The New Political Transparency

To think that you can cover up anything today is hubris.

This is the first election where alternative media, activists, whistle blowers, and troublemakers on the right and left, are using the technological tools at their disposal to put the privacy and pasts of the political class at risk – and anyone else they so choose. No longer can politicians or anyone with political ambition take for granted what they do, no matter how secret or nefarious. It’s never safe from watching eyes.

I don’t write about politics on this blog. But, you have to agree: this has been one very weird political season. As I write this, the election hasn’t been decided yet, but it compels me to comment…hopefully for the last time

This election will go down in history as the election in which technology in the hands of everyday people triumphed over the political classes’ attempts to hide their dirty secrets from us.

It doesn’t matter which side you support, your side’s dirty laundry is starting to stink. Before this year, it was easy to keep the lid on the laundry hamper, hide it in a closet until the votes were cast, and then let the laundress dispose of it.

No longer. As one Reverend Wright, from Chicago, is attributed to have said: “The chickens have come home to roost.”

I have a good friend and business mentor who counseled me to always be honest in your business dealings because you never know when your past will come back to haunt you. Of course, if you’ve got nothing bad in your past, you don’t have anything to worry about. But, who among us can make that claim.

It’s getting more and more difficult to hide any questionable aspects of our pasts.

Technology has made our lives and our pasts public. We are constantly being watched and tracked by cameras, bar codes, software in our cell phones, retailers, social media, etc. Many people just give their lives away on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and yes…those evil emails. Even this blog exposes my private, inner thoughts to the world (Ah ha..but only some of them!).

As we make ourselves increasingly vulnerable, many ignore how our actions today will affect our future. Today’s posts and electronic communications will be tomorrow’s past.

And this brings me around to why this election is different. The curtain is pulled back. The electronic trail of corruption is being revealed. It’s impossible to hide it anymore…even naively on private servers or with sophisticated encryption. Hackers with evil intentions can find all our nasty secrets if they’re so disposed:

  • It may be a college term paper you wrote 30 years ago
  • It may be something about which you commented in private.
  • It may be a surveillance photo putting you someplace you didn’t want your spouse to know.
  • It may be a private cell phone video that captures an awkward moment that’s beamed to the world on Youtube.
  • It may be a racial slur you sloppily made when you were drunk.
  • It may be a top secret memo.
  • It may be a sexist remark said in a locker room.
  • It may be the people you’re friending or the posts that you’re sharing on Facebook.

The distribution of information has also been democratized, neutralizing the power of the mainstream press. Unedited news travels at lightning speed, instantly dispersed and shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms by you and me and those seeking political advantage.

When a presidential candidate can deliver a message directly to voters via Twitter or Facebook posts, do we even need 20th century media outlets anymore to distribute our information.

We’ve all heard the politicians promise transparency only to hide their questionable and often illegal actions from public view. So is this awakening political reality going to usher in a new era of transparency? Not in the usual sense. It is the new political transparency. But the politicians don’t control it anymore.

It will have to be a stupid scoundrel who thinks they can get away with anything in the future…even powerful politicians. One thing scoundrels fear – being exposed. They’d better be looking over their shoulder like never before.

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