The lesson here isn’t that Hollywood executives, producers, agents and stars must watch themselves. It isn’t to beware of totalitarian states. It’s to beware, period. If it isn’t a foreign nemesis monitoring and meddling with you, then it’s potentially a merchant examining your buying patterns, an employer trawling for signs of disloyalty or indolence, an acquaintance turned enemy, a random hacker with an amorphous grudge — or of course the federal government.
And while this spooky realization prompts better behavior in certain circumstances that call for it and is only a minor inconvenience in other instances, make no mistake: It’s a major loss. Those moments and nooks in life that permit you to be your messiest, stupidest, most heedless self? They’re quickly disappearing if not already gone.
Though I find various aspects of Bruni’s article insulting (e.g. “…the flesh that Jennifer Lawrence flashed to more people than she ever intended…”) the discussion of who are the most common threat actors that people have to worry about is a fair point. It’s also important to discuss, and discuss regularly, that the ‘defences’ which are commonly preached to protect our privacy are fraught with risk. While being silent, not associating with one another, or not reading certain things online might keep one ‘safe’, engaging in such censorious activities runs counter to the freedoms that we ought to cherish.
Such responses ignore the costs — often paid in blood or years of people’s lives— that have gone into fighting for the freedoms that we now enjoy and that are engrained in our constitutions, our laws, and our social norms. They forget the men and women who fight and die on battlefields to protect the freedoms of citizens of other nations. And, perhaps most significantly, such responses demonstrate how larger social movements directed at enshrining our freedoms through collective action are set aside, often cynically, so that we can try and resolve the problems we all face as individuals instead of as collective political actors. Self-censorship isn’t just a means of ensuring self-protection; it’s an exhibition of citizens’ unwillingness to at try and utilize our political processes to resolve common social ills.