Public vs. Private Politics

Through Declan McCuollogh’s Politech, I’ve been following the matter of the Indymedia posting of the GOP delegate’s personal information. Note that I downloaded and looked at the file – and it does contain home phone numbers, addresses, and names for a bunch of people I assume are Republican delegates.

The ACLU has stepped in on behalf of Indymedia.Am I the only one bothered by this? It’s not new – here in Los Angeles, the director of the Department of Animal Services recently retired after protesters circled his home; the same group has protested at the home of Los Angeles Mayor Hahn.

Now Scott McNealy may believe that “privacy is dead, get over it,” and he may be right.

But it seems that by blending the public (would anyone be as squeamish about demonstrations in front of Jerry Greenwalt’s office?) and the private, these demonstrators are changing the game somewhat, and in a way that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with.

And, what’s more, they are doing it in a way that doesn’t exactly level the playing field.

Demonstrations against Greenwalt were led by ‘Animal Defense -LA‘; a whois shows a maildrop address (amusingly, Amy Alkon gets her mail at the same place), and the name of ‘Marcus Wolf’ – those who know a bit about Stasi history might wonder whether that’s a pseudonym…

So when will the Protest Warriors start showing up at the homes of Indymedia contributors? Or groups of grad students in biology at the homes of animal defense organizations?

Do we need more James Kopps??

Or am I just being too concerned about this?

18 thoughts on “Public vs. Private Politics”

  1. No, you’re not making too much of this story. This is not a matter of free speech–quite the opposite, really. It is an attempt to intimidate political opponents and shut out all but the most partisan and ideologically committed of this nation’s citizens from direct participation in our democratic system. Who’s side is the ACLU on here, anyway?

    How ironic that the left is by this “simple” action coopting a page from the playbook of the anti-abortion right–don’t like the legal (even laudable) activities of someone? Give every freak and activist a chance to target their opponent AT HOME, where they might even get to harrass an innocent family member–what fun!

    Yes, the information is in the public domain. But there is a difference between having one’s professional and public information on record somewhere and having it posted to a largely hostile, entirely unpredictable mass audience. I didn’t like it when abortion opponents used it (resulting in fairly predictable violence) and I find it inexplicable and deeply offensive in its present pc guise.

    The implication here is that these delegates are trying to “sneak around” to do their RNC duties; that if they object to having their activities brought into the light of day it is because they are ipso facto shameful.

    Let’s make a deal with the fine folks at indymedia: you don’t go around inviting your readers to harass the folks who make up the bedrock of democracy, we won’t publish the addresses and phone numbers of all those “celebrities” you keep trotting out to make Kerry look less ghoulish?

  2. Well, if the information is public, there really is no way to not to keep this information out there. I mean, look, you can find anybody and see exactly what they contributed, down to the block, anywhere in the United States.

    Go here to view how your neighbors voted!

    Given this, I don’t see any method to hide delegate information, and especially given the political nature of the job of the delegate, you can’t expect this information not to be public

    Still, there should be some line – on both sides. I remember when a group of people, about six months ago, when to Karl Rove’s house and started screaming obsenities at him, when he came out. My opinion, this was horrible, and absolutely should not be allowed.

    Or conversely, when directors or workers at abortion clinics are harassed at their homes, this also is horrible.

    What can be done? Stronger harassment laws? I’m not sure. Perhaps people smarter than me have a clue…

  3. The ACLU is probably defending Indymedia’s right not to relinquish significant hunks of its server logs – which was the original request from the authorities, and which would potentially reveal the identities and locations of Indymedia correspondents to the feds.

    If the feds targeted their information request more narrowly, so as to ask for information specifically about the person who posted the offending set of data, the ACLU might not have an issue with it. I don’t know.

    But you can certainly sympathize (using the same logic you use in this very article) with civil libertarians who object to the request as-is. Conceptually they’re on the same side you’re on and in the same battle – unless your battle is merely partisan.

  4. This stunt was just plain tasteless, crude and socially unacceptable. It is a form of passive intimidation that should have no place in a civilised society. Information of this type should never be posted in aggregate regardless of purpose or partisanship.


  5. A long time ago I read The Collapse of the Third Republic by Shirer. If memory doesn’t fail me, one of the features of party politics in France at the time was the use of squads of loud bullies and fighters to break up opposition rallies. Naturally this was fatal to civil discourse.
    I think Indymedia’s actions here reek of the same strategy. It isn’t quite as bad yet.

  6. I think one of the older mantras of a certain type of leftist is “the personal is the political.” If one believes that, since everything is in the end political, can there be any legitimate appeal to such a thing as “the personal” or “privacy,” especially if The Cause is being advanced?

  7. No, you’re right to be bugged by this. These tapeworms are not-so-tacitly “encouraging”: the Leftist nutjobs out there to put this information to “good use.” I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that this verges on terror. If something terrible were to happen to a delegate at the RNC, I hope charges of criminal negligence (“extreme indifference to human life…”) are brought against these list-fiends.

  8. This is all public information. All someone did was compile it. Distasteful indeed, but the right has been doing it for a couple of decades. I spent many years as a clinic escort, and trained others to do the same. They tried it at my house. I merely posted NO TRESPASSING: SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN signs around the perimeter, and we took turns walking the property line heavily armed. Made the point rather quickly. I also fly the Gadsden Ensign from my home. Scares em a bit. LOL

    We live in the information age, in other words you live in a fishbowl, get used to it.

  9. Do we need more James Kopps??

    Or am I just being too concerned about this?

    What’s the plan, Stan? The most effective thing one can do to stop this sort of thing is to make sure it backfires politically. Make them pay a price at the polls and it’ll stop.

    If Bush wins, as he probably will, it’ll get worse. A lot worse. Don’t you think?

  10. Heh heh…about 300 people get their mail at that same place — from movie stars to movie lowlifes and beyond, because it’s the only mail receiving place on Main Street in Santa Monica. I see known…gasp!…conservatives and liberals there all the time. The guy who runs the place is a sweetheart, and I’ve used this place since before I wrote my syndicated column — when I was coming back and forth from NYC and subletting apartments, and needed one fixed address to get mail at — and I have gotten mail there ever since. If you got 20 letters a week from convicts from prisons around the USA, you probably wouldn’t get mail at home either. PS Regarding the postal company I keep, as Fran Lebowitz said: “My favorite animal is steak.”

  11. I find this tactic extremely distasteful when any group engages in it. People, no matter what job they have, should be free of harrassment in their own homes.

    Hmm… the other day, I was thinking how it would be nice if the Postal Service would set up a program where folks could register to get something like a ‘mailid’ from them, and would be able to just update their address with the postal service. People attempting to send them mail would just use the mailid, and not have to constantly update their address databases, and the person with the mailid would only have one point where they’d have to update their address – the USPS. This would be fantastic for people who have to move a lot, since it would reduce the lag between updating mailing addresses… this could also be helpful for folks who might not want their home address revealed to all and sundry – stalking victims, abortion providers, scientists who engage in testing on animals, loggers, GOP delegates, etc.

    Course, it’d take getting the USPS to think in terms of new technology, and not selling t-shirts, but that might help address some the privacy issue.

  12. bq. _”Good, it seems people here are beginning to understand.”_

    The issue here is, it is not just the public officials life that is open to scrutiny. It could certainly be argued that the scrutiny of every individual has always been there regardless of technology and informational age advances. What has changed is the extent to which activists will go in using that information to achieve their desired goals.

    Here is the other side to the story though as “ADL-LA”: relays it.

    If one is to seriously consider the issue of the ADL-LA as that of being the watch dog of municipal tax payer subsidized services it would seem to me that their allegations and points are made clear by this web page.

    Short of court orders there seems to be little if anything being done to alleviate the offenses incurred by a public official guilty or not. According to ADL-LA there also seems to be no investigation by municipal authorities of the accusations made. This in and of itself seems to be the root for their militant tactics.

    Irregardless of the situation, what is portrayed is vile vigilante tactics being used by ADL-LA in lieu of lawful recourse. I for one don’t know if ADL-LA has attempted any lawful recourse at all but the “ADL-LA”: main page certainly leaves little doubt about it’s grass roots *militant* agenda. I certainly understand their concerns about animals but I’d also like know where they stand concerning elimination of rats infesting streets and buildings.

    The more important question is why we as a society continue to allow and advocate such militant antics in lieu of lawful recourse?

  13. Private organizations using all this publicly accessible data to harass people is tasteless, aggravating, and lame.

    When the police state begins to use this data, and much more acquired through surveilance to harass people it will be considerably worse than lame.

    That day is coming and I suggest ya’ll get prepared.

  14. Armed Liberal:

    No, no relation to any Paul.

    I hope the Secret Service busts these guys. Vandeervecken may be right that some of the info is public, but their hotel rooms? There’s only one reason why uppity protesters would want to know something like that, and it’s not a good one.

  15. “How ironic that the left is by this “simple” action coopting a page from the playbook of the anti-abortion right…”

    Forty years ago the left was using these same tactics, so I don’t think you can legitimately claim that the left learned them from anti-abortion people.

    “Private organizations using all this publicly accessible data to harass people is tasteless, aggravating, and lame.”

    It may seem merely lame when somebody else is the victim of these thugs, but it’s seriously frightening when you’re the target. If you know anybody who defends such tactics, treat them with as much tolerance and respect as you would a klansman.

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