One day my phone rang and I could hear my son talking to friend at school. He had mistakenly called me and didn’t know it – and I was all too glad to listen. I mean, how many chances does a parent get to hear the casual conversation of their son (or daughter) while he (or she) walks the halls of school. It was too good to not listen; and it was wrong.
I was reminded of this last Spring when the whole Donald Sterling mess erupted, and I’ve been thinking, “When did Donald Sterling loose his right to privacy?” Or maybe more importantly – “When did we stop caring that any individual can have their privacy taken from them?”
Lets all stipulate that Donald Sterling is not a good person. For those of you who are not familiar with the geriatric Mr. Sterling, he was the owner of an NBA team and made racially offensive remarks to his girlfriend while the two of them were in a heated debate in his living room. Those remarks were secretly recorded by the not so loyal “femme fatal” and released to the press. The League subsequently forced him to sell his team (at a huge profit) and banned him from the NBA. I am not for one second defending Donald Sterling or saying that his racist bigotry is anything but despicable.
What bothers me is that he was secretly and illegally recorded in his own home, forced to sell his team, and we have all cheered. The fact that any of us can be secretly recorded at any place at any time is a fact of our modern reality. The fact that we as a culture have not seemed to care that our right to privacy has dissipated without even a modicum of debate is more than a little disturbing. And I’ve been thinking, “If they can do this to him they can do it to me.” And you.
Everyone you know is carrying a recording device with them at all times – their cell phone. And everyone you know says things they would regret if they were broadcast to the world. And everyone you know thinks that in the privacy of his or her own home they can say whatever they want. Think again. By cheering the downfall of Mr. Sterling we have unwittingly cheered the loss of privacy for all of us.
The NBA had plenty of reasons to rid their league of Donald Sterling and they should have done it years ago. He had a history of bad deeds and they didn’t need this illegal recording to do the right thing and push him out. But more importantly they should have said that although the recording was disgusting, it was also illegally obtained and they would have nothing to do with it.
The media should have said, “yes, that’s a juicy recording but we’re not interested because it was illegally obtained, and it violates his fundamental right to privacy.”
The NBA should have said, “there is plenty of evidence to discipline Donald Sterling, but this illegal recording cannot be part of it.”
We have become accustomed to a lack of ethics in the media. The world of the National Inquirer has given way to the world of TMZ and we all go along with it as part of our culture. It’s not the media I am concerned about – they will do whatever it takes to keep selling papers or getting ratings. What concerns me is that we all cheered. That we weren’t as a culture outraged at an illegal, secret taping is the bigger problem. We have lost the privacy of our own homes, and when we say something in our own home that we wouldn’t necessarily want the whole world to hear, it no longer matters.
I’ve been thinking that if we don’t stand up for the rights of others, there will be no one left to stand up for our rights.
We should have said, “What this man said on this tape is disgusting but I don’t want to hear it because it was an illegal invasion of this mans privacy, and if I don’t stand up for him, then who will stand up for me?”
As Harry Truman said, “It’s not what you stand for, it’s what you’ll stand up for that matters.”
1. What in your life is worth standing up for?
2. Do you?