Wed 26

My Take on Citizen

Jennifer Government A few people have asked for my opinion on the excellent new app/dial-a-vigilante service “Citizen.” I’m qualified to speak on this, because Citizen is a lot like The Police from my novel Jennifer Government, only more app-y.

If I have this right, you subscribe for $19.99 per month and in return you get the ability to dispense violent justice to your enemies. They don’t actually say that. They say you get a digital bodyguard to monitor you plus an instant emergency security response, which may include a cool custom-branded attack car, to your location. If I’m paying $19.99 per month, though, I expect them to take my side in any kind of he-said, she-said situation. I’m the customer. So if they want my continued business, I don’t want to hear any, “Actually, that man lives in the neighborhood and has a right to be there” nonsense. I want them to get in there and start intimidating.

My main concern is that these subscription models can be hard to exit. You know how it is: It’s easy to sign up, but when you try to cancel, there are all these extra steps. Sometimes you have to talk to someone on the phone and explain yourself. I worry that process is extra awkward when you’re dealing with a company that feeds on your fears and knows everything about where you go and what you do. When I unsubscribe, I don’t want to have to wonder whether Citizen is out there, in the dark, feeling aggrieved.

I also worry about backing the wrong horse. Sure, today, it’s just Citizen, but what about when there are two or three of them? Now I have to worry that Vigilantes R Us is going to see my Citizen bumper sticker and slash my tires. Because obviously it makes sense, from a marketing/PR point of view, to get the idea out there that your competitors aren’t quite as capable of delivering a full-service violent defense. If people start thinking that Citizen can’t even protect its customers’ tires, that’s a selling point for Vigilantes R Us. I’m not saying that Vigilantes R Us would go around deliberately attacking Citizen clients or anything, of course, or that we’d wind up in a full-scale armed corporate conflict. I’m just saying, that would be a free market solution.

On balance, I’m excited. The main problem with traditional law enforcement, of course, has been that you can’t pay more money to purchase a superior service. Well, you can. Let’s be real. But this new model allows us to dispense with the charade and go right ahead delivering tiered justice, where a little money gets a little justice, no money gets no justice, and a lot of money gets special premium justice.

Of course, Citizen and the like would naturally target the most profitable forms of justice, so what’s left to departmental police forces will be the costly parts of justice that don’t bring in money. Then there will be sinkholes in public budgets and restless taxpayers wondering why public law enforcement is so expensive when they could pay $19.99 to sign up to a professional organized justice syndicate. But that’s progress, baby.


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towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 1096 days ago

As far as "tiered justice" goes, this just brings to the masses what has always been available to the rich, who have always had the option of hiring private guards.

Does the $19.99 get me access to body-cam footage? Or is that extra? Maybe I can offset the cost by letting go of a streaming service.

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 1096 days ago

@towr you change your streaming service for a screaming service?

Machine Man subscriber Charles Thiesen (#3)

Location: Dorchester, MA
Quote: "Never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after tomorrw."
Posted: 1096 days ago

This is so amazing! For the cost of maybe two streaming services you can have the criminal justice drama you've been binging brought right to your doorstep. You've watched all the episodes of your favorite police procedural? Just call Citizen about your next door neighbor and watch the fun. Good for five or six episodes, I'd say. More if your neighbor is aggressive. I can't wait.

Will St George (#8217)

Location: U.S.
Quote: "It's like deja vu all over again. - Yogi Berra"
Posted: 1095 days ago

I am with you Max - I am all for this type of thing. That is I would be if I thought the competitive forces would keep that monthly subscription price a low-low 19.99 ad infinitum. Once hooked, there is that inevitable price creep. Then follows the government taxes and surcharges to support the local police and politicians. Pretty soon afterwards, "choosing" your law enforcement provider becomes mandatory with the type of choices available that correlate with the economic status of the neighborhood. So what starts out a such a fabulous idea ends up as just another monthly expense.

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