While some concerns about city council actions are based on genuine concerns about privacy, I feel confident saying that “the city council is trying to murder us all with their radioactive surveillance death rays” is not among them. Like anti-vaxxers or people who believe that evolution stopped 10,000 years ago therefore we should eat nothing but meat, the anti-smart meter crowd is just ridiculous enough to be amusing, and not quite loud enough to be dangerous.
If you haven’t been following this rather one-sided “debate,” there is a vocal but ultimately ineffectual group of people who oppose the “smart” meters Seattle City Light plans to install this year, which will allow the city to track and charge for electricity use remotely. Several of them turned out to make their voices heard (again) at this morning’s City Council energy committee meeting, chaired by a patient but unamused council member Kshama Sawant.
Supporters say the new meters will give the city real-time information that can help customers and the city cut costs, and provide timely information during power outages. Opponents say the meters are a gateway into our homes that will make us sick and give the city unfettered access into our homes.
Citing such sources as “Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make the News” (then how did you know about it, Project Censored? HOW DID YOU KNOW?) and the U.S. constitution, opponents argued this morning that smart meters will enable the city to illegally spy on Seattle residents; use data from the meters to target citizens suspected of crimes; track when you sleep, eat, and leave the house; or figure out when you’re taking a bath. They also suspect the new meters will catch on fire and cause health problems like headaches and depression, and provide opportunities for hackers to wreak havoc on smart meter customers.
People who don’t want smart meters can opt out of the program and keep their old electrical meters, but that isn’t enough for opponents, who say the ill effects of smart meters are so insidious, they’ll impact everyone who lives in the city.
“Opt out is a copout!” one speaker, after reading the Fourth Amendment aloud, yelled. “Even with the opt-out, there are going to be people who aren’t aware of the EMF (electromagnetic field) and other dangers posed by these meters.”
Another speaker likened the city to the Mafia, saying officials were running a “protection racket” to extort money (in the form of opt-out fees) from people who just want to keep their homes “electropeaceful.” She then suggested that the city should pay for electromagnetic shields—basically, walls made of space blankets—to protect people from their neighbors’ meters, whose emissions could leak through walls.
“More folks are starting to recognize, at last, the harm from smart meters to household security and health,” she said.
Another speaker, who proudly claimed to have “four—no, three” public-access TV shows, said smart meters would usher in an “Orwellian” surveillance society.
And still another (the Project Censored citer) flashed angry air quotes every time she said the word “smart” (the visual equivalent of yelling “NOT!”) and spoke ominously of “dangerous electromagnetic rays” and “hidden agendas, including [smart meters’] potential for social control through energy rationing and monitoring” of civilians.
As entertaining as it is, in a Parks & Rec kind of way, to listen to these alarmists yell at the council, in reality-land, smart meters are going to happen, and critics are going to have to find another miasmatic “toxin” to freak out about.
Or, if they actually want to effect change, they could aim their efforts lower, focusing their anger on something that poses an actual, proven threat to their health and well-being. May I suggest greenhouse gas emissions?