Sunday, January 27, 2008

Protecting our public privacy

I don’t get many responses to posts on the Red Electric, but two readers have responded to last night’s essay about recorded voice ads on the Portland Streetcars.

I appreciate the comments, even though I disagree with them.

Both reflect the reaction I got from the Portland Streetcar Citizen Advisory Committee when I complained about intrusive voice sponsorships of trolley stops.

I have the sense that the committee, and my two readers, wonder what planet I had been living on. Their view seems to be: “Ads are everywhere; get used to it.”

Well, believe it or not, there are societies that respect the privacy of citizens even when they are in public places. Some societies do not treat our need to use public transit as an opportunity to sell us out to commercial interests. And yes, public officials can find other ways to financially support mass transit. In fact, Portland's trolleys are largely supported by parking meter fees.

That said, most transit systems have visual advertising. At least they can be screened out. You don’t have to look at billboards or placard s(you can always read a book), but it is impossible to not hear recorded messages (Wait, maybe that’s why they invented iPods!).

As noted, I also resent the ads' suggestion that publicly, tax-payer financed street intersections are “sponsored” by advertisers.

In the end, the Red Electric’s two readers and the citizens’ advisory committee are politely telling me that I am fighting a battle that has been lost.

So be it. But with the defeat, and those that follow it, go, over time, the idea that there is a “Commons” — places (schools, parks, libraries, streetcars, airports) that belong to we, the People. Beyond that, the notions of government of, by and for the People, of community and the common good are certain to be eroded.

At some point, my critics may, just may, decide to draw the line — and wish that that had done so sooner. Like now.



Anonymous Steve Rawley said...

Rick, it's not a lost cause, and even if it is, it's still worth fighting for.

Thanks for raising your voice on this.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Al M said...

I happen to agree with you. Annoying is an understatement!

6:51 AM  

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