Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Privacy Rights

I have lived to see 1984... the world where the past is constantly re-written, where a Ministry of "Truth" rewrites the past.

Here is a case mentioned in passing in an article by Evgeny Morozov in an article in the NY Times about Wikipedia. This is the bit I found offensive:
In 1990 the two men killed a German actor, were sentenced to life in prison in 1993, and were released on parole a few years ago. The German law allows them to start afresh; the media has been barred from mentioning their full names in relation to the crime.

The German-language Wikipedia complied and removed their full names from its entries. The English-language Wikipedians, after producing more than 60 pages of arguments, persevered. Stopp & Stopp, the improbably named law firm representing the two men, duly filed lawsuits against the Wikimedia Foundation in German courts, which prompted accusations of censorship from the likes of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a free-speech group.
Morozov proceeds in the piece arguing that Wikipedia has an obligation to treat the judicial decision "wisely" by seeking legal counsel and hiring "wise" men, etc.

I have a fundamental problem: since when can you kill somebody and then get the right to have that peculiar, small, niggling fact "eradicated" by a court decision? What happened to the old fashioned notion that you had responsibility for your actions. That you have to make amends and wear the onerous weight of responsibility for your whole life, right to the bitter end?

Nope... not today. We are so concerned about "prisoner's rights" that we bend over backwards. Kill somebody. Remove them forever. Give them no peace. Who cares? Our compassion has to go to the real victim of the crime: the perpetrator! That poor soul will be burdened with their crime the rest of the life unless society steps in to collectively lift that burden and punish anybody with the temerity to dare remember the past and remind others of a murder.

Do I live in a world gone mad? Murders with rights? Victims to be thrown down the memory hole? Anybody who breathes a word of the crime to be punished because of "privacy rights" of murderers?

Update 2010may19: I hear that -- upon hearing of the above legal case granting murderers a right to "privacy" from any mention of their murders -- the estate of one "Adolf Hitler" has procured a lawyer and requested that all books that claim that their much maligned client, Mr. A. Hitler, who supposedly caused WWII which supposedly led to the death of 40 million people has requested his privacy rights to be respected and that any talk of "crimes" or "historical wrongs" be prohibiteded from any future mention or discussion in order to safeguard Mr. Hitler's rights. These so-called "historial" documents and public teachings must be quashed immediately so that the legal rights, the privacy rights of Mr. Hitler, can be protected. The lawyer has noted: "It is outrageous that people have published these materials accusing my client of crimes against humanity without his permission. His rights to privacy are being trampled underfoot. How dare the Jews and gypsies, the homosexuals and social democrats, the mental defectives and the Polish intelligentsia continue to print these stories about their torture and death. This smears the character of my client. My client has rights! His privacy rights have been recklessly disregarded by historians and school teachers. I insist forthwith that all books and public lectures about any so-called crimes related to my client's activities in WWII be stopped immediately. Civilized society recognizes the rights to privacy and this kind of flagrant disregard will no longer be permitted by courts of law! All this talk about a war between 1939 and 1945 must stop immediately. There must be no more talk of deaths and murder. My client has a right to his privacy and that is the highest right any human can have under the law! Any idea that historians and teachers have a right to trample on the sacred privacy rights of Mr. Hitler are abhorrent and must not be countenanced by any civilized society." So there. The so-called rights of the 40 million so-called "victims" of WWII have been put in the proper place: behind a court order that seals the lips of any who would dare threaten the privacy rights of Mr. Hitler.

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