Hacked E-Mails, Leaks and Transparency

Are we enabling hackers? Every time someone is hacked, not only is the fact known, but what is hacked is made public. Sure the gossipy part of us reads what Colin Powell had to say about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But do we actually need to know what he said? Is that truly newsworthy? What cause has been advanced? The ratings of certain news outlets or the voyeuristic part of us? Same thing when Sony was hacked a while back. Careers were lost over it, but was it necessary for us to know what celebrity said about what executive? The media make no distinction between what is relevant and what is not. Similarly they make no distinction between leaks, which are at times legitimate, that is when they have no axe to grind, and hacks. In the personality base media age, it is tempting to go for the lowest denominator—one way our culture has gotten to be the way it is—but that does not mean it is right, or constructive. Indications are that Russia was behind hacking Powell’s email. That’s important and something we need to know.
Transparency may be a need, but hacking is not to the way achieve it. And so we need new guidelines to better handle hacked material. We need media to abstain from using it just to use it. We need them to better gauge what is really in the national interest and what is in the given media outlet’s interest. We need a public to refrain from consuming the information. For as long as we do, it is incentive for the media to continue. I respect and applaud the self-restraint of Dave Pell not providing a link in his piece on Colin Powell’s hacked emails in his NextDraft newsletter. Why can’t more of us follow the example. In most instances, it is enough to report a hack has occurred. The way it stands, we make it worthwhile for hackers to continue. We reward them, encourage them and perpetuate a problematic status quo.

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