Welcome to Personhood: SCOTUS Rules No Personal Privacy for AT&T

The Supreme Court, after recognizing corporations as legal persons in their Citizens United decision, has now ruled that AT&T does not have a right to personal privacy. Welcome to personhood, AT&T!

Here’s some background: AT&T over-prices some of the equipment it was selling to schools (schools!). The FCC investigates. AT&T’s competitors file a FoIA to make the investigation’s findings public. AT&T claims the FoIA request is a violation of their personal privacy. The SCOTUS denies their right to personal privacy. AT&T and other corporations join the ranks of the rest of us “persons” who are given no right to personal privacy in the US.

It’s worth remembering that this is the very same AT&T that denies their own customers a right to personal privacy. From SFGate.comwaaaaaay back in 2006:

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday … The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing … The company’s policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

Irony abounds.

Eight Takes on Play

From John Dewey‘s Democracy and Education, pp 205-206:

It is important not to confuse the psychological distinction between play and work with the economic distinction. Psychologically, the defining characteristic of play is not amusement nor aimlessness. It is the fact that the aim is thought of as more activity in the same line, without defining continuity of action in reference to results produced. Activities as they grow more complicated gain added meaning by greater attention to specific results achieved. Thus they pass gradually into work. Both are equally free and intrinsically motivated, apart from false economic conditions which tend to make play into idle excitement for the well to do, and work into uncongenial labor for the poor. Work is psychologically simply an activity which consciously includes regard for consequences as a part of itself; it becomes constrained labor when the consequences are outside of the activity as an end to which activity is merely a means. Work which remains permeated with the play attitude is art — in quality if not in conventional designation.

From Erik Erikson‘s Identity: Youth and Crisis, pp 164-165:

It is true, of course, that the adolescent, during the final stage of his identity formation, is apt to suffer more deeply than he ever did before or ever will again from a confusion of roles . . . Much of this apparent confusion thus must be considered social play — the true genetic successor of childhood play. Similarly, the adolescent’s ego development demands and permits playful, if daring, experimentation in fantasy and introspection . . . Whether or not a given adolescent’s newly acquired capacities are drawn back into infantile conflict depends to a significant extent on the quality of the opportunities and rewards available to him in his peer clique as well as on the more formal ways in which society at large invites a transition from social play to work experimentation and from rituals of transit to final commitments, all of which must be based on an implicit mutual contract between the individual and society.

From Cindi Katz‘s Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives, pp 96:

Each of these phenomena individually and collectively changed the everyday lives of children in Howa, impinging on the relationship between work and play in ways that anticipated and seemed to reinforce the stricter deviations between work and leaser time that characterized industrial capitalism. Under these conditions, work is valorized while play is trivialized as something done only in childhood or in time off from work. But the relationship between work and play is more vibrant and fertile than that, and in Howa its potency was still apparent . . . For one, children’s playful activities, like play almost everywhere, remained a psychological reservoir, an oasis for imagining things and themselves differently, for experimenting with various social and cultural relations, and for exercising what Walter Benjamin (1978a) called the mimetic faculty, where, in the acts of seeing resemblances and creating similarities, the power of making something utterly new lies coiled.

From Kurt Lewin‘s A Dynamic Theory of Personality, pp 105:

The fundamental dynamic property of play is that it has to do with events which belong in one respect to the level of reality, namely, in so far as they are activities to other persons (e.g., as against daydreams). But at the same time play behavior is much less bound by the laws of reality than is nonplay behavior: both the goal setting and the execution are in much greater degree subject to the pleasure of the person . . . The play field is hence a region more or less limited as regards reality which shows even in its content a most immediate relation to the unreality of air castles and wish ideals.

From Jean Piaget‘s Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood, pp 147-150:

[Play] is determined by a certain orientation of the behavior, or by a general “pole” of the activity, each particular action being characterized by its greater or less proximity to the pole and by the kind of equilibrium between the polarized tendencies . . . play is distinguishable by a modification, varying in degree, of the conditions of equilibrium between reality and the ego. We can therefore say that if adapted activity and thought constitute an equilibrium between assimilation and accommodation, play begins as soon as there is predominance of assimilation . . . Since all thought involves assimilation, and ludic assimilation is only distinctive in that it subordinates accommodation instead of being in equilibrium with it, play is to be conceived as being both related to adapted thought by a continuous sequence of intermediaries, and bound up with thought as a whole, of which it is only one pole, more or less differentiated.

From the Playgroup UK Ltd‘s Role of Play in Engaging the Youth Market:

From Article 31 of the U.N.‘s Convention on the Rights of the Child:

  1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
  2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

From Lev Vygotsky‘s Mind and Society, pp 102-104:

Though the play-development relationship can be compared to the instruction-development relationship, play provides a much wider background for changes in needs and consciousness . . . For the school child, play becomes a more limited form of activity, predominantly of the athletic type, which fills a specific role in the school child’s development but lacks the significance of play for the preschooler. At school age play does not die away but permeates the attitude towards reality. It has its own inner continuation in school instruction and work (compulsory activity based on rules). It is the essence of play that a new relation is created between the field of meaning and the visual field – that is, between situations in thought and real situations.

FDR on Security

A good deal of my dissertation is concerned with notions of security, and insecurity, in informational environments. While my primary concern is with young people’s experiences and understandings of cyber(in)security, I’ve also taken an interest in contemporary and historical discourses of security (e.g. Seven Takes on Security). So, I was excited to see Michael Moore discuss Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights” in his new documentary. In his final 1944 State of the Union speech, with the U.S. near the end of WWII, FDR called for “a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all.” What’s more, the focus on security is often related to “our children” — he describes “a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children will gain something better than mere survival” in the 4th sentence.

In summarizing his diplomatic discussions with “Mr. Hull,” “the Generalissimo,” “Marshal Stalin,” and “Prime Minister Churchill,” FDR defines a new supreme objective for the future:

The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each Nation individually, and for all the United Nations, can be summed up in one word: Security.

And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security—in a family of Nations. (emphasis added)

The speech, which you can read in full at TeachingAmericanHistory.org, concludes with a call for a “second Bill of Rights” to ensure such economic, social, and moral security:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

  1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  5. The right of every family to a decent home;
  6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  8. The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being. (emphasis added)

It’s notable that he links the expansion of our industrial economy with a need for new rights to ensure equality in the pursuit of happiness. I rarely hear “security” discussed in terms of ensuring happiness. I also find his “Necessitous men” quote notable (4th paragraph above). The FDR American Heritage Center includes a footnote for this quote, from The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt Vol XIII, that states:

“Necessitous men,” says the Lord Chancellor, in Vernon v Bethell, 2 Eden 113 (1762), “are not, truly speaking, free men; but, to answer a present emergency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose on them.”

Security, to FDR, is thus physical, economic, social, and moral. It is necessary for the equal pursuit of happiness in an industrial economy. And, it affords citizens the freedom to resist terms imposed on them from the “crafty” during emergencies.

Of course, FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights” never materialized in America and his declaration that “we shall not repeat the excesses of the wild twenties when this Nation went for a joy ride on a roller coaster which ended in a tragic crash” was unfortunately proven false. America – Fuck Yeah!


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