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  • Emilie Surrusco

The meaning of privacy

Former News of the World reporter Paul McMullan has turned the journalism world upside down with his defense of the questionable tactics he and others used to ferret out what he so boldly calls ” the truth.” My opinion as a journalist aside, his statements about privacy bring up some interesting questions when it comes to abuse survivors – from Jerry Sandusky’s victims, to my friend Gretl, to me.

In twenty-one years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good. Privacy is the space bad people need to do things in. Privacy is evil; it brings out the worst qualities in people. Privacy is for paedos; fundamentally, nobody else needs it,” said McMullan.

Privacy becomes the ultimate excuse to turn and look the other way. In fact, up until the 1970s our legal system used privacy as the excuse to  disregard domestic violence as a serious crime. That attitude still persists today. Less than half of the 50 states have mandatory arrest policies on the books when it comes to domestic violence. The other half leave the decision to arrest to the discretion of local police.

McMullan seems to believe in a world where there is no line between what is private and what’s not. While I believe there must be some boundaries, I also believe that he makes an important point about the fact that privacy can create a space for bad people to hide.

What happens behind closed doors becomes everyone’s business when privacy is just one more excuse for turning a blind eye to abuse.

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