosecute an abortion patient who leaves the state for health care — by filming the clinic, recording them leaving an Airbnb, or by proving that they weren’t. a few days at home.”
While Ring Nation What’s disturbing is the way 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 agree to be part of Ring Nationthere’s no way to protect unsuspecting groups “from the harm that results from Ring’s surveillance communities in general, especially marginalized communities targeted by the police.”
“Not only will MGMs Ring Nation further normalizing harmful neighborhood surveillance will deepen the pockets of a company that profits from the criminalization of communities of color and monitors the whereabouts and actions of millions,” the letter states. “Ring Nation is an advertisement for a bleak vision of the future, in which private mega-corporations watch our every move, sell us out to law enforcement and profit from racism and hatred. Does MGM endorse this future?”
Ring Nation will premiere on September 26.