Saturday, October 13, 2012

I always feel like, somebody's watching me.

 Some years ago when I still lived in Athens, an issue came up in front of the City Commission. To wit, there was a push by certain parties to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. There was a good bit of push against it, naturally, from club owners worried about profits to smokers pissed off about losing critical smoking space. Something like 300 people - and I am probably misremembering that number - turned up at the vote to voice their disapproval. It passed regardless.


 A lot of your more liberal cities and towns across the country were experimenting with anti-smoking laws, and a lot of your more conservative types spent an awful lot of time pretending like it was a huge invasion of liberties and that somewhere George Washington was crying. Athens, being Athens, there was probably a push to do stuff that would encourage more outside money, because believe you me, that's what the folks that really run that town really, truly cared about. It's about the only thing that explains why this clown is running unopposed.

 It should be noted that the same night a vote was held on whether or not to spend a rather heavy chunk of taxpayer change to install surveillance cameras Downtown. The same six yay-hoos that come into fight against serious government overreach and creepy invasions of privacy showed up and, as usual, no one paid them any attention.

 Anyhow, the smoking thing passed and I really couldn't tell you how it affected the Downtown economy, mainly because it was in such a flux in those days anyhow. For what it's worth, I was torn by the whole thing. On the one hand, I hated having to deal with stinking, smoke-filled clubs when I went out, usually four to five nights a week, to see a band or play a show. Furthermore, I never could understand why smokers had a right to smoke and I just had to stand there and suck it. It seemed like a lot of petulant whining over what seemed to me a minor inconvenience for smokers. You can go outside for a few minutes - or hey, just not smoke for not quite an hour - but my choice was either breath smoke or stay home.

 That being said, anytime any government starts trying to legislate personal behavior (as opposed to regulating businesses and trade and what protects civil rights) it gets a little uncomfortable. I feel pretty much the same way about seat belt and helmet laws or the business in New York City about huge soft drinks. Or, for that matter, the vast majority of our drug laws. It's one thing where there's a genuine public interest in regulating behavior - such as drunk driving or, it can be argued, smoking bans in bars - but you can't make people not be stupid.

 I must admit, though, when it comes down to it, I still got to say tough shit, smokers, just don't friggin' smoke for a couple of hours. I honestly can't dredge up the sympathy and I'm far too into pragmatism to be an absolutist about anything, especially something as dumb as hanging freedom and liberty on the right to make the entire room stink. I swear.

 Anyhow. I've been thinking a lot about "rights" and "freedom" and "liberty", and I've come to the point where I doubt those words have any real meaning beyond the symbolic. I admit to being extremely cynical about all sorts of things. I don't like being that way, but I'd be dishonest if I wasn't up front about it. I'm not sure where it comes from and I don't feel up to defending it philosophically - but I am working on it - but I've basically come to the decision that "freedom" comes only if you've got enough pull to not be ignored. That pull might be money or it might be land or the amount of people who're convinced the sun shines out of your ass. Doesn't mean life has to be a drag, just watch your ass, is all.

 The same goes for privacy, really. There's no Constitutional "right" to privacy, really, and you're secrets are only your own if you can keep them. Sure, there are legalities, but that's only for those who have no other choice to play the game. Those that ignore the rules or make them don't have to play like the rest of us. I'm certainly not advocating invading others' privacy for any reason. I'm just saying watch your ass, is all.

 And let's face it, in this day and age, if you want to have true privacy, stay off the grid. The government and corporations are reading our mail, filming us on the street, recording every keystroke we type online, and tracking us by our goddamn cell phones we're all so addicted to. The government records us and sells the info to corporations, who then try to sell us shit we don't need that isn't made well anyway. The already thin barriers have been almost completely eroded during my lifetime, and a great part of it is because of the technology we've come to depend on. I'm not saying that's the way it ought to be or that we should just accept it. I'm just saying watch your ass, is all.

 Which brings us to this whole thing. Long story short, Gawker outed some Reddit editor that, among other things, posted pictures of young women, often underage and almost always without their consent, with the focus on seeing up the women's skirts. If you don't know what "upskirts" or "panty shots" are and especially the particular voyeuristic fetish attached to those scenarios, then you're on your own, frankly. There's an interesting conversation here about the legal/Constitutional ramifications of this whole deal and here's an excellent feminist take on why, even if there were free speech or privacy issues, this is still a guy for whom tears should not be shed.

 Granted, we can't pick our political martyrs, but even then, one does not have the right to be an asshole and not have to deal with the ramifications. The guy apparently got off on stirring shit up and being a massive dickweed anonymously, and now he's having to deal with it or soon will be. There are those who'd condemn the author of the piece for "ruining" the guy's life, but the guy did what he did of his own free will. And privacy wasn't an issue for him when it came to posting the pictures in, and this is what kills it for me, the subreddit called "Creepshots". I mean, really. That's just being an asshole, and I cannot defend that.

 Buy the ticket, take the ride, that's how life goes, kids. Also, this guy sold merchandise with his Reddit handle on it. That's just stupid.