The revelation of massive monitoring of phone calls in the past couple weeks is only the latest step in the erosion of privacy as we have traditionally understood it. The founders of this country understood the importance of privacy as the defense against the ‘tyranny of the majority’. I believe we are crossing a threshold where ‘privacy’ in the traditional sense is impossible, and consequently, we must disempower the tyranny of majority opinion. We must accept that everything about us can be known, and demand that it can’t be used against us.
It is only when we (believe we have to) keep secrets that we give away our power. If we all stop keeping secrets, then those who control us with threats of disclosure will be rendered powerless. If many people are ‘doing it’, then news that some particular person is ‘doing it’ is not news.
Hear: this is the essential reason that gay rights have advanced over the past 4 decades – up to and including the Supreme Court decision this past week. Gays in increasing numbers stopped accepting that they were fundamentally bad and had to ‘keep their secret’. They ‘came out of the closet’ – demanding they they be accepted as equals just as they are. I don’t like the erosion of privacy either, but I think it is a lost battle to fight against it.
What we need to do now is demand that nothing known about us can be used against us short of a clear threat of violence – a “clear and present danger”. If I read Communist literature, so what? If I read Islamist literature, so what? If I make contacts on kinky sex websites or visit prostitutes, so what? Yes, there are still a lot of self-righteous people out there who want to make these and many other things ‘wrong’. They still have some, if diminishing, power. The more we defy their moral dictates, the quicker will we empower ourselves and render them powerless.