Privacy: General McChrystal and Rolling Stone

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-dc_McChrystal_2009_in_Kabul.jpgGeneral McChrystal in happy days before Rolling Stone.

Our summer series continues this week with a provocative look at one of the fears emerging for millions: Privacy. Our guest writer this week is freelance journalist Tim Moran.

Why are people on all sides so angry about the Rolling Stone magazine story that led to the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal? The top U.S. general in Afghanistan was summoned to Washington and his resignation was accepted by President Barack Obama after a June article in Rolling Stone by freelance writer Michael Hastings revealed crude locker-room banter by the general’s key staff about high civilian leaders.

The Hastings article did more than take down a powerful general, though. It hit a national nerve that has led to finger-pointing and strong words among and between groups in the military, in politics, in the media, and even between neighbors and friends.

The anger is leading to hard language, one example being writer Matt Taibbi’s harsh response to television correspondent Lara Logan.

What do you think about all this? What’s driving your own response to these events? It seems to me that it’s not simply the forced switch from one highly effective general to another in Afghanistan that is troubling us. Military organizations, after all, must function in such a way that everyone is expendable, and Gen. McChrystal will surely find magnificent future employment.

Instead, I think it’s because the story touches all of us when it comes to concepts of privacy. We work very hard to build up personae, the public faces we show. We all know that the persona shield is fragile, that the privacy it guards is really important and yet can be blown away in a heartbeat. Every one of us can picture ourselves in the general’s shoes, with our unguarded selves suddenly displayed to a morbidly curious and potentially angry world or, worse, to the key people who love and trust us.

Gen. McChrystal’s case is special in that he invited in the reporter and yet still expected privacy. Even as we say “How stupid!” we remember that for most of us, there are virtual “reporters” that we similarly invite into our private lives. Technology is sniffing at our most intimate secrets and blurring the lines we draw between public and private; most of us are only a keystroke or two away from blowing our persona, or having some third party do it to us.

That seems to me to be one reason for the anger out there; Rolling Stone’s case has become a focus for our own privacy fears.

This week we’ll explore emerging privacy issues that touch millions of lives every day. What do you think about the case of General McChrystal and Rolling Stone? And, what do you think about larger privacy issues we face everyday?

TIM MORAN is a longtime freelance journalist whose work has appeared in national publications. Tim has written about a wide variety of topics, with concentrations in business, technology, and automotive subjects. He is a second-year graduate student at Wayne State University where he is studying history, a lifelong passion.

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