It's hard to argue with the exile of the execrable L.A. Clippers basketball owner Donald Sterling. The famous taped conversation apparently represents just another episode in a foul ongoing racist pattern. But I really wish he wasn't quite the jerk that he is, because his case gives the push-back against the loss of civil liberties a bad name.
We're in an era where privacy is undergoing a full frontal attack. Between public cameras, internet surveillance and NSA snooping, there just doesn't seem any limit to what people think they're entitled to know about us. Although I know the Sterling case is not "formal," as when government or media is involved, the idea that we have the right to know if our conversations are being recorded is being eroded, as is the premise that if you're told they're not being recorded, what you say in private won't be used to publicly hang you. The story of Sterling's loathsome behavior and subsequent punishment has the effect of, if not justifying, at least affirming the ongoing impingement on our right to privacy.
Do we really have to begin to guard all our private thoughts in a diary that is kept under lock and key? Do we have to sweep the room for bugging devices before we conduct intimate conversations? It creeps me out any time someone's private conversations are used to publicly hang them. I can't help thinking that someone at some time could have used what I said in my home to punish me; not racist rants, but I've had jobs and bosses that I complained about in language that could no doubt have been used against me. And god knows I've said things about the government that would probably get my butt in trouble.
So, go ahead and hang Sterling, but please don't throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater.