The Coastal Post - April, 1996

Privacy? Hah! You've Got None!

BY STEPHEN SIMAC

The only privacy citizens of the near future can expect are those moments of communion between thy God and thee, and those may be subject to review on some rabbinical rap sheet. In the name of public security against world terrorism, nooses of nosiness are being tightened around our necks. Of course, if we're not criminals, we have nothing to worry about, right?

While the media has been playing up the "indecency on the internet" and the "victory over violence chip" for television, the feds have been steadily eroding any possibility that our speech, writing, and actions will not later be broadcast on public access cable or in conspiracy court. Loose-lipped Americans accustomed to speaking freely, opining on any stray thought which clutters their normally unencumbered minds, will have to learn the habits of former Soviet citizens, talking in codewords, running bath water if they complain about government tyranny, knowing children and mates may turn them in for any actions deemed criminal or anti-state.

Those innocents who think this is far fetched are simply not paying attention, which is what our rulers count on. A cynic would say that a nation of attention-deficit adolescents deserves the government officials we accrue. More compassionate judges understand that the overwhelming forces of monied interests and global pirates are too vast for any effective resistance.

If the paranoid rich believe the common people might collude to chew away at their top-heavy dominance of wealth and power, instead of merely being content with table scraps, then they'd better watch us more closely.

It's unclear why they are worried—most of us are happy with bread and circuses, content with bitching and moaning. But the more the rich have, the more they fear that others want it. Instead of sharing even a little more equally, they'd rather tax us to spy on ourselves.

74,000 phones tapped at once—you pay the bill—

One government paranoia scheme is called the Digital Telephony bill. The FBI now has the right to tap 74,000 phone lines, including computer modem and fax transmissions simultaneously, monitoring for conspiracies on bombing government buildings, dealing drugs, illegal gambling, dumping toxic waste (except for the military), squeezing the working class even further (no, that's legal) and just talking nasty. Of course, they are going to have to listen to a lot of ordinary folks gossiping to catch a few crooks, a little like miles-long gill nets to catch a few tuna, but this is the price of freedom, as they say.

Anyone who imagines that they still have privacy in their own homes or bedrooms is dreaming. If they could monitor your dreams, they would, employing Jungian analysts to determine if your nightmares are any threat to "public" safety. Recent events should prove this to even the most trusting citizens.

Hidden microphones were placed in sidewalks and planter boxes in front of a restaurant in North Beach in San Francisco because of suspected drug dealing and aggressive panhandling. A bar owner in Bolinas was asked to allow the Marin County Sheriffs' Department to place a thumbnail-sized video camera in his bar for the same reasons. He refused unless they let him put one in their office.

Children in several states who were indoctrinated in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program have turned their own parents into the police for illegal drug use. A joint is enough to take the kids straight into child services custody, where they will be well cared for, as we all know.

While government surveillance is growing, there are no boundaries to business, public or media snooping. All E-mail on company computers is the property of your owner (I mean boss), and your keystrokes are counted even in the bathroom.

A couple in Florida were making love in their apartment when a nosy neighbor videotaped them through their venetian blinds. Instead of prosecuting the videotaper, the couple was tried for public lewdness because children could watch them if they pressed their little noses against the window. Better batten those hatches.

People who talk on cellular, remote or wireless phones are legally on air radio talk shows, for anyone who has a scanner. An acquaintance of mine turned this $50 device on one evening as we stood chatting. Although I tried to walk away and just say no, in the interests of public safety I had to listen as one couple described dangerous gymnastic techniques over their baby monitor.

Princess Di and the common man—

Of course, Princess Diana and Prince Charles have been subjected to endless public hearings of their most private peccadilloes because they imagined that their letters, phone conversations, gym workouts and lovers would be circumspect. In the good old days, it would have been "off with their 'eads." Di would be rotting away in the Tower.

Even the queen mum was burned by Paul Theroux, who tattled on her under the guise of "fact and fiction" for the New Yorker magazine. His "blend of real and invented characters and episodes" claimed that Queen Elizabeth just adored the "splendid, fuzzy wuzzy hair" of the prime minister of Papua New Guinea. It didn't go over well with the anti-monarchists of that former colony, who want to shed the queen as the 'ead of state." Most commoners believe Princess Diana is the only royalty worth the title, and she's getting booted by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

She's even been betrayed by her own lover, the cad, as well as her gym trainer, who placed a hidden camera in front of the thighmaster. Even though she "adored" that polo jockey, James Hewitt, he's telling all the juicy details for cash. Love used to be priceless.

Even though offered millions, I have never revealed our long-ago, secret affair. I was young, living in London, painting flats, when I painted hers a lovely lime color. She was a school teacher then, soon to be royally engaged, and she was my first true love. I have always kept Princess Di's love letters private, and I'll never show the pictures. And if you imagine that at least your fantasies are private, then wait until even those are against the law.