February 6, 2012

February 6, 2012

Not Intended for Public Release

As a fan of The Colbert Report, I’ve been following Colbert’s Super PAC shenanigans with great amusement. I love how his overt mockery covertly subverts the entire political process. (I carefully thought through that sentence, and I think it says what I mean.) It’s the sort of non-confrontational thing I myself prefer to do. Instead of answering a stupid question with a quick stupid answer, I prefer to use a long answer that just emphasizes the questioner’s idiocy. But that’s a therapy session for another day.

When the Colbert Super PAC opened for donations, I considered it. Despite being the show’s only Republican viewer, I really wanted to see “Heather ‘MedevaM’ Mrockosockowiczkashavich”* on the donor ticker Colbert placed at the bottom of the screen during the entirety of his program. Boy, am I glad I didn’t. As it turns out, Super PACs are required to make their donor lists—including names, addresses, donation amounts, and employer information—public. So that PDF is now on the internet and searchable for the rest of eternity.

I don’t see it as primarily a privacy issue, since Facebook and the Patriot Act have effectively eliminated the concept. I see it as a poor value proposition. I feel like the Founding Fathers were on to something when they decided to make a limited number of copies of the important documents and take them on tour to an adoring public. We all know that limited editions are the best, for everything from ice cream to albums. You got something in high demand, you don’t make an unlimited supply. It’s basic economics! (Note: may not actually be basic economics.)

In colonial times, there were, what, like a million people in America? Did George Washington have a million copies of the Declaration of Independence made? No. He had a few made, posted them in the big cities and town squares, and called it a day. Did Martin Luther FedEx his theses all over Europe? No. He knew that sticking to a single original (the most limited of editions) would maximize effect. Or something. And now, I believe that original is worth eleventy trillion dollars. It’s basic economics! (Note: may actually be basic capitalism.) Whereas the list of Colbert Super PAC donors is eight, nine bucks, tops.

Wider distribution isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just wider.

* Not my actual name, but unfortunately very close.

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