On authenticity and friendship

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

One last note about the tax board member and weblog writing, if for no other reason to clarify that it was not the IRS I was referencing – it was the California Franchise (tax) board. I was reluctant to mention the name for some reasons I didn’t want to get into, but I wasn’t comfortable with the continuing misunderstanding that it was the IRS.

In the comments associated with the post ShhhBill Kearney in his usual sensitive and tactful way writes:

This is nothing new. As McNealy said, you have no privacy, get over it. I’m always reminded of Claude Raines’ role in Casablanca when I hear this sort of thing “shocked, shocked I say to hear…”

The only difference here is the realm of physical expression usually kept people from making fools of themselves to too wide an audience. Now that it’s world-wide the potential’s much greater. Is this the fault of the technology or the people? Are they lesser fools if they’re not on the world-wide stage? Greater if they are?

To me this just raises the question of personal integrity to more sharper focus. If one could succeed behaving in a manner that would cause them discomfort if revealed should they expect to get away with it? If it was just chance and a small audience that coddled their notions shoudl the larger audience hide itself from them?

If someone’s going to be ‘out there on the web’ they need to know what that means. To pretend otherwise is foolish, at best, but most certainly naive.

What’s next, someone blogging their house got robbed because they blogged about going on vacation?

I don’t think any of us are surprised, per se, when someone from the ‘outside world’ mentions they read our weblog. Still, as Stavros writes, to be boggled, even a little, when your public journal is revealed to be just that – entirely public – is neither foolish nor naive.

Was I surprised? There are details of the conversation with the tax board that I won’t repeat, but yes, in the nature of the conversation I had with her, I was surprised. More than that, I was made very uneasy. In some ways, in the course of everyday chit chat, talking about everyday things, I felt that I had came close to incriminating myself – in a situation where no crime had occurred. So, yes, I was surprised.

Francoise and Mary bring up the fact that the pages I’m deleting are in Google cache, and in the Wayback Machine. True, if any government agency or other organization wanted to dig, I imagine that at least for a while, they could find this information. But before we jump into a situation where an Oppressive Regime has overcome our country and we have to flee with 7 favorite books, a little perspective here: I am not the CEO of Enron. I am not that important.

It makes sense for the tax board member to put my name into Google and do a bit of reading. It makes less sense that she would spends hours, days even, trying to find cached data or go through the Wayback Machine.

Now if I had been the CEO of Enron, I could see this happening. Of course, I couldn’t image Kenneth Lay having a weblog. Can you imagine the entries:

The wife and I are going to dinner tomorrow night at that new Italian place. I’ll be sure to let you know how it is. We’re also looking into taking a very long vacation soon. Some place out of the country, hopefully warn with no extradition treaty with the US.

I decided to swindle millions from the company shareholders, today. Oh, and the cat isn’t feeling well.

No, I’ll delete the old records, and be more discrete in the future – because I don’t like hearing that information come up in conversation, not because I am guilty of a crime or loss of integrity – thank you very much. But I won’t go any further in my efforts, because I am not guilty of a crime.

I think it was Jeneane, though, that brought up the most interesting aspect of this whole incident. She also writes in her weblog:

Just to clarify something: We’re not talking about a public journal being read by the public in this instance. We’re talking about what you’ve written in public within your weblog, which, HELLO, could be fact or could be fiction, being used by the government in their financial assessment of you and what you may or may not owe them.

Not sure about you or Shelley, but I’m just thrilled to know that the IRS is a valued reader of this blog, just as I’ll be thrilled to have a chat with the HMO folks over the phone one day, indicating that they’ve read every sentence I’ve written about my daughter’s asthma, and would like to deal with me financially based on the pixel trail I left behind.

And what if I told you it’s all a lie? What if I told you I made it up? What if I confessed she’s never wheezed in her life? What if I say, that was all an experiment to guage the interest of my readers on specific topics, or, if I declare that I was doing research? Or, that it was ENTERTAINMENT, not necessarily fact?

The issue of telling the truth or not has been discussed before, but lets face it, the fact that we now know that government agencies are for a fact reading our weblogs, how does this impact on our writing?

Can you imagine what most would make of Oblivio’s weblog?

Every A-list blogger that can get themselves into print is talking about the honesty of the voices in weblogging; how weblogs are personal journals; Weblogs are impressions and facts written by real people. Now imagine what happens when the weblogger pushes and pulls the truth, just a little – just to make things more interesting?

What if I had talked about this great job I found that’s paying me six figures? What the tax board is hearing is that I’ve had not the best of times and would like to make payments for the corporate tax owed. What’s going to happen when what I write in this weblog is not consistent with what I say is happening in ‘real’ life?

Of course, none of this is ever going to happen to you. You’re never going to have what you write brought up by a creditor or government agency. Or friend or family member or boss. You never bitch about work. In fact, you never mention it. You never write on impulse. Your writing is impersonal and completely risk free.

Must be dull to be you.

Speaking of authenticity, a note of thanks to two authentic ladies who have been above and beyond good friends, particularly this week for reasons that I think I’ll just keep to my own bloody self. Jeneane and Sheila, thank you both.

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