In an effort to trace people involved in WikiLeaks, the federal government has ordered Twitter to turn over records of many people. By “records,” they mean all available communications.
Several questions come to mind. No, they have been in mind for a long time. But now they refuse to stay properly inside my head.
The first: If government demands access to correspondence of private persons, and is granted that access, what is the rationale for denying private persons access to government correspondence? If they can do it, why can’t you?
The Official Answer, of course, is that governments are entitled to confidentiality, the good of the republic, our national interest, Constitutional mandates, the power of the courts, respect for authority, blahblahblah.
In a world stripped of power politics and legalistic bullshit, the rational and reasonable answer is, if I show you mine, you have to show me yours.
But we do not inhabit such a dream world, and government — an impersonal corporate entity functioning primarily to maintain itself and the moneyed class, and only secondarily to promote the general welfare — does not want peons making jokes about the corporation’s bare ass.
The second question, not directly connected yet but inevitable down the line: How much of what you’ve already committed to blogs and commentary sites and e-mail and Tweets and phone calls, how much of that is going to embarrass, hurt, or damage you when it’s featured on talk shows, on front pages, and in Congressional hearings?
A possible answer, which leads to the third question, is that so many people have blurted out so much that no one need ever again feel discomfort, because everyone’s folly is out there on the street. If none remain who are innocent, where’s the problem with guilt?
So here comes the third question: What of the remaining few who have not been compromised by their own quest for publicity? Will we develop a corps of outcasts, those who have neglected, or refused, to publicize their sins and folly?
You think I’m joking. Keep it in mind the next time some yahoo with a cell phone insists on broadcasting his private affairs while you are trying to read in a — theoretically/ostensibly/putatively — quiet public library.