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If you’ve done nothing wrong, why aren’t you changing your clothes in public?

At Left is Not a Four Letter Word, Damen reacts against that old line, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide”:

This is a phrase that has irritated the holy shit out of me for a very, very long time. Any time privacy is brought up, there’s some idiot out there who’ll whip this little saying out like a cock at a streaker’s convention. I don’t know if they really believe this or if they’re just mind-bogglingly naive.

My knee-jerk reaction to this is to ask: “Then would you want to take a shit in a glass box on the sidewalk?”

The baseline of this, as pointed out in another article I read, is that the If You’ve Done Nothing Wrong argument is faulty on it’s face because it mixes up the concept of privacy with the concept of secrecy. We do things that are private; like taking a shit, making love, lounging in our underwear, keeping medical records sealed, not sharing our credit card bills, not blabbing our social security numbers to people….

People also seem to underestimate simple things like intimidation. If a person believes that participating in this protest is going to get them on a government watch-list which will then have agents snooping through their lives and records, then they are more likely to stay home when they otherwise would have exercised their First Amendment rights. Of course, the government did nothing overtly to curb their rights to freedom of speech, but they did through the use of perceived retaliation. These people have nothing to hide, but they don’t want to have government agents poking their noses into their business.

What an important point. Yes, I have some things I hide, but that’s just because I’d rather you not see them. Sometimes we like to hide things away not because we’re culpable of anything, but because they are parts of us that are most vulnerable or precious and so we choose to protect them. Sometimes we prefer to be able to hide aspects of ourselves away from others as a way of protecting our autonomy. We humans have autonomous bodies and brains, but we are also social creatures, and studies in social psychology have confirmed the last point: the more closely we are observed, the more we act as we are expected to and the less we act as we would otherwise prefer. There’s a significant personal price we pay for the increasingly relentless observation under which we all live: it strangles our individuality and turns us into drones. That’s why some of us object.

1 comment to If you’ve done nothing wrong, why aren’t you changing your clothes in public?

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