There Are No Secrets Anymore

Disgraced politician Anthony Weiner has been disgraced yet again…and again, it’s all about some raunchy texts. I can’t really laugh at him, because it’s obvious that he’s dealing with some life-deforming demons that I know too well. My prayer is that he would reach to the heavens for the rescue he desperately needs.

In a brief piece at National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke makes an interesting point about technology and immorality. Years ago, this kind of infidelity was hard to keep secret, because it required physical presence. Then, with technology, it got really easy to keep secret. But now, with the way that modern smartphone technology tracks and archives everything, secrecy is impossible yet again:

By the 1950s, everybody had a car, which they could use to get to the next town — or farther. Motels popped everywhere, as did their discreet proprietors. And the analog telephone provided a means by which those who were up to no good could communicate instantly, and without leaving a substantial record. So fundamentally did this transform American life that traditionalists complained openly about the deleterious effect that modernity was having on conventional mores…

[I]s this still true? I think not, no. Now, there are cameras everywhere. Now, most people carry cell phones and drive cars that track their movement by satellite. Now, most communication is conducted via intermediate servers, and spread across multiple devices. In 1960, the average American could make a sordid phone call without there being any chance that it would be taped. Today, with a $3 app, anybody can record any conversation and send it anywhere in the world in a few seconds…Put plainly, it is now nigh on impossible for anybody to get away with infidelity, especially if one is a public figure.

Maybe we could put it like this: In the age of the iPhone, doing something lascivious while no one is watching is the easiest it’s ever been–but doing it without anyone ever knowing is virtually (pun not intended) impossible. At the very least, those naked pictures and crass text messages are being stored somewhere, on technology that someone with a name and two eyes built and maintains.

Surely, as Cooke writes of Weiner, we know this to be the case. So why is there so much explicitness on cloud servers? I can think of two answers.

First, sexual temptation is stronger, always has been stronger, and always will be stronger than logic. This is why Solomon urges his son to not even walk down the street where the adulterous woman lives.

Second, though: Is it possible that many in Western culture are actually OK with the idea of people they’ll never meet having access to their naked bodies and lewd messages? Could it be that our pornified consciousness has actually numbed us to the point where, even if we know that our texts and pictures stop belonging to us the moment we press “Send,” we don’t really care? Have we, as the prophets warned, actually become the very smut we love?

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3 thoughts on “There Are No Secrets Anymore

  1. I was just watching an old film from the mid-1940’s, and there was a scene in which the two main characters are at some kind of street carnival. They go up to these machines which have viewing lenses and put in dimes to watch little film clips. The woman character quickly straightens up from what she is looking at and says to the man, “Aren’t any of these for women?” I suddenly realized that they were looking at what old story books refer to as peep shows and I also suddenly realized that the content of those peep shows was at best soft porn. Yet, they were only considered a minor, perhaps a little naughty, part of public entertainment. I’ve lost count of the number of old films, often Westerns or War films made in the 40’s or 50’s, when I’ve suddenly realized that in the background there is a naked or scantily clad female painted on the wall of a bar or canteen. The set designers would have said they were simply depicting the scene as it would have been, and they would be correct – the bars of the west and the canteens of WWII era armies were decorated thus. That doesn’t make it any less reprehensible, but as the Preacher says, “do not ask what is the reason that the former days were better than these, for you do not enquire wisely concerning this.” The internet might make the exposure more widespread, but the exposure has always been easily within view of the public.

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