Donald Sterling and the shrinking private sphere

Still, to agree that Sterling had to go once the tape had been leaked is not to agree that such a process is welcome in and of itself, nor is it to presume that the instinct to burn the witches that always accompanies such freak-outs is a virtuous or praiseworthy thing. Donald Sterling did not make these comments in public, nor did he act upon them in any documented manner. (His record as an alleged “slumlord,” although appalling if true, predated his role at the Clippers and is wholly separate from it.) Once again, a man has been pushed out of his job for his private views — held up as a bigot who could not be permitted to be around others. This at least should give us pause — even if his words should not.

Cato’s Julian Sanchez argued early on in the brouhaha that Sterling’s “right response here is; ‘It’s none of your business what I said or why during a private phone call’.” Alas, we do not live in a world where this reaction is likely to obtain. But perhaps we should? Privacy of all sorts is indispensable to a diverse and free culture — a vital means of ensuring that individuals may behave as they wish in their own space without being punished for it. There is a reason that our courts are obliged to discount evidence that has been taken illegally, and that the process by which information is obtained is typically considered to be important regardless of what it reveals.

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