Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Watchbird

As if I needed any reminders of the privacy issues from living in the modern world, I found this 1991 issue of Time, which emphasizes that very paranoia. Actually, paranoia is a misnomer. It's a reality, folks. Someone is watching. Someone is listening.

In 1991 the issues of Internet safety and such weren't even being thought of. That all came later. But the seeds have been there ever since marketers and governments found they could keep track of their customers and citizens electronically.

The problems for governments and law enforcement is that people who don't want to be tracked can find ways to keep it from happening, whereas those of us who object to it have it happen constantly. I use the Internet, I use my computer, I write a blog, all things that can get me noticed. I think about it but I do it anyway. It's kind of like putting my head in the lion's mouth, hoping he won't bite me.

There's kind of a perverse thrill to thinking I'm getting away with something, even if I'm not doing anything to "get away with." This week we've all gotten our jollies over Senator Larry Craig's embarrassment, trying to solicit sex in a public men's room, which ended just yesterday with his resignation from the U.S. Senate. Yesterday I was in a huge grocery store using the ATM. A woman was being detained for stealing a $1.99 package of pens. The store security officer said, "Why did you steal these?" The woman replied, "I don't know." It's possible she doesn't know, but we all engage in some sort of risky behavior for the thrill of getting away with something. It reminds me of the old Red Skelton routine, the Bad Widdle Boy: "If I dood it I get a whippin'…" "I dood it!"I also remember my mother reading to me the little cartoon feature, "The Watchbird Is Watching You!" from a woman's magazine back in the early 1950s. It was supposed to keep kids in line to know that there were people watching every move they made.
But…but…you say…despite those Watchbirds, unless they are doing something illegal or admitting to something illegal, people just writing blogs on the Internet shouldn't have anything to worry about, right? Not so fast, said the newspaper article I read recently. Your boss and coworkers could be looking. If you say something about them, wham! You could end up without a job.

Paranoia does strike deep, folks.


Not only are the Watchbirds watching you misbehave, they are looking at your grammar. I've been reading the book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Watch where you put those commas and apostrophes, folks. The grammar police are everywhere, and they are judging you by your spelling and your grammar.

Incidentally, spell checkers are useless if you're using the wrong word with the right spelling. The dictionary is still the best tool ever invented. The Watchbird will want you to use it, and he will be able to tell if you don't.

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