Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Guess those privacy settings are more important than I realized."

Here's a great example of what I'm talking about when I say that the internet will bring down the walls between public and private personas: Blogger and frequent Hardball guest Ezra Klein posted an insulting message about Tim Russert on his Twitter account. The message? "fuck tim russert. fuck him with a spiky acid-tipped dick."

Klein's public persona is, as one might expect, more moderate. He asserts that the message was "a private text message to friends, an inside joke we have because it’s so over-the-top obscene. [T]he Twitter was ripped from my private life, and it was never meant to brought out of the bar-like context in which it was born." But we can no longer expect to maintain strict separation between our private conversations and our participation in public debate.

Some people are trying to get Klein permanently barred from Hardball. However, does anyone really believe that Chris Matthews has never used crude sexual insults outside the studio? This is an opportunity for social norms to evolve (or devolve) to account for our actual behavior. At the very least, we should question whether Klein's sin was sending the message or getting caught. Getting caught out online is only going to become more common; which standards do you want applied to your actions?
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