Thursday, July 17, 2014

Expectations of Privacy

Now that the dust has settled on the Donald Sterling affair, I’d like to bring out a few points for your consideration.

With security cameras everywhere, the NSA tracking phone calls, companies following your every move, hackers breaking into computers and networks, stores tracking your movements, and all kinds of other surveillance going on, there is little expectation of privacy these days. Yet the Supreme Court, in various decisions over the years, has interpreted the US Constitution to have an implied right to privacy in it. This right is being flagrantly violated by the above mentioned entities. Nevertheless, there are still certain reasonable expectations of privacy: in your own bedroom, and in private conversations in your home, office, car, or on your telephone. The release of Sterling’s private conversation is a gross violation of his right to privacy, and should be punished.

Sterling Set Up

While I’m not defending Donald Sterling’s apparent prejudice, I believe we have to take a look at what he said in context, and see what’s behind all the hoopla. This should give us some insight that we won’t get from the media.

It is obvious he was set up. Somebody wanted to take him down, to ruin his reputation, rob him of his basketball team, publically humiliate and discredit him, and relieve him of $2.5 million. To accomplish all that, he was prompted by a female friend/associate/mistress (or whatever she is to him), setting him up to say some inappropriate things about African-Americans during this illegally recorded conversation. Yet nobody is being investigated concerning this clear violation of his right to privacy and what appears to be a conspiracy to seriously discredit him.

Sterling’s Dementia

There are some factors in this affair that should be understood, and which might then put Sterling’s punishment in perspective. One big mitigating factor is Sterling’s mental capacity. His wife said in an interview that he has dementia, and I tend to believe her. Nobody in their right mind and in his position would say such things over the telephone. The same goes for his Magic Johnson comments during a mea culpa interview with Anderson Cooper. It appears to me that his mental capacity is severely diminished. He was led to say some stupid things during a recorded conversation, and then the recording was made public.

Punishment Too Harsh

I don’t know what’s really in his heart, but there certainly has been a rush to judgment. One has to ask, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” Although I haven’t heard the complete conversation, let’s look at a few facts based on what I know:

1. It was a private conversation, not a public statement. The fact that it was a private conversation that was recorded and released to the public should cause the NBA and others to consider whether they became unwittingly part of the conspiracy to take down Sterling.

2. The US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech no matter how unpopular, obnoxious, or hateful that speech is. There’s a lot of “protected speech” that you and I might find appalling, but is constitutionally protected according to the Supreme Court.

3. He didn’t use the “N-word” or similar hateful words or expressions.

4. He didn’t say terrible things about African-Americans that I’m aware of. Mostly he said he didn’t want this woman bringing them with her to basketball games. While that’s not a good thing to say, it certainly falls short of true hate speech as I understand it.

5. Christians, people of faith, conservatives, and others who are not politically correct are demeaned, mocked, and ridiculed all the time by the likes of Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and other TV personalities. Why aren’t they condemned for vicious hateful speech? It seems we have a double standard, which highlights the hypocrisy of the politically correct crowd.

Thought Police

Lastly, in addition to Sterling’s diminished mental capacity, we should also take into consideration his generation. They are often not politically correct and don’t understand its inconsistencies. For example, I know older people who still refer to a black person as a “colored” person because that has been the accepted term during most of their life. You can say “a person of color” but not a “colored person” in the wacky world of political correctness.

Given my understanding of what happened and what Sterling said, I believe the punishment is too severe for the offense. While I certainly don’t condone the attitude and opinion inherent in his conversation, I believe such severe punishment brings us dangerously close to the “thought police” and the mentality of the novels “1984” and “Brave New World.”

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