The “Right to be Let Alone”

“Once someone becomes a public figure, however unwillingly, he or she is forever fair game for the press.” – Anthony Lewis in Freedom for the Thought We Hate

In this quote Lewis perfectly sums up the circumstances of James Sidis and the Hill family. James Sidis was thrown into the public eye because of his father. James was a genius- he allegedly was reading The New York Times by the time he was eighteen months; all because his father forced him into studying and collecting knowledge until he reached his capacity. Similarly, the Hill family was thrust into the spotlight because of convicts who invaded their home. This incident became a popular news story, and so the Hills’ became public figures as well. Unfortunately, their status did not protect them from the press. The press exploited their personal lives, and unfortunately (even with Nixon on their side) they lost suits regarding their privacy.

The press took a huge toll on these people, and it remains an obstacle for those in the public eye today. The paparazzi and tabloids come to mind when thinking about exploiting privacy. This type of press may contribute to fantastic water-cooler conversation, but the constant yelling and flashing lights becomes to much for many celebrities. This rules true even for self-proclaimed “God” Kanye West. West, although known to boast about his fame and fortune, is known to despise the paparazzi. On a few occasions, he’s even acted out violently towards the press. The loathing behind these acts of violence truly speaks to the mental toll of exploiting one’s privacy.

Brandeis and Warren advocated for privacy rights- “the right to be let alone” is the law review they wrote that detailed what would be inappropriate to publish. However, It seems today so many people are so caught up in water-cooler talk, that no one sees the need to advocate for privacy anymore.

One thought on “The “Right to be Let Alone”

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  1. Great points. It’s worth thinking about the differences though between Sidis, the Hills and Kanye West. At the time the New Yorker published the article mocking him, he had actually been out of the spotlight for years and was as close to a private citizen as one can imagine. The Hills were legitimately public figures due to the interest in the horrific crime of which they were victims. At one point, they were certainly newsworthy although not of their own volition. Kanye West is another story completely. He simultaneously courts and despises the media. I imagine that he and Kim Kardashian and their agents would be thrown into fits however, if the media ever stopped covering the pair. They, of all people, have no privacy claims.


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