Past Opinion Articles

Article for the week of 3/9/07

A Note from The Editor In chief:
Privacy and Politics: The Next Oil and Water

By, Paul Mann

Temptation can ensnare many a curious mind, especially when a situation dictates that one would be better off not knowing something. Tis better sometimes when we are blissful in our ignorance than to know everything. Then again, we want the forbidden fruit, the gossip and to stare when we should continue about our own business. Yet, privacy is precious and to protect one another we need to show the utmost respect. This is all well and good for the common man. The average Joe or Joanna deserves to keep his or her affairs to themselves without someone else interfering. (Within the full extent of the law) Of course, once youíve entered the role of a public figure, your rights to secrecy fade away bit by bit.
Once upon a time, even the most celebrated in our culture could hide certain parts of their lives from public inspection. Some times things get forced and other times money buys good PR. Royalty ruled with an Iron fist and kept a tight watch on those who might speak out against them. For some reason even though we live in a free society some still cling to the old ways. Thankfully, for the most part, times have changed and as fast as you can say ďstain on a blue dress,Ē it isnít shocking to spread news about a famous personís risqué behavior anymore. However, we do tend to settle into our comfort zones and leave things be until our relaxation is disturbed.
Politicians are certainly no exception to this modern rule. While it was no biggie when JFK cheated on his wife, we certainly cared when Bill Clinton took his pants off for a non marital romp. It is common now to expose wrongdoings, almost worthy of a gold medal in certain situations. We feel safer even if the knowledge does nothing to really benefit the nation as a whole. Weíve conditioned ourselves to knowing even if it does more harm than good. Those that believe it is wrong to look inside a politicianís life are now seen as behind the times. People simply want to know about those who would represent them in an elected office.
We certainly donít want a murderer, drug dealer or psychopath to lead us to destruction so we tend to depend on the media to do a little research for us. We are then left to sift through the information to form a judgment. Sure, there are those that say they canít stand it when a news report reveals a skeleton in a closet, but they tune in despite a fair chance to ignore it. Someone will find out and they will want to tell every person that will lend an open ear. We want more than what we see on the surface of a politician because it is not always the cleanest appearance that will lead to the most rewards. The public simply has been let down too many times for them to let go of skepticism. After all, Hitler never smoked and only had an occasional beer to drink.
In more recent times we are more aware of corruption and strive to clean out the filth whenever we can. Itís not simply being nosey to find out if you are about to elect another crooked figure. (Too bad there are those that miss the obvious flaws) Itís our right to know if the person running or already elected is really basing their campaign on truth. In the most recent elections the people changed the balance of power because they were tired of the do-nothing antics of Washington D.C. We may only have shifted the scum to a different party leadership, but we did it because we knew what was going on. The time of trusting the government to do its job is over. Obviously we canít let them live normal lives because they arenít letting us enjoy ours. Privacy is no longer a privilege with power.
It may not seem fair to politicians or just those in the public view, but you just canít be partially seen anymore. Heck, as soon as television came around we actually saw the face that went with the voice. Nixon might have defeated Kennedy if election debates had still solely been on the radio. As cliché as it sounds, if you canít handle the heat, get out of the kitchen works in this situation. If you decide to do something stupid, donít be surprised if someone wants you to actually pay the consequences. If politicians really have nothing to hide then they should not get upset if a voter wants to be absolutely sure of character. Then again, hopefully our mission isnít simply to destroy when we might have someone who can do a good job.
We need to be careful though when we decide to pry into lives of public figures. Our goal should be in the best interest of the nation and not simply to fill 10-15 minutes of broadcast or a full page in a newspaper. In our search for entertainment we often forget that politicians are human beings just like you or me. Getting carried away makes us no better than the people we might be exposing. Besides, no general marches off to war without surveying the battlefield. If the safety of all life on earth does not depend on it, it might be ok for people not to know. After all, if we are not wary of our actions we may give up our right to privacy in the quest to pry into the lives of those in a leadership position.
In the end, we need a proper balance to make sure that politicians know that their privacy is important, but that it cannot be used as an excuse to get away with devious intentions. Patriotism is a lousy excuse to ignore a problem and it is equally wrong to resort to a fundamentalist crusade. Itís really not a matter of hiding anything anymore as it is what we need to know to make informed decisions. It all depends on all parties and if they are willing to reach a compromise. If our information gathering is not put through the usual hurtles then we will be willing let politicians have a bit more secrecy. Perhaps we can still all have our privacy, but it will never be what it once was. When you look at the big picture the mixing results of politics and privacy might as well be the new water and oil.


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