Best Of Intentions

The latest piece of unsettling news going around involves the publication by the Journal News of the names and addresses of people with registered weapons in several New York cities. Publisher Janet Hasson took the step in order to inform her readers of the whereabouts of deadly weapons so they could be better informed about the dangers that lurk around them. Needless to say, the crazies went crazy. Her publication was inundated by angry letters from readers who felt their tender underbellies were being exposed: “does she think I’m a sex offender?” asked one ex-marine. You don’t want to get people with guns riled up, Janet. To paraphrase: “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups….[with guns].” Publishing the names and addresses of those who own weapons may be unnecessary in the end, since in this society we are at the point where it is wise to assume that everyone has at least one.

In any event, a retaliatory strike by a Connecticut lawyer involved a Google earth photo of the publisher’s house that was posted on the web so the angry writers could take the next step and — what? retaliate? shoot her? What was he thinking? And a blogger posted personal information about the Journal’s staff, wishing Janet and her staff a “great Christmas eve” as he did so. One wonders what this country is coming to. Janet Hasson’s motivation was to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act in order to make information available in order to allow people to protect themselves. The original motivation that lead to the decision to make information public was the loftiest possible. As something called “TechCrunch” tells us:

Ironically, the promise of open data was supposed to lead to open-minded discussion. “If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects,” reads the often-cited quote from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who stands a champion to modern-day nonprofits fighting for greater access to health, legislative, and administrative government data.

And that’s the point: a judicial decision that was supposed to “purify” human actions by fostering better communication among people has become an avenue for angry people to engage in ugly behavior — even at Christmas time as the tiny bodies of children killed by a demented young man were being laid to rest.  But whether or not Janet Hasson was right to take the step she took — and that might make an interesting debate — she certainly didn’t deserve the treatment she and her staff received from angry people who were clearly over-reacting. She obviously struck a nerve. Is it possible we don’t know how to react any more, we only know how to over-react?

My blog buddy recently posted a blog suggesting that certain people in this society might need to be exported. I have started a list and would like to add a certain Connecticut lawyer and a blogger (not my buddy) who should have known better. The question is where on earth these people would go. Who would want them? In the meantime I will try to remind myself that there are a great many good people out there doing good things that never make the news. But as the population expands not only does the number of good people grow (we would hope) but also the number of nutters who garner all the attention.