A few months ago, I witnessed a senior woman in a wheelchair being frisked by TSA agents. She looked to be at least 80-years-old. She moaned in pain as the agents made her get out of the chair so they could keep us all safe on our upcoming flights. I voiced my disapproval and was told to keep my mouth shut or I’d be detained long enough to miss my flight. I didn’t stop and while I was confronted by a supervisory agent (whose last job was probably asking “Would you like fries with that?”), I still made my plane. I hope the same was true for the harassed senior. Whatever happened, my country died a little that day.
Donald Sterling’s racist views have been well known for years, decades probably. When recordings of a questionably obtained racist rant went public, he was severely disciplined. While I agree that someone with his views has no business being in the public eye, why did it take the possible violation of his privacy to inspire action? His public rants continue to destroy any reputation he has left. I just heard another “secret” recording where he continued to establish himself firmly on the most hated list. No matter how those recordings were obtained, the fact that they were released and are continuously played on TV and radio, the mere fact that they were helped my country to die a little.
Entertainer Jay Z was attacked in an elevator by his sister-in-law. Celebrity gossip site TMZ allegedly paid $250,000 for the tape and it has been viewed around the globe by millions. Had the Founding Fathers known how the First Amendment was going to be abused by the media and government, they might have reworded it a bit. Every time you watch the Jay-Z video, my country dies a little more.
How are some celebrities seemingly immune to bad publicity? I never read or heard anything bad about anyone in the cast of the long running USA TV series “Psych.” Since there are cameras and microphones everywhere these days, I can only assume that those people are some pretty upright citizens. Sadly, they seem to be in the minority. There are a few famous people in the world of entertainment and sports who are never in the tabloid headlines. Again, they must lead pretty nice lives.
Whether or not someone is a nice person isn’t the issue. Privacy, more specifically the lack thereof, is. There are cameras and microphones everywhere as well as government officials who can search you with impunity, regardless of how much of a threat you appear to pose. Suspects can be detained indefinitely without legal counsel since the government enacted and continues to uphold “The Patriot Act.” TV and radio stations can broadcast your private conversations and events under the protection of The First Amendment. Every time any of that happens, my country gets closer to death.
Cash is the great equalizer. The hotel where the Jay Z incident took place states that they will find the employee who released the “private” video and take appropriate action. I’m no salary expert, but I figure it would have taken a decade or more for the employee who sold the recording to make as much as TMZ paid them for it. Gossip sites and tabloids established the precedent of paying for stories and most “legitimate” news sources have adopted the same policy. Whenever any media outlet pays for a story, my country’s lifespan is cut shorter and shorter.
Back in the 1990’s I had a temporary hearing loss that affected my balance and was prescribed a hearing aid to wear until my hearing returned. The device was a high tech wonder. It fit in the ear and was almost undetectable by the naked eye. According to the doctor, it was the perfect solution for the frequencies I could not hear. One side benefit was that when I pointed me head at a someone having a conversation 50 to 100 feet away, I could hear every word.
A few weeks after it was prescribed, the audiologist called me and said that my device was being recalled because it allowed me to hear private conversations. When I asked whether the company that made it or the government had mandated the recall, she would not answer. I kept the hearing aid and wore it until my hearing normalized. Admittedly, I could write a couple of books with the private information I overheard. When I wore it, I was bionic. After a few weeks it got boring, but I got a first hand understanding about why we love to listen in on private conversations. And, although the damage my eavesdropping did was minor compared to what goes on today, my country died just a little bit every time I did my Bionic Man act.
Although it is alluded to in a few amendments within the Bill of Rights, privacy is not guaranteed by the Constitution. First Amendment protection, originally intended to protect the press from government interference, has been repeatedly interpreted mean that any information about anyone can be reported, especially if they are a public person. The slander and libel laws provide some protection, but when tabloids are repeatedly made to pay millions in damages and remain in business, obviously there is huge money in gossip whether it’s true or not.
The genie is out of the bottle. Privacy no longer exists. I hope my country survives!