Last July, I brought up the specter of creepy liberalism.
For too many liberal left-wingers, the political gets personal easily and quickly. Example one, the Obama campaign has an enemies list, with those "enemies" singled out for the "crime" of giving money to help get Romney elected. Kimberly Strassel touched on it in Part I.
These are wealthy individuals, to be sure, but private citizens nonetheless. Not one holds elected office. Not one is a criminal. Not one has the barest fraction of the position or the power of the U.S. leader who is publicly assaulting them.
"We don't tolerate presidents or people of high power to do these things," says Theodore Olson, the former U.S. solicitor general. "When you have the power of the presidency—the power of the IRS, the INS, the Justice Department, the DEA, the SEC—what you have effectively done is put these guys' names up on 'Wanted' posters in government offices."
Really, it's just Republicans who play for keeps, not those pure-as-snow Democrats.
Example four, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund sending letters to Wisconsin homes to inform them which of their neighbors voted. Is it illegal? Probably not, but it's creepy as hell.
Example five, Proposition 8 opponents using Google maps to display the locations of financial donors. Is it illegal? The California courts said "no", but it's creepy as hell. I could go on all day.
In the latest edition of this Big Brotherish phenomenon, the Journal News decided to publish an interactive map which shows the names and addresses of every single registered gun owner in Westchester and Rockland counties. I'm sure that folks in the home burglary industry are saying a big THANK YOU. Now they know which homes to avoid when plying their trade. We're forbidden from knowing the exact addresses of registered sex offenders, but registered gun owners? Not a problem.
Why did the Journal News editors decide to name and shame thousands of people for a completely legal activity? Unclear. Best I can tell, an unnamed "some" want legislators to make this information more readily available. And why would this "some" want this information more readily available? Unclear. I can only conclude that this is agenda journalism dishonestly put forward as some sort of public service. None of what they did is illegal, but it's creepy as hell.
In the spirit of the politically-infused hackery at Journal News, a local blogger published the names, addresses and phone numbers of the paper's staff, and another blogger put together a helpful interactive map. And why not. The motivation for publishing either set of names is exactly the same.
At Poynter, Al Tompkins explains this breach of ethics and of the public trust:
Timeliness is not reason enough to publish this information, though there are important reasons — including public safety — that journalists regularly invade people’s privacy.
Journalists broadcast and publish criminal records, drunk driving records, arrest records, professional licenses, inspection records and all sorts of private information. But when we publish private information we should weigh the public’s right to know against the potential harm publishing could cause.
Here are some stories any newsroom could explore as part of publishing some version of a gun permit database.
If journalists could show flaws in the gun permitting system, that would be newsworthy. Or, for example, if gun owners were exempted from permits because of political connections, then journalists could better justify the privacy invasion.
If the data showed the relationship between the number of permits issued and the crime rates, that serves a public purpose. You would have to also look at income, population density, housing patterns, policing policies and more to really understand what is going on and why.
If a news org compared permit owners with a database of felony offenders in local counties, that could be a public service. Years ago I recall a Minneapolis TV station doing this and they found the state issuing hunting licenses to felons.
But none of those stories would require the journalist to name the names and include the home addresses of every permit holder. The mapping might be done by ZIP code or even by street.