In early 2009 a few people went absolutely insane over the potentiality of cameras in the new DTV converter boxes. As one may or may not know the government provided a coupon for people to get new boxes at a discount (or in some cases free I believe). These boxes were specifically for individuals who received their television over broadcast.
Basically the idea is that freeing up the radio spectrum is generally a good idea and therefore it should be done. It's worth mentioning that the United States was behind the west in general for this transition. Of course this means that people with older televisions won't be able to see the new digital-only signals. In order to remedy this problem people were provided with digital converter boxes.
Here's the video that started the hysteria:
Once he opens the box it becomes painfully obvious something is seriously wrong. First of all the camera is mounted on a transformer, which is used to step power down from one part of the board to another. These generate a lot of radio interference, if one were stupid enough to mount a camera on a transformer, they wouldn't be able to see anything anyway. The same goes for the supposèd microphone. Essentially anywhere else in the box would have been a better place than right there.
You can find pictures all over the Internet where people have taken their boxes apart and failed to find anything. Here is an example:
After the video was featured on Prison Planet and Alex Jones' radio show (I'll get to that in a minute) the creator of the video, Adam Chronister, came clean to Wired Magazine that it was all a haox:
"I was listening to the Alex Jones show ... and I heard him mention the video," Chronister says. "I just about fell out of the shower."
Chronister says the video is partially true: A friend really did share the rumor about hidden camera in the DTV converters. "I originally opened up the device with the intention of proving him wrong," says Chronister. "At which point the thought popped in my head, wouldn't it be funny if I proved him right instead?"
An article was quickly published on Alex Jones' Prison Planet web site about the camera. Of course today there's a sort of revisionist philosophy when it comes to talking about happened. While the article is not up anymore, nor does any cache or Way Back Machine entry exist, one can learn a bit about the article from reading the forums and such that posted about it.
I did read the article at the time, and typically when I see something crazy these days I make a backup copy so I have the information forever; however I didn't do this then.
Of course after it came out that it was a hoax, Alex Jones and others began saying they had debunked it, which wasn't exactly the truth.
The article on Prison Planet discussed why the government would have microphones and cameras inside digital converter boxes. The consensus in the article was that it was going to be used to spy on what programs people were watching and do other evil-marketing things. There are real systems for gauging what people are watching, such as the Nielson Ratings, but watching people while they watch TV isn't the best way to do it.
Most people have cable television, and thus did not need a digital convert box. This means the government would be relying on spying only on those who either couldn't afford cable or lived too far out of town to get it (as well as the small percentage that just don't want to pay for it). Seems like a terrible idea, it probably would have been a better idea just to put cameras in all cable boxes instead of digital converter boxes.
Despite the engineering problems, the practical problems, and the logical problems, there still are people who believe the video is real and Adam Chronister is simply a government shill, like they think I am.
Then there are other people who defend their hysteria about it, saying that the government does more evil things so this isn't really out of their league. The government may do evil things from time to time, but that doesn't mean their waste their time on stupid and wasteful ideas (actually, I'm lying, they do, ever heard of Remote Viewing?)
Essentially they believe that this whole thing was a big conspiracy in of itself to discredit conspiracy theorists, believing that it was a big scheme to make the people who are "just asking questions" look bad. This is exactly the same thing that happened when these people jumped on the Kenyan Birth Certificate.
The concept "we're always right, and if we're wrong, then it's a part of the conspiracy" is stupid, and others know this. Alex Jones did the same thing with that Birth Certificate as well.