I swear, every time the topic of privacy is discussed, some yahoo has to bring up the old cliché “well, if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.” I’m so sick of hearing this phrase that I’m going to devote this post to BEATING IT INTO A BLOODY PULP. There are so many things wrong with the idea that it’s almost laughable.

I actually used a short version of these arguments on my father while visiting him for the holidays. It worked on him, and he’s pretty stubborn, so hopefully it’ll work on you too, and you can bring these points up the next time some yahoo at a party rattles off this phrase rather than giving any real thought to the issues.

First, the statement assumes that laws are static. It assumes that what is legal today will be legal tomorrow. It assumes that if people don’t need to hide something now, that they never will. I’m sorry, but this isn’t how it works. The law is most certainly not static. Sure, smoking cigarettes is legal today, and if someone knew you smoked they may say “tsk tsk, that’s bad for you, you know.” But what about ten or twenty years from now? What if cigarettes are illegal then? Then your stupid phrase comes back from the dead to bite you in the ass. I guess your only choice is to quit smoking, eh?

Which brings us to the next assumption the phrase entails: that the laws are good. Ask yourself, do you think every law in this country is just, fair, and worth having? I bet you’ve already thought of at least a half-dozen bullshit, unfair, unjust, or perhaps even unconstitutional laws. You might have replied to my cigarettes example “well yeah, we should ban cigarettes, that would be good.” Alright, how about… music? Say some quack shows that music makes people violent, irrational, emotional, and dumb. Say the government thinks its a waste of time. And, say the government starts by making instruments illegal to play. Are you going to toss your guitar in the trash just because it’s something that you’d end up having to hide?

And what about things that aren’t illegal, but are frowned upon? Things that society doesn’t like? What if the government wanted everyone to disclose whether they were straight or gay? Or how about what religion they were? Yeah, no problem for the straight Christians in this country. And probably not a huge deal for gays, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists who live in more enlightened areas of the country (i.e. the North). But what about the atheists and the gays in the Bible Belt? Why should they be forced to reveal what are very personal aspects of themselves, especially when the main result will just be ostracism from their neighbors?

But even throwing aside all those flaws with the assumptions of the phrase, we are still left with people’s need for privacy. Perhaps you’re okay with having your privacy being taken away in subways, and at airports, and sooner-or-later whenever you’re outside your home. Maybe you’re even okay with cameras in your house, as long as they aren’t in the bathroom or the bedroom. But wait, what? You mean you don’t want them to see that? But you’ve got nothing to hide! They don’t care what your dick looks like! They don’t care how big your breasts are! They just want to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal in there. Oh, and they want to watch.

Do you see? It is a fact that we need some sort of privacy. Humans may be social animals but we are not purely social. We wear clothes. We have our own rooms. We have secrets, even if they are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

If you give the government an inch with regards to privacy, they will eventually take a mile. And once everyone gets used to the mile, they will ask for ten more. You may think that such measures will make everyone safer, rather than simply give those in power another avenue to control what we do. You might. I, on the other hand, think that’s a very dangerous gamble.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com :)