Posted by: brian | February 9, 2009

Prop 8 donors targeted for harassment

The New York Times tells us about a web site that maps the locations of Prop 8 donors. I don’t condone the sending of death threats or faux anthrax, but this intrigues me.

The confrontational part of me loves the idea of being able to go door to door and harass the crap out of these folks. That’s the part that initially reacted with “This is freakin’ awesome!”

On the other hand, what about privacy? Do we not have a right to vote as we please without fear of intimidation?

With tools like eightmaps — and there are bound to be more of them — strident political partisans can challenge their opponents directly, one voter at a time. The results, some activists fear, could discourage people from participating in the political process altogether.

That is why the soundtrack to is a loud gnashing of teeth among civil libertarians, privacy advocates and people supporting open government. The site pits their cherished values against each other: political transparency and untarnished democracy versus privacy and freedom of speech.

This is interesting because it highlights a problem with a system of government that intends to listen to every voice, but also wants to account for the financial backing of political campaigns. It seems to me that the freedom of speech aspect falls on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, the voters have a right to speak their minds in the voting booth. That right of speech also allows us to say, up to a point, what we want to another person.

I do like one suggested approach to resolving this issue: Require the creators of the site to provide their own personal information before they can have the data. Sauce for the goose and all that.

If the division on this issue weren’t so acrimonious, this development could lead to a more thorough dialogue directly with the voters. Instead of being fed whatever the various campaigns want you to hear, you could hear directly from the citizen why they hold their particular view. In a civil society, where everyone respects each others’ rights & responsibilities, there would be no problem. That civil society is, of course, an ideal, and therefore will never exist, at least not totally.

I’m curious to see how the Supreme Court will rule on this.


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