The Societal Issues of Using Drones

Categories: Drones

“Advances are making it possible to solve the grand challenges of humanity. But they are also creating new nightmares” (Wadhwa). A big issue in today’s world involves the use of drones and whether or not they are an invasion of privacy. Throughout this essay I will discuss this issue in relation to a South Park episode. South Park is known for bringing awareness to major social issues through satire in a creative and comical way. When analyzing my favorite South Park episodes, The Magic Bush really stood out to me.

This episode touches on the issue of private drone use leading to an invasion of privacy and a domino effect of other issues. Drones were originally invented for the military in the 20th century and have progressively become more advanced and versatile. The advancements of drone technology have led to the availability of drones for civilian use. These drones can be as cheap as a few hundred dollars. The government is currently involved in a highly sensitive debate regarding the legality of private drone use.

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This analysis will be looking into the issue of drone privacy with the Toulmin model and recognizing the fallacies that come into play.

The claim of The Magic Bush episode is that drones have diminished confidentiality and security. In the beginning of the episode Butters explains how his fathers drone can fly “a quarter mile away from whoever is controlling it – and it can take video right to your phone” (South Park, season 18, episode 5), Cartman was intrigued and wanted to take it out to spy on the neighborhood.

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Later that night, Butters and Cartman decided to take the drone out without permission of Butters’ father. Cartman was amazed that they could see everyone’s backyard but zeroes in on their friend Craig’s house. While spying on his house through the window, they recorded his mother naked. It was all fun and games until her husband found the drone spying on her. The husband accused Butters father because it was his drone that was used to record his wife. He denied it saying, “I am a drone hobby enthusiast. I would never use my drone in a way that contradicts the drone hobbyist code of conduct” (South Parkseason 18, episode 5). This raised concern that even if someone is honoring drone’s ‘code of conduct others may take advantage of this technology. Cartman could not resist but show his friend the footage the following day without thinking of any repercussion. When his friend questioned how he got the video, he quickly stated that he found it online. Therefore, he posted the video on the Internet moments later for the world to see. This leads to intervention of the community and policy department.

There is a lot or evidence that ties into the claim of drones threatening one’s privacy and safekeeping. For starters, drone’s can be flown at a far enough distance for the one controlling it to not be seen. This is an issue because if the drone is seen, the person being spied on has no idea who is behind the lens. A similar example of the one from South Park is of a family in Kentucky. The father of two teenage daughters that were sunbathing caught a drone spying on them from their own backyard. He instinctively shot the drone down and expressed that the person watching them could have been a pedophile or ISIS. Secondly, the video can be published online and go viral for all eyes to see. In the episode, the video of Craig’s mom naked has three million views. Not only is this exploiting her but it was taken in the privacy of her own home. Lastly, when South Park tried to regulate the issue with a neighborhood watch one of the neighbors on watch abused it as well and was caught spying on the neighbors having intercourse.

The warrant for the claim would be that there should be legal documents when purchasing a drone with a serial number, much like purchasing a firearm so one might be more cautious about the repercussions of abusing this technology. When relating this to the episode, even though Butters’ father was not responsible for the footage, since Butters is a minor the father should still somewhat be responsible for his child’s actions with his property. Repercussions should be more aggressive if the footage is posted online. The serial number would be able to identify the owner of the drone caught spying and abusing it. If one’s drone goes missing, they should report it immediately. These legal documents should make it clear where drone use it allowed and where it is not allowed.

There is backing for the claim that drones have diminished confidentiality and security. When the neighborhood and police get involved because the video got posted, Cartman’s friend Kyle said “see, when you start invading people’s privacy thinking it’s harmless to put up pictures of them they didn’t want up – you start a domino effect that eventually screws everything up for everybody” (South Park episode). He is expressing that people who enjoyed using drone’s for fun not spying are also effected by the rules and regulations that came about from someone abusing the power of the drone. The neighborhood fears for their privacy and safe haven because of one incident that spiraled out of control. Another backing would be when Craig’s parents go to the police department demanding, “these things need to be illegal” (South Park episode). Craig’s father said that “our privacy was invaded, and now these kids at school are making music videos with the footage of my wife. Have you seen what they are doing?” (South Park episode). The reaction of Craig’s parents show how shaken up they really are about the incident and that they want more to be done.

When qualifying this claim, I believe that drones do need to be monitored in a way that we are still responsible for our own actions. We live in America, where we value our freedom but still know the importance of following laws. In 2015, Drone laws were established to offer a better sense of security and to keep track of all the registered drones. This episode was created in 2014 before the laws were established and drone security was a major issue. I believe this argument added extra awareness to drones being regulated because South Park is an extremely popular show.

The rebuttal I have for this claim would be that although Craig’s mom was violated and exposed, she could have taken the extra measure, like closing the blinds, when undressing. We live in a world now were you can be exposed at any moment and you should always take the extra step for prevention and being aware. Before drones, there have been peeping toms. The blinds’ being open is making yourself extremely vulnerable to a situation of someone spying on you, with a drone or without. I do think that she still is a victim and that the claim is accurate that drones can make someone’s most private space less secure but drones are just one outlet for that and we live in a very open and public world now. Monitoring these outlets while still enjoying our freedom is the best way to diminish these scenarios.

Fallacies of hasty generalization, single cause, and slippery slope radically weakens the argument and logical accuracy of the claim expressed in this South Park episode. South Park ‘s direction of addressing social issues is very sarcastic which downplays the severity of the issue at hand. They gave a hasty generalization of their argument by drawing a conclusion about what should happen to drones based off of a few examples. Because of Craig’s mom being filmed naked and someone on neighborhood watch caught spying they want to banish drones all together. That is unrealistic to draw such a drastic conclusion off of a few people misusing drones. This ties into the argument also being a single-cause fallacy. It is a single cause fallacy because they are advocating a complex problem to only one cause. The neighborhood watch began because of the one cause at hand of Craig’s mom being filmed in her own home. The book explains single cause fallacies as advocates “hoping to simplify their arguments, attribute complex social problems to a single cause. This is misleading because it does not account for other possibly important variables worth considering” (Tudor, pg. 346). The focus of Craig’s mom baring all in the video is a joke rather than the bigger issue that her privacy was infringed on. Other issues that should be addressed are that bad people, such as ISIS can take advantage of drones as well. In regards to drone strikes in the war in Pakistan, “a survey conducted in North Waziristan, where the vast majority of drone strikes have been reported, found that only ten percent of the population favors them” (Bergen). This survey shows that many people in todays society are wary of the use of drones for many ethical reasons. Lastly, this argument definitely shows signs of a being a slippery-slope fallacy. The slippery slope fallacy “assumes, without evidence that a given event is the first in a series of steps that will lead inevitably to some outcome. This sort of erroneous reasoning assumes a ‘domino effect’- that once one event occurs, a whole series of subsequent events or developments will occur in an uncontrollable sequence” (Tudor, pg. 346). Like addressed earlier, Cartman’s friend Kyle was explaining the domino effect of this situation that effects everything and everybody. Craig’s mom being filmed led to the video being published that led to millions of people watching which led to a neighborhood watch and police getting involved and wanting drones illegal and banished. It is a slippery slope because this one incident being addressed does not ideally have proof that drones are completely bad and that everyone is misusing them, in fact, many drones are currently being used for good things, such as, “reporting on a natural disaster, checking on the health of crops, making sure trains run on time, and delivering packages to your door” (Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology). It also does not show that this one incident proves a larger pattern to the issue at hand.

Works Cited

  1. Bergen, Peter, and Tiedemann Katherine. “Washington’s Phantom War: The Effects of the U.S. Drone Program in Pakistan.” Foreign Affairs 90.4 (2011): 12-18. Web.
  2. Brooke, Alex. “A History of Flying Robots.” Nesta. N.p., 16 July 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
  3. Edward S., and Kristen H. Tudor. Critical Thinking and Communication: The Use of Reason in Argument. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2014. Print.
  4. “HOW THE FAA BOSS IS KEEPING THE SKIES SAFE.” Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology 30.2 (2015): 9-10. Web.
  5. Kiminski, Margot E. “Enough With the “Sunbathing Teenager” Gambit.” Slate. N.p., 3 Jan. 2016. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
  6. South Park Season 18 Episode 5. By Trey Parker. Dir. Matt Stone. 2014. Transcript. The Magic Bush. 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
  7. WADHWA, VIVEK. “LEADING EDGE: BENEFIT OR BANE?” ASEE Prism 25.6 (2016): 23. Web.

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The Societal Issues of Using Drones. (2021, Sep 24). Retrieved from

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