Privacy inverted

December 30, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More

I think we’ve almost reached the end of an extraordinary ten years or so.   Immense amounts of information that should have been public has been kept private.   Consider, for instance, eight years where the Bush administration classifying almost anything controversial to be “secret.”   More recently, we’ve seen the supposedly transparent health care debate become shaped by opaque dealings because, for instance, Big Pharma and the White House.  We continue to see the Federal Reserve successfully prevent tax-payers from learning the inner-workings of an extremely power organization, the actions of which affect us all.  But there’s more to this decade than secret things that should be public.  It’s public things that should be secret, and I think this second phenomenon is well-illustrated by the following video:

What should, for all intents, be a private moment, the marriage proposal by a pleasant-seeming fellow to his weather channel forecaster girlfriend, has been turned into a public spectacle.  I’m sure that no one meant any harm, but as I watched this, it was as clear as can be that I didn’t belong there.  This should have been a private moment between the two lovebirds, but the decision to broadcast what appeared to be a surprise proposal (from her standpoint) just couldn’t be resisted.  The draw of the limelight was just too alluring.   And proposing in public warped the situation in several major ways.  She seemed to be willing, but was she really?  Did she really want to make her lifetime commitment, and the tremble of her voice, a spectacle for numerous people who had actually tuned in only for the weather?   And consider what this sort of thing does to the viewers.  Watching this exchange turned me into a voyeur. Did you feel that way too?  Here’s more information on this TV proposal.

Nor is this private-things-made-public situation unusual.  Anyone turning on TV these days (TV is foisted upon us in waiting rooms, airports, stores, and even the courthouse where I served as a juror two weeks ago) sees numerous what-should-be private moments, including families airing out their dirty laundry on TV.  We also see it on numerous blogs–I’ve read one where the woman advised the world that her husband is a drunken bum and that she’s going to leave him–she wrote this to total strangers before telling him. You can also get a regular dose of what-should-be-private information just by browsing Facebook or, better yet, MySpace.  And the mainstream media simply just can’t get enough of what should be private family matters regarding politicians, actors, musicians and, of course, athletes.

So there you have it.  We are simultaneously seeing a continuing explosion of public private things and private public things.  This just can’t be healthy.


Tags: , , , ,

Category: American Culture, Communication, Community

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. lisarokusek says:

    One of the things I notice from all this crazy internet/Facebook/Twitter/Web 2.0 stuff is a distinct erosion about what is public vs private.

    There is an insidious pull to "lifecast" that many people give in to – and it really drives bad behavior. I know it is mostly just manners I am talking about, but I agree that the inside out version of our discourse isn't healthy.

    I think some people perform as much as they live – driven by internet and reality TV. But really though part of life are indeed performance, ultimately we are alone – and always needing/expecting an audience can be a disturbing thing.

  2. Alison says:

    Of course, all this public airing of private drama is beneficial to people whose private dealings should be made public. After all, what's more interesting to read – a tabloid report of Tiger Woods' affairs, or the health care reform bill?

Leave a Reply