May 07, 2012

Torches, Pitchforks, and Google Privacy

Quickly! How is President Obama's birth certificate like discussing Google privacy issues? Got it yet? Still thinking? Sorry, time's up!

The answer is -- regardless of how logically and rationally you approach either of these topic areas -- there are people who insist on forcing fetid fairy dust into the discussion, invoking a range of "what if" and conspiracy scenarios suitable for late night cable TV viewing.

I should know better by now. Really I should.

Someone (probably not Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain -- despite what you may have heard -- but possibly mystery writer Rita Mae Brown) once said that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

By that rather clinically problematic definition, maybe I should have joined the tea table with the Mad Hatter long ago. Clean cups! Clean cups!

I keep attempting to discuss privacy topics with a rather cold logic that might earn praise from the Vulcan Science Academy, but some of the reactions I get seem to be straight out of Clown College.

No, wait. That isn't being fair to clowns. Not at all.

I'll put it another way.

My posting from last Saturday -- How "Privacy Correctness" Is Leading Us Dangerously Astray -- generated a range of responses.

Many of these were thoughtful indeed, on all sides of the relevant arguments. This seems completely appropriate. It isn't chopped liver we're talking about, these are complicated issues involving "bleeding-edge" aspects of society, philosophy, and technology. There are no easy answers. This is hard stuff, and reasonable people can be expected to disagree in significant ways regarding these subjects.

Yet what can throw you for a loop is when you receive rants that cause one to question whether or not we're all currently even living on the same planet.

It seems that whenever privacy issues are invoked, especially any that involve Google, there are folks out in the Internet ether who immediately start dousing torches with kerosene and sharpening their pitchfork prongs for maximal effect. And we know what usually follows in the next scene.

A great deal of this -- what I will tactfully label as overenthusiasm -- is likely the direct result of misinformation about the underlying reality of how these complex technologies and systems work, blended with a strong dose of emotion.

I'm also forced to somewhat cynically suspect that various other aspects of the dramatically illogical reactions -- in some cases, anyway -- are calculated specifically to damage any parties who dare express views not in compliance with the privacy "party line," and perhaps also to keep some groups' funding tills teeming.

Still, much of the village mob contingent is seemingly being driven by human nature, and (very likely, I'd assert) by the overall radicalization and coarsening of discourse in our ever more toxic political environment.

So the arrays of associated obscene diatribes inflating my inbox shouldn't be a surprise, even as they are disappointing.

Again, these topics are difficult, and important. They are very much in need of exposition and spirited dialogue.

But frankly, the time I spend on these issues does not improve my health nor good looks, and definitely doesn't help to pay the bills.

I will not engage with anyone who is unable or unwilling to show a minimum of common courtesy.

Agree or disagree with my stands on the issues as you will. I would hope for no less. But if you can't be civil, if you can't be rational, if you're going to insist on spiking your communiques with the sort of nonsensical, fallacious filth that has become all too common in the political realm, I will treat your messages in the same manner in which I dispose of spam, frauds, phishes, and unsolicited holiday fruitcakes.

On the other hand, I most certainly welcome the opportunity to work with anyone who is seriously interested in these matters -- so cogent contacts and reasoned discussion are always appreciated.

And you don't even need to show your birth certificate.

Isn't that a relief?


Posted by Lauren at May 7, 2012 09:34 PM | Permalink
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