It’s the heyday of the hidden camera.
Though it is by no means a new phenomenon (Richard Nixon gave us the audio, and Marion Barry was busted in black and white), this week’s hidden camera/hidden microphone stings of National Public Radio executives seem to be symptomatic of the new norm in efforts to sway public sentiment. Just weeks ago, damning undercover footage from inside Planned Parenthood clinics fueled a congressional effort to defund the organization. In recent years, ACORN has suffered similar embarrassment. Gotcha journalism has never been more lucrative.
Whether or not the tactics used to capture such career-ending statements are morally valid themselves, I’ll not argue here — that debate has been well articulated elsewhere on both sides. It is worth noting, however, that the “shock” generated by these exposées comes from the haphazard manner in which those who were stung displayed their off-the-record views. After all, we’re not that surprised Planned Parenthood would offer to keep things on the down-low, or that an NPR exec would have disdain for evangelical Christians. In all cases, the “stars” of the videos had their dark sides brought to light in a fashion that made their sensibilities look ridiculous to the culture at large.
The incredulity given to their behind-closed-door statements comes, of course, from the drastically different faces they and their organizations portray to the public. When discussing oaths, Jesus told his disciples, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NIV) A person’s word should be their word, regardless of external validation or not by an external source.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, it won’t be long before all sides of any debate will be hit with the hidden camera. It’s only a matter of time. It’s too easy, and the potential for publicity in the internet age is enormous. What would be found out if you were filmed or recorded without your knowledge? Do you shudder to think?
Should sting operations like these force us to live always on edge that somewhere — everywhere — there is a hidden camera at the ready to catch us off guard. Do we dare even use the restroom or change clothing without fear of our actions being translated into megapixels? Certainly there are things we would not want on camera for the right reasons.
Proverbs 5:21 warns that, “…a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.” (ESV) Ultimately it matters not if there’s a hidden camera watching you — the eyes of the Lord penetrate far further than a grainy twenty-frames-per-second camera could ever go. It is in the healthy fear of those eyes that we should accordingly adjust our conduct. Cameras or not, before him we are never hidden.