Day 13 Privacy, An Overlap of 3 of the 4 Political Parties

The right to privacy is usually portrayed as a freedom from the intrusion of the government and private parties into personal affairs. It’s worth noting how dominant political parties apply this right, defend it in certain contexts and deface it in others. As a political position, privacy seems to be the mainstay of the libertarian stance on government, if not the the entire formula for the raison d’être. And when we’re thinking about political distinctions, often poles come to mind; we conceive of a line, a range or spectrum by degrees of separation between nodes or points. In this diagram libertarians would be be a point against which the Democratic party’s goal toward governmental regulation of the economy as well as a contrary pole the Republican party’s regulation on individual identity and civil rights, as they pertain to the interpretation of Judeo-Christian ethics alleged to be universalized. Yet strangely, the point of privacy is unifying right to all parties, as well as an abandoned necessity by Republicans and Democrats in the context of surveillance. I expect if there were a larger libertarian representation in the U.S. government, that is they were actually held accountable in contending toward a majority count, they too would appeal to surveillance over privacy at least in times when the question of security is flaunted about. 

During the campaigns, the notion of privacy was inconspicuously absent, even in the rhetoric of computers being hacked, emails being lost/eliminated and tapes getting leaked. Why wasn’t this on the debate floor? Between the candidates, there was no difference in their stance and this may be due to singular vision that from a governing perspective today, privacy is seen through the lens of surveillance and security. That is, the governing body of elected officials have an imposition by their constituents to suppress a terrorist threat and they believe that invasion of privacy is the best way to do it.  

Yet, from this perspective of surveillance, the affront to privacy is it is the hyperbole that one doesn’t have anything to hide it isn’t a necessity. This is the ideology subscribed to by Republicans and Democrats. But this contempt for the right privacy elucidates the true function of the common decree: to inhibit the growth the government into a hypothetical new realm, a private place–a space voluminous or psychological, spiritual or biological–to allow the person, the individual, and personal affairs to lead the curious excursion into this unknown realm. Privacy itself is such an ambiguous term, and deliberately so. Rather than being defined, it’s boundaries get determined by the negation of other things more quickly described, e.g business, speech or property. At a time when new ideas, technologies and possibilities are constantly being introduced, this puts an enormous strain on the 14th Amendment. That is, that governmental control should not precede the experiments of the citizen, that governance frames and portrays the uncharted territory in a binary of legal and illegal, more easily prohibiting by law than liberating through right by nature of legal language’s specificity over its unintended ambiguity. 

What’s curious from a populous perspective is there is no unified privacy movement nor is there a unified anti-surveillance or pro-surveillance platform, in spite of its appeal to both Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats. There are times when the public discourse gets back to that in the U.S.–the NSA scandal (which was well known in the hacker community even as early as the mid-1995s due to the two keys to every Windows OS; one was even called the “NSA Key”), or when Apple refused to help LA police de-encrypt the phone of the couple that shot up their workplace, but it foments from an interdepartmental exchange, rather than a cross-party supporting outcry. In these heated moments everyone thinks and talk about it, they sort of agree that there’s a horrible invasion of privacy, a movie comes out about it, but everyone just goes on using Google or acting in good faith that there isn’t an enormous plot going on. There is no solidarity or collective demand to reposition the party lines or even a leadership that rises up from the support of these citizens against an invading government. 

In the context of most pressing topics of voters, “security” doesn’t get close to the top of the list though if ‘privacy,’ a pertinent component of security were even poled, it maybe one of the few that citizens across the spectrum agree on, as it pertains to their own governance. Instead, ‘terrorism,’ is distinguished from security, which portends an offensive/defensive distinction, as in ‘our security against their terrorism.’ Terrorism is unique compared to the other issues because it is one of the non-economic category that isn’t predetermined by party. (Arguably, terrorism’s cause maybe economically related)

Going down the list (with stereotypical, cursory accusations):

Dissatisfaction with Gov’t: Everyone, but while Democrats are dissatisfied but their solution is to elect a new person but the Republican/Tea party say getting rid of gov’t is the sole solution.

Race relations/Racism. The Democratic party has been the advocate of racial minorities since the Civil Rights movement.

Immigration. Both talk about reform, there Republicans usually defer to ‘Keep the Mexicans Out’ Rhetoric while Democratic areas rely on immigration for economic development. 

Election Reform. Democrats have been supporting the National Popular Vote movement to reform the electoral college, Republicans oppose. Republicans create obstacles for voters while saying Democrats have dead people voting. 

(National Security & Terrorism appear here in 4th and 5th place.)

Healthcare. Republicans like private healthcare, Democrats gave us pseudo-public. 

Ethics/Moral/Religious Decline. Republicans espouse this, Democrats want to put it in the context of civil rights. 

Crimes/Violence. Republicans use this platform for incarceration, Democrats to earmark social services budgets

Aid/Foreign Overseas. Democrats claim for diplomacy, while both parties support wars

Education. Republicans: more competition, Democrats education for all, in the end higher student loans for graduates and parents saying the education stinks

Lack of respect for each other. This should be more discussed

Unifying the country. Both sides use this to insult the other side for being too partisan.

Poverty/Hunger/Homelessness. An issue that will never be an issue, which is strange considering you’d think it’s related to the most important issue, “The Economy.”

Below this poll is an interesting summary by Gallop. It’s a confidence vote in either the Republican, Democratic, or Neither party, compiled since 1954. What’s strange is that since about 1991, while Americans waiver between which party is worse or better, never does “Same/Other/No Opinion” surpass the two parties. This would suggest that, while confidence is low, one of the two main parties is a possible solution. A pessimistic reading of this table is that at no time does either party surpass 49%. Again, since much of the Republican platform is about reducing governmental influence on society (sans civil rights), it could be interpreted that support for the Republican party is support against any government. 

The hurtle for the privacy as a platform is the absence of discussing why and how national security and terrorism, two popular concerns, intersect the suspension of our constitutional right. Of course this would require some thoughtful, human interpretation of terrorism and even reversing the dehumanization of persons deemed as terrorists. Ideologically, this may be the greatest obstacle of the Department of Defense because its support is largely garnered from the hyperbolic assumption that America and American interests are ‘good,’ that is right, ethical, ordained by God. Could an appeal to unconstitutional activity by the government on its own citizens override those civic beliefs that U.S. military actions are ethical?

Abraham Miller’s Terrorism and Hostage Negotiations (Westview, 1980) frames terrorism as a diminished guerilla struggle that failed to gain political power and instead attacks soft targets for symbolic victories in a war that can’t be won. How different this is from the criminal or psychotic accusation by the Defense Department and media. Yet by considering terrorists as liberation fighters without a sufficient mass, an idealistic avenue opens up for diplomatic negotiations. 

The U.S. government’s stance against negotiation with terrorists is rooted in the worry that to negotiate is to encourage violent protest motivated to commence negotiations. What’s contradictory to this perspective is we see that, even with this non-negotiation stance there is violent protest. The counterargument, the presumption that to commence negotiating with violent protesters would cultivate more violent protesters is contradictory to the belief by the Defense Department’s usage of surveillance, namely that, while the invasion of privacy in unconstitutional, can be effective by focusing it on certain demographics that are prejudiced to be prone to violent protest. That is, if surveillance is so effective against terrorism, why is there a need to maintain a non-negotiation stance? The counterargument would now be synonymous with what’s at stake if negotiations with violent protesters were policy: Would this demographic shift, decrease, increase, make surveillance unnecessary, more necessary? Would other constitutional rights necessarily be suspended, or would at least one, the currently trespassed, constitutional rights be restored? And what if changing the negotiation stance were not what was changed, but something else was changed, something that was politically at odds with the current violent protesters, the motivation for their discontent? Would that be effectively solving the problem without negotiation?