Friday, January 27, 2006

To What End?

A post at Say Uncle, linked to an article in the Rocky Mountain News, got me thinking this morning.

A newspaper editor takes the path of righteous indignation by publicly releasing the addresses of registered owners of pitbulls.
"If we have even one citizen attacked by a pit bull, that's enough for me," McIntyre said.

She said she printed the 24 addresses for the "greater good of the community" and deliberately withheld names or phone numbers.

This type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable in a society that supposedly embraces personal freedom. I have the freedom to not be harrassed by some paper-pushing nanny, and that freedom supercedes said nanny's interpreted "right" to look out for "the greater good of the community."

Unless one of the legally registered dog owners presses the matter and files a lawsuit, this action is not likely to be noticed outside of the internet, where a storm in a teacup may garner some attention but be ultimately forgotten.

Where does this type of behavior end? I already know what creates the mentality this editor holds: she's smarter than the rest of us and thereby must protect us from ourselves by marginalizing groups within our society that she sees as "dangerous" or "politically incorrect" or "unfavorable."

To what end?

Hypothetical: A 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, white, is used in a bank robbery in which a security guard is murdered. A crime and a tragedy, to be sure. But, regardless of where the police investigation is leading, some overreaching editor publishes a list of owners of 2000 white Grand Cherokees. For the children. "If one crime is prevented by..." Bullshit. My names on that list in your paper, and you have no right to invade my privacy. You are NOT an investigator, you are not a cop, you are not guardian of all that is good and right in this world, and you have no right or obligation to invade my privacy and my world to make yourself either feel better or seem like one of the "good guys." No. Uh-uh. Fuck you. I don't care that you had to buy your accomplice at the DMV a stteak dinner to get the list - all your life are belong to me. I own you.

Hypothetical: A young white male, 6 feet tall and weighing approximately 220lbs (with rogueish good looks ;)) knocks over a convenience store. The police have fingerprints and a grainy photograph from the surveillance video to work with, and they are pursuing their investigation. John Anchorman is apalled that something like this could happen just down the street from his house, and decides to take action! Alongside the grainy surveillance photo, he flashes photographs of every young 6' 220lb white male living within a 5 mile radius. Under the photos are the "Crime Busters!" phone number and an advisory that these people are armed and dangerous. 2 million viewers see the broadcast. 340 photographs of innocent people are shown with a voiceover by Mr. Anchorman intoning how the clerk is in a coma at Mt. Hope, recovering from a gunshot wound that will leave him deaf, mute, paralyzed, castrated and epileptic.

The implication that these innocent people had anything to do with a crime which is already being actively investigated by the proper authorities costs some of them undue hardship. Including me, who has now had my pic flashed across a citywide broadcast in association with a serious crime. It encourages a certain type of vigilante-ism from the general population.

And one thing is for certain - when the groundless accusations prove to be false, hysterical moanings of an overactive media participant, there will be no apology, no retraction, no editors note. There never is.

Lets take it one step further. You knew where this was going, though, didn't you?

Hypothetical: Johnny Ringo shoots up the local watering hole with his twin .45LC revolvers. (Sure, I shamelessly stole the reference from Tombstone. So what?) The local newspaperman decides that law enforcement is obviously too slow and cumbersome to handle such an arduous task, though they are actively pursuing the real suspect, so without any foresight whatsoever, he accuses every owner of .45LC handguns of having taken part in the massacre. Mind you, there is no substantive evidence of this, just hysterical conjecture and speculation. He obtains a list of registered owners - "public record, my good son!" - and publishes it in his greasy rag. Several recognizable names are on the list, such as the sheriff and mayor. This, however, justifies the righteous newspaperman. "If it only saves one child..." He pushes for an open registry of handguns, requiring owners to notify neighbors and employers and prohibiting owners from living within 200 feet of a municipal building or school, and if all else fails, an outright ban. When questioned about his overreaching accusations of innocent people, he says "They lost their privacy when they registered their guns."

No, wait, he didn't say that. McIntyre did. In real life.

To what end must this nanny-state mentality be permitted to run rampant? To what level of responsibility must we hold these self appointed overseers?