Sunday, 8 March 2009

Privacy vs The "Right To Know"

Anna Raccoon posted an interesting and provocative comment over at her excellent blog about Ashley Cole's recent dalliance with a peroxided honey. Now, I can't stand 'celebrity' but I think everyone has the right to privacy; having said as much I got back the following gratuitously patronising and offensive comment from another blogger:

Mara MacSeoinin: ……………… ‘no-one has the ‘right to know’ what he may or may not do in his spare time. Whether someone earns a lot of money or a little isn’t really the point: I think we’d be much healthier as a nation if we returned to a ‘mind your own business’ ‘you mind yours and I’ll mind mine’ mindset.’

In a perfect and World with perfect people who do everything in a perfect way ………………. I think that it would be super to be able to choose only to be interested in the people we have preiously chosen to associate with …………. and forget all about becoming involved with the lives of others with whom we have nothing in common …………..

However ……………….. there are politicians and professors and nuclear scientists and pop stars and film stars and blue collar workers who surf the net for abusive images of children and the mutilation of animals and recipes for bomb-making and all kinds of other things that make the World very unsafe.

Unfortunately, humans are not designed to live in a World of isolationism and elitism.

I do not know which particular Planetary nation that Mara MacSeoinin is referring to in saying that ‘we’d be much healthier as a nation if we returned to a ‘mind your own business’ ‘you mind yours and I’ll mind mine’ mindset.’ And I would like a reference to that Planet or a reference to any Earth civilisation who lived in this curious way. I am most intrigued!

Here on Planet Earth there has never been a time in recorded history where such a ‘mindset’ has ever existed.

Humans are naturaly gregarious ………….. with the obvious exceptions ……………… and the very fact that they live on a Planet which is shared by all …………….. means that we have to know what other humans have in their hearts, their minds and all other areas of their lives.

I'm up for a little debate. What do you think? Is this an expansion of the 'if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear' ethos? Are we naturally nosey or inclined to be reticent? Do we have a 'right to know' things about others? And does a sordid private life make a public figure a candidate for evisceration if s/he are exemplary at what they do?


  1. "but I think everyone has the right to privacy;"
    I agree totally. However people who gain great wealth from PUBLIC office cannot expect the same luxury. Nor those who pursue deviant and harmful pursuits. I think the term is "Law and Order".

  2. Only if their deviancy and harm injures others and/or uses Public money to achieve their ends, wouldn't you agree? If it is shown to cause pain and suffering to innocents? But if it does not, why share said information? Gladstone used to flagellate himself over his yearning for the company of prostitutes; King George V, it has been 'revealed', enjoyed a mixture of heroin and cocaine. A person may be a great leader and a truly horrible individual; but surely it is the quality of their leadership that it is important, rather than the quality of their personality? It seems to be a regrettable facet of post-modernism that personality, habits and achievements all seem to be inextricably linked, giving rise to all kinds of wild suppositions.
    I suppose it all comes down to the fact that people want something or someone to believe in. It is a shame that a tabloid mentality delights in building up and then destroying people's reputations.

  3. "A person may be a great leader and a truly horrible individual;"

    I suspect that's rare, Mara. Flawed, maybe but horrible? Hitler is sometimes put in your category, though history proved he was not the former.
    I do agree with much of your argument, however it is a debate, as you rightly say, that is a long one not beloved of 24/7 media. More's the pity. "Moral Dilemma" is a good old fashioned radio 4 programme with sadly a small audience.

  4. 'The right to know'. Such a horrid phrase. It could only have come from the States where they think that if you blow your nose then the public has a right to inspect your handkerchief.

    Having said that, if the matter at hand impinges on the public good then yes, there is a right to know but otherwise I'm all for privacy. What Joe Soap does is of no interest to me whatsoever as long as it doesn't harm me or mine.

  5. What about someone like the uber-dull Ashley Cole who's purported to be having an affair? It doesn't impinge on his football playing, unless his wife decides to castrate him. How do we determine what is in the public good?

    The government would have it that it is acting in the public good by increasing surveillance ten-fold. The 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' argument.
    The journalist would have it that they are acting in the public good by exposing the fallibility of 'public' figures. (Who made them 'public'?) What they mean is that they'll be out of a job if they don't snoop.)
    The public would have it - see the italicized quote above - that humans are naturally nosey so snooping is part of our genetic makeup; societal animals are compelled to interfere in their neighbours' business. I believe the reverse; most people would like to get on. The Jerry Springer mentality is what's made curtain twitching a valid pasttime. (When I tried to contradict this viewpoint I was told that I'm 'naive' and have 'tunnel vision'. Charming.)
    I agree, Oldrightie: maybe 'horrible' wasn't the right word. Charmless, then. Even boorish. With certain what we might consider unpalatable tastes. But whether a leader is charismatic is not the point, surely? (In fact, it is better if they're not. Blair was charismatic; Brown is not. Now that we have a leader entirely devoid of charm we can see just how horrendous NuLab's policies are because they're not being delivered with flair and zest.) We're living in a world in which style is evermore valued over content to our great detriment.

  6. Blair was charismatic;

    Not to me he wasn't! Good point on the disguising of the real agenda, though.

  7. Hi Mara! Coco here ..... or not ...... if you want to delete me!

    Thank you so much for joining us on Anna Raccoon and thank you for your posts.

    I will have to let you into a secret now ....... Coco is a character! She isn't a real person with her own views. She is a creation borne out of all the strange and fabulous posters she has encountered over the past 18 months. Just don't tell anybody!

    On occasion she wanders around feeling out where public aympathies and attitudes are leading ....... and has been known to become indignant about things she is truly not even interested in for absolutely no reason at all ....... except perhaps to create debate and see the passion in other posters.

    Had you posted even one more sentence ...... she would probably have been agreeing with you entirely!

    Coco wakes up some days and fears for the nation She has been known to protest noisily about privacy and bringing an end to snooping and data-bases.

    Sadly, you caught her on a day when she wanted the extra 'security' that Gordie Bruney is imposing upon us,

    Today she has changed her mind ........ But changed it back again at least twice.

    I truly thought you had seen right through her ...... I have told her off and she won't be doing that again to somebody who doesn't know her.

    Thanks for putting the above piece up anyway!

    I am off to find the solution to a perfect World again now. See you soon I hope!


Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison