The End Of Privacy And The Rise Of Surveillance Power

A brilliant little essay is on the Economist site that really helps take the debate about what just happened to Dave Weigel - and about Internet privacy altogether - to the next level. The gap between our public and private selves is simply part of human nature; but when that discrepancy can be proven, and when "journalists" seek to exploit that discrepancy by publishing examples of a journalist thinking in private, then it's more about power than transparency or morality. Money quote:

Without reaching to the Soviet bloc for examples, one case of such an artificial and untenable code is the American demand that all politicians be monogamous and drug-free. The press both creates this untenable expectation and exploits violations in order to entrench its power over the political system.

The demand that political journalists either not hold, or never express, their own political opinions is another such artificial and untenable code. Politically interested actors who attempt to enforce this code by revealing the private convictions of reporters do not have the moral goal of ensuring that political reporters have no political opinions; such a goal would be absurd. Rather, they aim to aggrandise their power over journalistic organisations by exacerbating the hypocrisy of those organisations' official codes of conduct, and then exploiting evidence of that hypocrisy when useful. The aptly named FishbowlDC has just played this game successfully enough to gain influence over the hiring decisions of the Washington Post. The main lesson here is to be wary of the claim that surveillance is intended to further moral goals at all. Sometimes it is, and then Mr Westacott's concerns come into play. But often enough, the furtherance of morality is a pretext; the surveillance is all about power.

To wit:

I've been leaked postings from JournoList before -- wonderfully charming things written about me, as you might have guessed -- and I haven't had the opportunity to use them, but would be happy to if the need arose.