Monday, June 4, 2012

Personal Intrusion in the Age of Politics

You probably receive all sort of direct mail items during election season. We all do. You know the type… glossy, gauzy postcards highlighting the amazing qualifications of one candidate or the dastardly history of the other. Or sometimes it’s an official looking envelope which winds up being a hit letter on an opponent or a request for donations. It can be annoying, but it’s a fact of life and mostly harmless for the recipient.

But Ann Althouse was the receiving end of a very different type of mailing this week, and people should take notice. It included a list of her neighbors and if they voted in the past.
I obscured names and addresses, but be assured, this was a list of real names and addresses of people who live near me, with the information about whether they voted in the last 2 elections. This is an effort to shame and pressure people about voting, and it is truly despicable. Your vote is private, you have a right not to vote, and anyone who tries to shame and an harass you about it is violating your privacy, and the assumption that I will become active in shaming and pressuring my neighbors is repugnant.
That certainly seems disturbing to me, but I suppose it could be worse. At least they’re not publishing how you voted, for example. (I’m fairly sure that’s not even possible. Or at least I hope so.) But out here in New York, Professor Jacobson brings us a tale of people receiving even more disturbing mailings.
A few days ago a reader sent me a mailer he received telling him the political contributions of his neighbors. He wrote:
Professor Jacobson:
I got a mailer, claiming to be part of an authorized study project at your alma mater, Harvard University, listing some of my political donations along with some of my neighbors’ donations. The point of the study is not really explained in the email, but the point seems to be whether veiled threats influence future donations. In California and other places as well, the Left has a history of using this information to harass and intimidate private citizens.

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