"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
The Privacy Conundrum
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
Michael Rozeff made a very lengthy blog post bemoaning the loss of privacy, here.
I sometimes wonder when people go to such lengths to get their point across. Could it be that the arm-waving indicates the position is not really all that well thought out, or that it is internally inconsistent? Aren’t simple truths, well, simple?
I should say that I certainly respect Rozeff and all he has done for liberty, but I think he has gotten a bit off the track here.
The first thing I wonder, is whether it’s that privacy is supposed to protect us, or that we are supposed to protect privacy? Or both? (Rozeff does not seem to want to make up his mind on this point.) And, if we are supposed to protect privacy, then how? By writing our Congresscritter? No doubt the government will vigorously prosecute those members of government who become a bit too vigilant! Just kidding . . . .
His only prescription appears to be, “We need the strongest possible ideas in defense of privacy.” Yeah, that’ll help.
Rozeff asserts, “Privacy is a necessity.” Why? The human race got on just fine for tens of thousands of years with essentially none. In small towns, there ain’t a lot, but think how little privacy there was in small hunting and gathering societies.
He claims, “Everyone has many things they want to keep private.” Well, perhaps, although what I’ve seen on Facebook and the idiot box makes me think that some people are quite prepared to bare all. But let’s agree there may be a few things. The remedy is to not put them out for all to see. The remedy may also be, for those things you want private because you are ashamed of them, to either stop doing those things, or get rid of your shame. Come out of the closet.
I remember back in the ‘50s when (apparently) the CIA et al took great care to prevent the hiring of homosexuals into their agencies, since such people were easy targets for blackmail and being “turned” by opposing spy agencies. Do they even bother with that any more? Did privacy really help gays back then, or was it merely a crutch, allowing them to stay in the closet longer than they should have?
Surveillance sounds scary until you realize that a human being has to sort through all the camera and microphone output, 99.999% of which is completely uninteresting. Maybe the point of surveillance is not so much to find out stuff about us, as to make us fear? And that it is successfully working to this end with Rozeff and others?
He writes, “Everyone has something to fear from government officials. Anyone can become the subject of an unwarranted case made against them for some legal matter, simply because there are so many stupid laws on the books that most of us know nothing about. Millions upon millions of people break laws that are unjust or needlessly penalize them, if only to survive, smooth out life's rough spots, lower a tax burden, buy a cigarette in a low-tax state, import something beyond the limit, have sex, drive above the speed limit, roll through a stop sign, or enjoy a drug.”
Here we get to the crux of the matter. Rozeff is still wanting to live and survive within a framework of society controlled and run by government thuggery, in a time when the thuggery is becoming more and more blatant and intolerable. Well, it can’t be done--or at any rate, we will soon find it impossible. There are no more formal, legal limits to what they do (if ever there were). We are approaching a political singularity.
This reminds me of the moaning by some gun owners that the government wants gun registration and will try any backdoor way to get it, in order to later confiscate all the guns. In fact, that too is a privacy issue--the government knowing who has the guns. But the government knowing is not really the problem, is it? The real problem is the willingness of some people to hand the guns over when the knock on the door happens. The real problem is the willingness of some people to be arrested and crammed into the state “justice system” sausage-maker.
I think Robert Heinlein had a clearer understanding. He wrote, "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do." He also wrote about what might come about as a result of breaking those laws: "The price of freedom is the willingness to do sudden battle, anywhere, anytime, and with utter recklessness."
Let’s not forget Mencken: “All I ask is freedom. When it is denied, as it always is, I take it anyhow.”
Privacy is a fairly modern invention, I think. It’s nice to have, but begging government for it or being distressed when they trample it is a complete waste of time. It is responding in fear, which is what the rulers want.
Buy some ammo, go out in the boonies somewhere with your battle rifle, and put in time getting some “recoil therapy.” That’s the best remedy for privacy angst.