CRF Blog

When Privacy Jumped the Shark

by Bill Hayes

In When Privacy Jumped the Shark for New York magazine, Frank Rich argues that Americans today care little about privacy.

Here’s one dirty little secret about the revelations of domestic spying at the National Security Agency: Had Edward Snowden not embarked on a madcap escape that mashed up plot elements from Catch Me If You Can, The Fugitive, the O.J. Bronco chase, and “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?,” the story would be over. The leaker’s flight path, with the Feds and the press in farcical flat-footed pursuit, captured far more of the public’s attention than the substance of his leaks. That’s not his fault. The public was not much interested in the leaks in the first place. It was already moving on to Paula Deen.

At first blush, the NSA story seemed like a bigger deal. The early June scoops in the Guardian and the Washington Post were hailed universally as “bombshells” and “blockbusters” by the networks. America’s right and left flanks were unified in hyperventilating about their significance: Rand Paul and The Nation, Glenn Beck and Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and the Times editorial page all agreed that President Obama had presided over an extra-ordinary abuse of executive power. But even as Daniel Ellsberg hailed the second coming of the Pentagon Papers, the public was not marching behind him or anyone else. The NSA scandal didn’t even burn bright enough to earn the distinction of a “-gate” suffix. Though Americans were being told in no uncertain terms that their government was spying on them, it quickly became evident that, for all the tumult in the media-political Establishment, many just didn’t give a damn.

Only 36 percent of the country felt that government snooping had “gone too far,” according to CBS News. [more]