A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Snowflake Falls In Northern Virginia

News item: a Fairfax County school student received detention after posting a phone message left by a school adminstrator’s wife on the Internet. The student had left a message on the administrator’s home phone to inquire why school had not been cancelled when a storm brought three inches of snow to the area. The angry spouse reacted with harsh words for the student without resorting to profanity. The message attracted the attention of such major news organizations as The Washington Post and Fox News, among others, after it was posted on the YouTube web site.

The circulation of this story has raised questions about what constitutes privacy. Should the student have called the administrator? Should the administrator’s wife have referred to the matter to her husband? Should the whole thing have been released on the World Wide Web? What about the snow? Well, the answers are “no”, “perhaps”, “perhaps not”, and “it melted without leaving a comment”.

Before we get to the privacy issue, we should once again review northern Virginia’s attitude towards snowfall. Basically, we can sum it up this way: an inch or so of snow falling in northern Virginia is equivalent to the end of the world as we know it. Cars are abandoned, super markets are sacked as if the Huns had invaded them, and the federal government shuts down. My readers in that area may grumble that this is an exaggeration, but it is not too far from the mark. Therefore, we must keep this in mind: one snowflake on the Beltway is considered a justifiable cause for mass hysteria.

The student’s initial call to the administrator’s house shows both initiative and disrespect. Only this student had the chutzpah to make this call; maybe he's the next Donald Trump. On the other hand, I would never have made that call myself because I would respect the individual’s privacy. It turns out that this is an old-fashioned idea, particularly now with the YouTube generation fully engulfed around us.

I can’t fully blame the administrator’s wife for being angry; after all, her privacy had been invaded too. I was surprised that her message had no profanities in it, given the passion of her delivery. On the other hand, I hope this psycho gets anger management counseling soon; this woman is headed for a heart attack.

Then there is the release of the phone message to the Internet, which I think is the real reason many people are talking about this incident. The student defended his actions because his generation has grown up with a different sense of privacy. Many of us older folk who have cherished the old ideas of privacy are stunned at this argument, but why should we be surprised?

The boy is 100% correct. Anything that his generation does can be easily recorded on a cell phone and plugged into the World Wide Web for everyone’s amusement. Also, his generation came of age when the President of the United States, leader of the free world, and human symbol of international democracy, has been accused of circumventing Constitutionally mandated court approval in listening to private phone conversations of everyday American citizens.

Our sense of privacy has melted away with the snow.


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