Some people appear to truly believe that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. It doesn’t bother them if their communications are being monitored, or if the government can access the details of every phone call, email, or electronically communicated conversation any of us have ever had. After all, anyone doing something illegal in those communications should be caught – and so long as you’re not doing anything illegal, what’s there to worry about?
Some people have things they’ve said taken out of context, and protest that their words have been twisted in order to unfairly paint them as some sort of scoundrel. They’ve been misrepresented. Something they said as a joke got repeated around as if they’d really meant it. Someone just quoted the first bit of what they were saying, where they were just setting up the devastatingly satirical point that came later, and made them look like an idiot.
The point being:
I suspect that there is a significant crossover between the two aforementioned groups of people.
And that many of those in this intersection don’t realise how much the context issue undermines their position on privacy.
If you’ve ever been in a casual conversation where someone’s unfairly made you out to be some kind of villain, by unfairly twisting something you said or did and refusing to give you the benefit of the doubt, imagine how much worse it could get when there’s a centralised national authority with a monopoly on physical coercion which can do exactly that.
Maybe you’re not even in that second group, though. Maybe you reckon you’re just over on the left of the Venn diagram.
Maybe you aren’t bothered what the NSA knows about you, because you’ve never said anything in private which could ever possibly be misrepresented to embarrass or incriminate you.
Maybe you’ve never said anything unrepresentative of your true views in a moment of passion or exasperation. Maybe you’ve never made an off-colour joke which might seem racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive when stripped of the nuance, subtlety, and irony you obviously intended. Maybe you’ve never said anything on record which can’t be perfectly understood in isolation or could ever be seen to reflect poorly on you.
Maybe you’ve lead a really dull life, is what I’m saying.
In which case, that’s absolutely fine. I don’t mean to judge. It’s not my place to tell you there’s anything inappropriate about living with a level of caution and reservedness that suits you. So long as it’s working for you, knock yourself out. Be totally blameless. Never give anyone a chance to turn anything against you, no matter how tyrannical their efforts to use your own words to indict you. Go for it. I hope it makes you happy.
But that’s not for me. And a world where that’s the only option isn’t one I want to live in.
I want everyone to be able to make tasteless private jokes, offensive comments behind each other’s backs, and clandestine rendez-vouseses to commit acts of which someone somewhere might disapprove, without worrying about the black glove of Dominion suddenly clapping them on the shoulder.
I want creativity and personal autonomy to roam as free as humanly possible, so that every idea, however contemptible or misguided, has a chance to be talked about.
I want Chris Rock to be able to try some new material out, misfire, make some bad calls that don’t land, cause some offense, figure out what he did wrong, hone the routine until it becomes something that connects with people, and not risk being lambasted into oblivion because of an uncharitable and context-free interpretation of the ideas he had to stumble through on the way to somewhere great.
I want us not to have to constantly restrict ourselves to a narrow set of opinions known to be acceptable and uncontroversial, until we forget how to think differently altogether.
I want to have “nothing to fear”, even if I have done something wrong, because fear shouldn’t be the thing that keeps us from doing wrong, dammit.
I want privacy to be a thing.
I want some cheesecake.
Crap, I knew I’d get derailed from my original point eventually. What was I saying?