Columns / Discourse / May 7, 2014

Unauthorized recordings and the Constitution: Modern technology presents issues

In America, there is an unfortunate fear and instant hatred for other people’s opinions, and I am not entirely sure why this has come to be. Our power structure, since the founding of the nation in 1776, has become strangely perverted and disgustingly fickle.

When the country was founded much of the technology that exists today was not even a thought, obviously. Bits and pieces of legislation revolving around such technology have been since added to the United States constitution, but I cannot say that all such additions have been entirely appropriate or constitutional.

From a political and theological standpoint, the Constitution is perfect. You may disagree with me, but it has sincerely worked out for a long damn time, capitalistically speaking. As a strong, fundamental capitalist, I am of course a fan of the Constitution.

When it doesn’t work out, well, maybe someone is breaking the law. Capitalism may not be as “fair” as socialism or communism, for example, but if exercised perfectly, all men and women are certainly created equal and are supposed to be given equal opportunities.

Power structure should not be an issue, but since it is, I will tell you this much: when the Constitution was written, each branch of the government was given checks and balances in order to ensure that no one person could possess too much power.

Of course, our president has broken such checks and balances loads of times, as did many presidents before him, but the public, ignorant of too many of the statutes within the document, do not know any different. The American system used to be perfect, but now it is not.

First of all, it is difficult to apply modern technological advances to the law, since through technology almost anything is possible. As an example, a child in Pennsylvania is facing a felony charge because he recorded the bullying he faced on an iPad. Sounds completely ridiculous, right?

One reason why the American system is flawed is because some people wind up in jail for some of the dumbest reasons possible. If a law did not exist saying that this sort of recording is wiretapping, we would be A-okay.

But we aren’t. Some pretty brainless someone decided to charge this kid, not to mention someone actually passed such a bill into law. Morally, this is depressing. The kid was defending himself when apparently no one else would.

Though I do not believe anarchy is the answer, I do not think a police state is what the people of the United States really want. Take a look at Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin and it won’t be hard to see why the United States does not want a police state.

We, at times, value our “protection” more than our rights, which is not the founding principal of this nation. The 15-year-old being charged with a felony in Pennsylvania is a good example: why on Earth would he be guilty of such a bogus crime? Because the additions we have made to the Constitution need to be re-evaluated, that’s why.

I do apologize if I have left you with hatred for me, so I am going to leave you with this Winston Churchill quote to ponder in the spirit of World War II political dynamics: “Show me a young conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”

Shannon Caveny

Tags:  checks and balances Constitution Intellectual Property Joseph Stalin personal security Privacy Law privacy rights recording technological legal advance U.S. Constitution unauthorized recording United States Vladimir Lenin

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Shannon Caveny




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  • Emma

    While I understand where you are coming from in this article, you seem to be a bit muddled as to some finer points of American history, especially as it relates to politics.

    “From a political and theological standpoint, the Constitution is perfect.” Whose theology? Whose politics? The Constitution was written at a time when owning human beings was en vogue. The fact that provisions asserting that women and people of color were, in fact, people, had to be added much later prove that the Constitution was, and still is, deeply flawed. People and times change, and the Constitution changes with them, albeit at a much slower pace. I’m personally wary of calling any form of government, even just the document that lays it out, “perfect.”

    “Capitalism may not be as “fair” as socialism or communism, for example, but if exercised perfectly, all men and women are certainly created equal and are supposed to be given equal opportunities.” Not everyone is created equal. Some people are born into unprivileged circumstances or have other disabling factors preventing them from being on equal footing with everyone else. It’s illogical to argue that capitalism would be perfect if it was…perfect, given that any perfect system will be…perfect. Capitalism is inherently “unfair” through the existence of private owners and any attempt to make it fair would no longer qualify it as capitalism proper, but that is a post for another day.

    “The American system used to be perfect, but now it is not.” You keep saying that things are perfect, or were perfect. When was the American system perfect? In 1776, when it was legal to traffic human beings and you wouldn’t have been able to vote? In 1861, when the country tore itself apart over slavery (which had been an institution in America from the start)? In 1942, when Japanese-Americans were in internment camps? In the 1960s, when black people were still fighting for the right to PARTICIPATE in the system? When was the system perfect? When has it ever been perfect?

    “One reason why the American system is flawed is because some people wind up in jail for some of the dumbest reasons possible.”

    Ok, I’ll take a gander here….so privatization of the prison system, um, racism, um, rampant classism that is now an integral part of the prison-industrial complex?

    “If a law did not exist saying that this sort of recording is wiretapping, we would be A-okay.” oh.

    I won’t bother to rebut this, because there is no way the prison system is flawed solely because of tyrannical wiretapping laws. Not when there’s institutionalized racism inherent in our criminal justice system.

    This 15 year old being charged with a felony: I am going to take a wild guess and say this didn’t happen. Hold on. I’m googling it.

    Ok: I’m back. It did happen. But….he had to pay a $25 fine and had a citation on his record. Where is the felony charge that he was facing? http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/15/3427016/boy-with-disabilities-bullied/

    I thought this Churchill quote was suspicious, since Churchill is famous for switching parties multiple times. So I googled it: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/quotations/quotes-falsely-attributed

    This is turning out to be an incredibly lengthy response, so I’ll wrap this up. For further reading, might I suggest Thurgood Marshall’s 1987 speech (the bicentennial of the constitution, since it was 1787, not 1776). This speech, given by our nation’s first black Supreme Court justice, who would not have considered the American System perfect at any time, by any means, may be enlightening. http://www.thurgoodmarshall.com/speeches/constitutional_speech.htm



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