David Frum

12.26.12

Concern Trolling Private Citizens

Dreher expresses dismay at the decision of a New York newspaper to publish the name of licensed gun owners. He labels it undesirable concern-trolling.

Is that really the kind of country we want to live in? Similarly, I don’t believe these New York gun owners cited by the Journal News have a legal right to privacy, but I have to wonder what real good is done by publicizing their names and addresses in this way, especially in a time when the public is beside itself with grief over Newtown (which, for the Journal News, was a local story). Just because something is legal — as is publicizing these names and addresses, taken from publicly available sources — does not mean it’s a good idea.

I have always hated the tactic adopted by anti-abortion protesters, of showing up outside the homes of abortion doctors and staging demonstrations. I think the work abortion doctors do is repulsive and vile. But maintaining respect for the privacy of everyone, even those we consider wicked or some sort of threat to the common good, is necessary for the maintenance of civilized life. I don’t believe this is an absolute principle. There are cases when it’s more important to make this information public, as when a child sex offender moves into one’s neighborhood. But the presumption, in my view, must strongly rest with respecting the privacy of private citizens.