RFID Company Gets Boost While School, Community Get Shaft

News from California: « An experiment with RFID badges for attendance purposes fails for a community school »:

‘It started with a girl who went home from junior high saying she felt like an orange. Lauren Tatro, 13, told her parents the plain facts. Every student at Brittan Elementary School had to wear a badge the size of an index card with their name, grade, photo — and a tiny radio identification tag. The purpose was to test a new high-tech attendance system. To the eighth-grader, it seemed students had been turned into grocery items on the shelf, slabs of sirloin at the meat counter, fruit in the produce section. So began a difficult stretch for this town of 2,885. Outraged parents claimed the school was trampling their children’s privacy and civil liberties, maybe even threatening their health. School board meetings overflowed. Folks talked of George Orwell, Big Brother and the Bible. The American Civil Liberties Union joined the fray. Parents picketed. TV news crews from as far away as Germany descended on the 600-student school.’

LA Times

After much ado and hoo-haw and won’t somebody please think of the children, the company that started the whole thing cancelled the whole experiment, took their toys and went home.

But don’t cry too hard for them; as always, controversy is the best publicity you can get. You can’t buy the publicity that occurs when adults start yelling at each other over kids (or other things for that matter).

Savvy people know this. Madonna, for instance, wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for controversy; that Sex book was a complete joke, more stupid than sexy and her singing has never been particularly noteworthy. She owes her career and her millions to her ability to market herself through controversy. The more she was denounced from pulpits and had parental warning stickers stuck on her albums, the more money she made, ensuring that she made more albums and more controversy. That’s been her cycle for over twenty years, and it’s worked like a charm.

Just like it’s worked charmingly for InCom:

‘Ever since InCom’s name began appearing on TV and in newspaper stories around the country, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Many are callers from school districts wanting to adopt the technology. Ahlers said he won’t be surprised if some states eventually require the technology in schools. “This has been a very, very good experience,” he said. “They spelled our name right and spread it across the country.”’

Bingo. The bottom line. They lost the battle in Sutter, but may have just won the entire war for the rest of the country. Growth and profits will ensue and, just like the man said, some state legislators (southern and Republican, I predict) will embrace the whole thing and start requiring school children to be branded like cattle. The rest of society won’t be far behind; teachers will be tagged like students; Wal-Mart, the leviathan who may have done more than any other entity to bring RFID to maturity and popularity, will start tagging employees, and so on. And it will all be done in the name of efficiency, technology and, above all, safety.

Which always makes me remember the much-used-lately Benjamin Franklin quote:

‘They who would give up liberty to gain a little security deserve neither.’

We’ve pissed away our liberty because we’re such wimps. And put on the throne the Chief of All Wimps, a scared, swaggering bully of an Emperor.

Ain’t the Twenty-First Century gonna be grand?

Of course, it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. If he hadn’t built that damn Bridge to the Twenty-First Century in the first place, we might not be in this mess.