I’m not going to waste time listening to the tape of a conversation between the 81-year-old billionaire owner of the Clippers and his 20-something girlfriend that has everyone in an uproar about his racism.
It’s a private conversation, for goodness sake. At least it was, before the girlfriend [euphemism] recorded it and had it publicized. From the summaries I’ve read, it seems that Sterling’s racism is some blend that involves feeling sexually threatened by the GF going out with black men and flaunting it by publishing photos of herself with the guys.
Well, now Sterling’s got a lot more than that to worry about.
In sum: I am not interested in exposing anyone’s private thoughtcrime racism, sexism, anything-ism you can name—even if the “ism” is against a group of which I’m a member. What am I interested in? Discriminatory acts, including membership in an organization devoted to the promotion of racist policies. Behavior, that is, not speech or mere thought. People can be racist or sexist or even neoneoconist in their secret hearts of hearts and I won’t make a fuss, as long as they don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.
Do I like racism or approve of it? No. Do I want to associate with Donald Sterling? No, no, a thousand times no. I was much happier before I even heard of the loathsome guy and his paramour.
But—and this is the most important part—I think people are entitled to think the way they want, and to express those thoughts in private without fear of being recorded and having the results blasted all over the news. I’m funny that way.
And most people used to think the same thing. At least I think they did. That’s why we have little things called wiretapping laws:
California’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632. The statute applies to “confidential communications” — i.e., conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. See Flanagan v. Flanagan, 41 P.3d 575, 576-77, 578-82 (Cal. 2002). A California appellate court has ruled that this statute applies to the use of hidden video cameras to record conversations as well. See California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204 (Cal Ct. App. 1989).
If you are recording someone without their knowledge in a public or semi-public place like a street or restaurant, the person whom you’re recording may or may not have “an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation,” and the reasonableness of the expectation would depend on the particular factual circumstances. Therefore, you cannot necessarily assume that you are in the clear simply because you are in a public place.
If you are operating in California, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you might be “private” or “confidential.” In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the California wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Cal. Penal Code § 637.2.
Are most people even aware of these laws? Do most people understand their importance? Do most people think that outing racists trumps their right to privacy? I suspect as much, but I shudder to think so.
[ADDENDUM: And then there's this:
Sterling’s wife is embroiled in a bitter lawsuit against V. Stiviano, who she alleges in the suit, “engages in conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat, and/or receive as gifts transfers of wealth from wealthy older men whom she targets for such purpose. Plaintiff is informed and believes and theron alleges that One such target was D. Sterling.”
The lawsuit, filed on by Rochelle H. Sterling on March 7 of this year, lists the defendant as V. Stiviano, aka Vanessa Maria Perez, aka Monica Gallegos, aka Maria Monica Perez Gallegos, aka Maria Valdez.
The suit claims Sterling bought Stiviano a 2012 Ferrari, two Bentleys and a 2013 Range Rover, with a total exceeding $500,000...
The Clippers, in a statement Saturday, said, “We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believed released it to TMZ Sports — is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family, alleging that she embezzeled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would get even.”
I'd say she's succeeded.]