May 12, 2014

"So let me get this straight, we should concede that there's no such thing anymore as a private conversation..."

"... so therefore remember to 'lawyer' everything you say before you say it, and hey, speaking your mind was overrated anyway, so you won't miss it. Well, I'll miss it, I'll miss it a lot."

59 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

Bill Maher is a no-go-link for me. Professor, sometimes your lefty visitors criticize you for throwing what they call red meat to what they think is your braying crowd of libertarian, tea-partying weirdos. Your linking to Bill Maher does make me think they have a point when they say you're just trying to create traffic.

Matt Sablan said...

Is this a real-life happening of "eventually, they'll come for someone you like [or at least are indifferent about?"

No one's ever cared about doxxing or otherwise ripping the privacy away from other people. While I'm glad people on the left like Maher suddenly realized that privacy and "checking" the outrageous outrage was important, I'm hesitant to call them real allies in the cause until I see them apply it when it is not neutral to beneficial for them.

Amexpat said...

Private conversations still exist with people you trust. Otherwise, don't say anything you don't want the world to know.

rhhardin said...

I missed what the racism was supposed to be.

It's so bad that it can't be mentioned, seems to be the official position.

MadisonMan said...

I wish I'd said that.

Big Mike said...

My wife had an interesting take. She suggests that someone in the oligarchy wants to own a sports team so Sterling was, indeed, set up and the normally ever-so-sensitive-to-women's-rights media is falling all over itself to assert that his Sterling's wife's ownership rights can be ignored in this case.

The scary thing is that it's actually plausible in the Era of Obama.

chickelit said...

Maher is exactly right on this.

Ann Althouse said...

"Bill Maher is a no-go-link for me. Professor, sometimes your lefty visitors criticize you for throwing what they call red meat to what they think is your braying crowd of libertarian, tea-partying weirdos. Your linking to Bill Maher does make me think they have a point when they say you're just trying to create traffic."

Well, I'm impressed (with myself) that I was able to "make [you] think," because that is, apparently, a formidable task.

Wince said...

I agree with Maher that the Sterling example is a dangerous and slippery slope.

The reason and paradox is that probably the only way to combat this trend going forward is to hold everyone scrupulously to the same standard as Sterling.

Otherwise, it might remain "tolerable" because it is invoked only selectively against unpopular (or unconnected) people and ideas, which I think would be even worse.

But in pursuing that zealous equal treatment to show just how bad it is, how do you ever reach consensus that everyone should finally just back off?

Tank said...

I hate when I agree with Maher.

Anonymous said...

Crazy Street Corner Guy Off His Meds Says:

People should know that they should be careful what they say around Harvey Keitel, they should know better, you think it would be obvious. The guy said it, and I knew what was going to happen, I knew I would be unable to stop what was to come. Me and Harvey Keitel were standing by the alley when this guy with white hair walks by, he looks at Harvey, and says 'Willem Dafoe! I love your movies!' Harvey Keitel is not Willem Dafoe. Harvey Keitel HATES Willem Dafoe. Harvey Keitel hates Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel says that HE should've been Bobby Peru, that HE understands Bobby Peru and that HE would've made that part great, Willem Dafoe is not fit to wipe the crap off Harvey's shoe. The guy with the white hair apologizes and tries to back away but Harvey grabs him roughly and shoves him into the alley, Harvey must now own him, it is his way: he must make the guy submit, he must submit physically, psychologically and sexually. Oh God, the sexually part: the cries from the alley are painful, existential and plentiful, the man with the white hair will leave the alley without his pants. The torn pants, they are now Harvey's trophy, he ties them around his shoulders like a sweater as he bellows I_AM_NOT_WILLEM_DAFOE. Harvey Keitel is not Willem Dafoe.

William said...

His point is well taken. Some of the disdain that was directed against Linda Tripp should be pointed at his "personal assistant", Ms. Staviano. It was said,at the time, that Tripp betrayed Monica's friendship by recording their conversations and that Tripp was a terrible person for doing so. Ms. Staviano has not been entirely immune from criticism, but it has been relatively muted compared to that aimed at Sterling........She accepted some expensive gifts from the man. She didn't plight her troth, but a few Bentleys should purchase a certain amount of discretion. She didn't keep her end of the bargain and actively worked to betray the man......This is an unedifying story. None of the participants look good, but some look worse than others. If, on the day of the Last Judgment, God outsources some of the work to me, then I would definitely consign Ms. Staviano to a lower circle in hell.

Brando said...

This has always been true though--private conversations only remain private so long as anyone aware of them keeps them private. The only new thing is that recording devices and the ability to publicly share the recordings have become so ubiquitous.

More interesting is the extent to which saying the "wrong" things has such far reaching consequences these days. Just think--a few "n-bombs" and the guy is required to unload a billion dollar NBA franchise. A donation to the wrong political organization and you have to step down as CEO of your company.

And while most of us see the targets of this outrage as different from us--I wouldn't have donated to the Prop 8 campaign, or chastized a girlfriend while dropping n-bombs--it should be a bit chilling anyway because who is to say the outrage police won't come after any of us next?

Lyssa said...

I get the concern here, absolutely. But my question is - what is the remedy? What can be done about it? There are civil and criminal penalties in place for this sort of thing in some states (I believe CA is one), so he can exercise those. If there are no or insufficient remedies in place, maybe the laws should be examined and changed.

But if we're expecting that tabloids should ignore juicy stories like this when they are presented to them on the grounds of fairness, we're really asking far more than can be reasonably expected.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There was probably an episode of The Twilight Zone where you couldn't get away with anything but I can't recall one at the moment.

Maybe the one with Bill Mumy is close enough.

"He shouldn't have thught those bad thoughts, that's why I made him go on fire."

Classic!

tim maguire said...

A solution seems to me to make it a legal requirement that all parties agree to be recorded (or at least be informed of the recording), with an exception carved out for people speaking in the context of their employment.

So secretly taping a policeman or customer service rep is legal, secretly taping your ranting boyfriend is not.

traditionalguy said...

The very act of discussing groups such as Blacks and Gays has suddenly become a socially forbidden activity as if using dirty words in a Church.

That is a great disrespect to men and women. I guess Maher will have to be silenced.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

So let me get this straight, we should concede that there's no such thing anymore as a private conversation...

There has never been such a thing as a private conversation when one of the parties to the conversation chose to make it public. The only difference is that now, with modern recording devices, you cannot successfully lie about what you did or did not say.

LYNNDH said...

And I see that Charles Barkley did a double down on his comments about overweight (not his word - his word was FAT) women in San Antonio. Will Women of the World rise up and sit on him? Will he have to be booted off the show? Can he get away with it because he is a Black Man and not a White Man?

RecChief said...

Amexpat said...
Private conversations still exist with people you trust. Otherwise, don't say anything you don't want the world to know.


Good lord, this sounds like the Soviet Russia from one of solzhenitsyn's books.

Lucien said...

@Lyssa:

The cure is tolerance. Sometimes, when we learn that someone has said something dumb, even when it confirms what we already thought of them, we should respond in some other way than in conlcuding that they should lose their livelihood over it.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Maher is probably correct this time. (I only waffle because the transcript is probably incomplete).
However, I watched Maher's early shows, and I soon came to believe that he was unprincipled. What mattered was results he favored (or more creepily, that his audience favored), not any kind of consistent stand on personal rights, responsibilities, and government roles.
I'd never trust the guy.

OnWisconsin1987 said...

Did Maher really invoke the 4th Amendment even though there was no governmental action?

Meade said...

If Naked Bill Maher Robot's thought-dreams could be seen,
they’d probably wash his mouth out with listerine.


Curious George said...

Maher is 100% right. Recording Mitt Romney at at private meeting was wrong.

Wait, what? Oh, that's right. Not a fucking peep.

OnWisconsin1987 said...

Did Maher really invoke the 4th Amendment even though there was no governmental action?

Ann Althouse said...

"Did Maher really invoke the 4th Amendment even though there was no governmental action?"

If people think the interests in privacy and freedom of speech end with the government, we're in trouble.

Not all interests are legally protected, and not all legally protected interests are the constitutional rights that are only protected against governmental action.

tim in vermont said...

"I hardly dare to mention this for fear of being accused of romanticising poverty or somehow conspiring to keep people in the picturesque state to which I would never submit myself. But it is impossible not to notice that, in some of the poorest parts of the world, most people, most of the time, appear to be happier than we are. In southern Ethiopia, for example, the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls." - George Monbiot in The Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2002/aug/27/climatechange.comment

Can anybody explain the real difference between what he said and that Bundy Guy?

MayBee said...

Lydia-

The best option is for people like Maher (and anyone else with something to lose) speak out about this kind of thing often enough that we, the American people, refuse to bite at the juicy bits when we know they have been stolen from private moments.

We should have ignored the Mel Gibson tapes. We should have had an outcry against what happened to Petraeus.

Part of it is new media is new, and we are just learning how to deal with recordings, tweets, and private emails. But I'm hoping once the novelty has been worn off, we will reject the way we've been behaving.

tim in vermont said...

"If people think the interests in privacy and freedom of speech end with the government, we're in trouble." EXACTLY!

We have a culture that values free speech and that culture of free speech should be protected.

MayBee said...

Big Mike- word is Oprah wants it. If she isn't Queen of the Oligarchy, I don't know who is.

Brian Brown said...

There are no "private" conversations when you're saying something that incites the intolerant (who happen to label themselves 'tolerant').

The end.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, had he missed the whole Snowden debacle? There isn't such a thing as a private conversation anymore and you *are* being bugged...or at least archived, categorized, and ready to be potentially leaked for reasons that have nothing to do with national security.

MayBee said...

This is a good time to recommend the movie The Lives of Others, for those who have not seen it.

SJ said...

I would comment, but my lawyer counsels me not to.

MadisonMan said...

Maher is 100% right. Recording Mitt Romney at at private meeting was wrong.

Wait, what? Oh, that's right. Not a fucking peep.

I think there's a big difference between recording/releasing words of a private citizen vs. those of a politician.

Of course, I didn't think at the time that the words recorded of Romney (47%) were worthy of the outrage manufactured around them. He could have been saying he likes his eggs sunny-side up, and umbrage would have been taken since he was talking to rich donors.

Politicians deserve far closer scrutiny over their words than do private citizens. Especially if it reveals hypocrisy with their given positions. (Note that there was no hypocrisy in what Romney was taped saying -- IMO).

Maher is right in this video -- unequivocably. That he didn't say anything about the 47% tape (or that you don't recall him saying anything) doesn't change the facts today.

Scott said...

RecChief said...


Good lord, this sounds like the Soviet Russia from one of solzhenitsyn's books.

5/12/14, 9:15 AM

I was re-reading the Gulag Archipelago last week while waiting for a friend to get done with her doctor's appointment and it's quite chilling.

"True, they were supposedly being arrested and tried not for their actual faith but for openly declaring their convictions and bringing their children up in the same spirit. As Tanya Khodkevich wrote 'You can pray freely/But just so God alone can hear.' (She received a ten-year sentence for those verses.) A person convinced that he possessed spiritual truth was required to conceal it from his own children!" (Gulag Archipelago Book 1, Ch. 4)

We aren't there yet, but I fear that we can see this kind of thing to keep going unless it's stopped. Somehow.

grackle said...

Maher is exactly right on this.

1. This has always been true though--private conversations only remain private so long as anyone aware of them keeps them private. The only new thing is that recording devices and the ability to publicly share the recordings have become so ubiquitous.

2. There has never been such a thing as a private conversation when one of the parties to the conversation chose to make it public. The only difference is that now, with modern recording devices, you cannot successfully lie about what you did or did not say.

3. Maher is 100% right. Recording Mitt Romney at private meeting was wrong. Wait, what? Oh, that's right. Not a fucking peep.

4. If Naked Bill Maher Robot's thought-dreams could be seen,
they’d probably wash his mouth out with listerine.
Poetry!

Lot's of Bingos in this comment thread. Am rewarding each of these comments their very own electric toasters. Plus maybe an electric KitchenAid Stainless Steel Turbo Beater for each.

Unknown said...

I don't follow this blog consistently enough to know if Ellison is a jerk, but in the absence of some kind of backstory, the 5/12/14, 8:24 AM AA comment seems pretty juvenile. Even for a private blog.

Ctmom4 said...

@Big Mike- Oprah!

rhhardin said...

what is the remedy?

Ridicule of the media.

Clyde said...

You should assume that the Thought Police are watching you through your telescreen at all times. You never know when they actually are, of course, but you should assume that they are. Don't think that you can go to the prole quarter and rent a room where there is no telescreen, either. It's behind that picture.

Of course, the Thought Police are not just party officials from the Ministry of Love. No, the Thought Police are everyone, everywhere, ever present with two-way recording capability, all vigilant to make sure that no Thoughtcrime is committed..

Remember, Thoughtcrime is Death.

We're only 30 years late, I guess. Lovely day here in Oceania, and the clocks are about to strike thirteen.

richard mcenroe said...

This is the world Bill Maher has been sneering his way towards all this century. Hope he enjoys it.

richard mcenroe said...

Amexpat — "Private conversations still exist with people you trust. Otherwise, don't say anything you don't want the world to know."

I wrote about that very thing in my last samizdat, but they raided the printer.

Curious George said...

" MadisonMan said...
Maher is 100% right. Recording Mitt Romney at at private meeting was wrong.

Wait, what? Oh, that's right. Not a fucking peep.

I think there's a big difference between recording/releasing words of a private citizen vs. those of a politician.

Of course, I didn't think at the time that the words recorded of Romney (47%) were worthy of the outrage manufactured around them. He could have been saying he likes his eggs sunny-side up, and umbrage would have been taken since he was talking to rich donors.

Politicians deserve far closer scrutiny over their words than do private citizens. Especially if it reveals hypocrisy with their given positions. (Note that there was no hypocrisy in what Romney was taped saying -- IMO).

Maher is right in this video -- unequivocably. That he didn't say anything about the 47% tape (or that you don't recall him saying anything) does"n't change the facts today."

"unequivocably"?

You make a long case why politicians are diiferent, then say he is right "unequivocably"

Maybe you don't know what unequivocally means since you can't spell it. But it means "in a way that is not subject to conditions or exceptions".




Curious George said...

" MadisonMan said...
Maher is 100% right. Recording Mitt Romney at at private meeting was wrong.

Wait, what? Oh, that's right. Not a fucking peep.

I think there's a big difference between recording/releasing words of a private citizen vs. those of a politician.

Of course, I didn't think at the time that the words recorded of Romney (47%) were worthy of the outrage manufactured around them. He could have been saying he likes his eggs sunny-side up, and umbrage would have been taken since he was talking to rich donors.

Politicians deserve far closer scrutiny over their words than do private citizens. Especially if it reveals hypocrisy with their given positions. (Note that there was no hypocrisy in what Romney was taped saying -- IMO).

Maher is right in this video -- unequivocably. That he didn't say anything about the 47% tape (or that you don't recall him saying anything) does"n't change the facts today."

"unequivocably"?

You make a long case why politicians are diiferent, then say he is right "unequivocably"

Maybe you don't know what unequivocally means since you can't spell it. But it means "in a way that is not subject to conditions or exceptions".

Yes, the fact that he didn't speak up about the Romneytape...he mocked it...doesn't make him wrong, it does make him a hypocrite.



Bob Ellison said...

Unknown, it's all part of the cruel objectivity thing. We're supposed to be big boys and girls here. I wasn't being a jerk, and neither was the Professor.

MadisonMan said...

If I'd known the use of non-standard english was going to embiggen your cromulence, I would have chosen more wisely.

Maher was talking about a private citizen. I think his point is completely valid. Politicians deserve super-extra, maybe double-secret, scrutiny.

Curious George said...

"MadisonMan said...
If I'd known the use of non-standard english was going to embiggen your cromulence, I would have chosen more wisely.

Maher was talking about a private citizen. I think his point is completely valid. Politicians deserve super-extra, maybe double-secret, scrutiny."

Oh bullshit. The person he was talking about initially happened to be a private citizen...he made no such distinction private v. public. That's your take, not Maher's.

By the way, Romney was also a private citizen at the time, and he talking to private citizen. And he was bugged. They all were.

Christy said...

Did she declare the Bentleys on her tax return, I wonder?

Anthony said...

So making a recording of a conversation in California is *illegal* unless both parties consent. Assume that Sterling will lose a few million dollars as a result of this leak - either in legal expenses, or losses from being forced to unload the team, etc. Does he have a cause of action against Stiviano? How will she pay the judgement?

Unknown said...

My son got in a fight in Jr. High. It was videoed by one of his friends. My son got three days suspension for the fight, his friend got 3 months in an alternate school for wannabe thugs. Is there a difference between audio recording and video vis a vis privacy laws?

(BTW, my older son in a nearby HS found out about fight a few hours before I did -- someone pointed it out to him on Youtube via cell phone.)

CatherineM said...

He is right although no one cares until it happens to them or to someone they support.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

Big brother is always watching, listening, monitoring all our communications to protect us all.

John Lynch said...

The fact that almost everyone uses pseudonyms to comment here makes Maher's point.

John Lynch said...

How many people haven't gone into politics because of something they said in the past that would be dredged up?

Americans are hypocrites. We're all about free speech except when we want to punish people we don't like. It's not free speech if your life is ruined by what you say.

Worse, we're total hypocrites when we complain about politicians lying. Of course they lie, because telling the truth is career-ending. One of the purposes of this blog is to sort through political BS to find the truth. The reason that is necessary is because everything has to be a lie in order for politicians to survive on a day-to-day basis. We demand that they lie every time we demand that a politician must resign for something they said.

So, yeah, Maher's right. I don't care about who says it, as long as someone says it. We have to stop demanding that people apologize and resign every time they are secretly recorded saying something controversial. Otherwise all important positions will be held by mediocrities and sociopaths.

Mark said...

Wasn't the whole Obama 'clinging to their guns and religion' a secret recording of private conversation ala Romney?

I don't recall a lot of people upset about that one here. In fact people brought that up over and over again like the left did with 47%.

There are hypocrites everywhere.

grackle said...

I'm very sympathetic to privacy of conversation in the home. I even think Sterling's racist conversations should have been kept private.

But, perhaps regrettably, they weren't.

Once those words were made public the NBA owners and the commissioner had no real option but to get rid of him. They HAD to protect their franchises.

There were immediate noises from the players about starting their own league – IF Sterling remained. I watch all the sports networks, ESPN, Sportscenter, Inside the NBA, etc. The boycott and NBA players starting another league rumors were widely reported. I think they were more than rumors.

Without the players – no games. Without the games – no NBA.

Right now the NBA owners next task is to vote Sterling out of the league altogether. The NBA rules for owners apparently allows this with a 3/4 vote of the owners. It better be a public vote with no dissenting votes and it better be soon.

grackle said...

Americans are hypocrites.

I'm going to gently suggest that probably all human beings on this wonderful yet terrible planet are at least somewhat hypocritical. I'm also going to offer the opinion that every negative characteristic one could think of exists aplenty in the peoples of all cultures.

So let's not single out Americans for special attention in that department. OK? We've got our share of flaws; I think we all know that, but why designate the homeland for special reproach?

We're all about free speech except when we want to punish people we don't like.

Psychological projection: The act or technique of defending oneself against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in oneself, while attributing them to others.[1] For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

http://tinyurl.com/a7a2r

How many people haven't gone into politics because of something they said in the past that would be dredged up?

I'm going to tenderly propose here that one's life need not be ruined by not being able to be a politician. There are so many other worthwhile occupations: Registered Nurse. Teacher. Professor of Law. Employment Interviewer. Medical Doctor. etc.

Final thoughts: I am glad that politicians are no longer able to stuff their interminable public utterances down the memory hole. It makes me happy that they can no longer tailor their public opinions to different regional audiences with impunity – as they did so often in times past.

The keyword here is "public." Of course if anyone, politician, celebrity or NBA owner, wants their thoughts to be safely private then all they have to do is not verbalize them in public.

What could be simpler?

Being secretly recorded by your paramour of the moment is the exception to the rule. You have to guard against that. You have to know when to trust and who to trust. It's called "having good sense." It's called "prudence." So much of what we bring upon ourselves is due to our own poor judgment.