For several years, there has been a movement to provide transparency in various parts of society. Boards of public companies, schools and charities have started to show their shareholders and constituents more details involved in decision making and running their operations. Restaurants introduced “open kitchens” whereby diners could see straight into the kitchens to see how food was prepared. Transparency became so important, that when US President Obama declared his run for the presidency in 2008, he pledged to deal with the US public in a transparent manner to “strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
But do we want transparency all of the time? Do we need to actually see and read everything?
When I dine at a restaurant, I come to eat. I am not one that is interested in the open kitchen floor plan and seeing how the meal is prepared. If I want a lesson in food preparation, there are enough television shows on cable TV or the Web to educate me.
The only thing that I want to see from the kitchen is someone donning an oven mitt and pulling out a fresh delicious dish to consume. My appetite is actually compromised by seeing the stained aprons and sweating staff chopping and slicing my meal.
I am not alone. The world has come to recognize that too much transparency can be a negative experience. A simple health inspector grade on the front window of the restaurant is often more than enough for the masses.
One of the less remarkable channels on cable is C-SPAN, the Cable-Satellite Public Access Network. The channel airs hours of “riveting” sessions of the US government at work, including hours and hours of members of the House of Representatives speaking so their mothers at home can see them on TV. But, I imagine, even their parents tune off after five minutes to return to a rerun of Shark Tank.
We really don’t want to see that much.
When presidential hopeful Jeb Bush released 33 years of tax returns, the public was left with a feeling that the man had nothing to hide. The public hoped (and assumed) that someone in the media (or his political opponents) would actually dig through the materials and summarize it in two brief paragraphs.
We really don’t want to read that much.
Today’s data-overloaded public simply wants to be told whether to swipe right or swipe left. It does not want the full brunt of exposure to such much raw information.
Hillary Clinton’s Emails
Hillary Clinton has often stated that she has been “transparent” with the American people about the use of a private email server for her work activities while she was Secretary of State. Whether in September 2015, when she said she has “tried to be as transparent as I can” or in March 2015 ,when she said “once the American public begins to see the e- mails, they will have an unprecedented insight into a high government official’s daily communications, which I think will be quite interesting.”
Psst, Hillary. No one cares about your 60,000 emails. They only care that you opted to delete half of them.
The simple way of being transparent is by being transparent. The best way to show that you have something to hide is by not only hiding information, but by deleting and destroying it. Mission accomplished.
As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote on February 14, 2016, young people do not connect with Hillary, because “she’s coming up drastically short on trustworthiness.”
Transparency When Things Go Bad
Airplanes have flight recorders known as “black boxes” which capture flight details and conversations in the cockpit. This data is useful should there ever be an accident, so investigators can uncover what transpired to cause the incident. Should the plane land safely, the data on the recorders can be erased and reused for the next flight.
Pilots are not allowed to tamper with those flight recorders. Should an accident occur, a pilot would be unauthorized to retrieve the black box and remove or tamper with any information.
Similarly, if people die from food poisoning in a restaurant, the letter grade on the front window would be immediately ignored. The board of health would demand complete access to the kitchen – whether in an open floor plan or not.
When things are calm, transparency can be overwhelming. When things go bad, transparency is essential.
It would be bad enough if Hillary Clinton ran her own email service and deleted half of the emails – and nothing bad ever happened on her watch. But the killing of Americans in Libya led to investigations of her department. The amount of money that poured into the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments while she was in office led to conflicts of interest every day.
For Hillary to claim that other Secretaries of State may have used private email accounts is a flawed red herring. They did not delete and destroy tens of thousands of emails. They did not have spouses who were taking millions of dollars from foreign governments. They did not have a foreign embassy get overrun.
Hillary Clinton’s email scandal will forever taint her as untrustworthy. Whether she ultimately goes to prison or the White House is uncertain. But the stain on her reputation is permanent and clear.
The only thing that is transparent for Hillary, is her commitment to do anything to get elected.
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