Those who have nothing to hide…

14 Dec

Someone posted the following quote on Facebook a few weeks ago that I happened to notice:

“Next time someone hauls out that cliche of ‘if you did nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to hide,’ ask for all their passwords & put them online.” – Glenn Greenwald

It is an interesting quote…I’m not sure that the analogy is not perfect, but I do think it is illustrative of the point that Greenwald* was trying to get across: we shouldn’t feel forced into revealing any and all information that is asked of us based on the logic of “well if you’re innocent, then you’ll be fine.”  In fact, that’s one reason why we have some constitutional rights that protect us from illegal search and seizure and grant us due process (disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer!).

That quote in and of itself is interesting and perhaps deserves some attention and discussion…

But what made me think of it was hearing about the recent Saints’ “bounty gate” scandal developments.  In a sense, this is what Jonathan Vilma of the Saints stood up for.  Early on, Vilma refused to go talk to NFL Commissioner Goodell about this scandal because he believed it was a “witch hunt”.  As someone who proclaimed his own innocence, Vilma didn’t feel that he should be obligated to take part in such a “witch hunt”.  Many in the media said that if he was innocent, he would have gone immediately.  They then assumed that his refusal to go was evidence of his guilt.  “Otherwise, why would he hide…”


As it turns out, his suspensions and fines were just lifted.  In doing this, the NFL essentially admitted that they don’t have any hard evidence tying him to what they claimed he was doing as far as bounty gate went**.  Vilma decided that he wouldn’t give in to the “if you’re innocent, then you have nothing to hide” logic.  He was punished, but he fought back and he won.  I’m sure that it was more frustrating and tedious than he possibly could have imagined, but it seems to have paid off for him (quite literally – fine money and salary).  He also took a stand that may help serve some who come along later; his actions also may help combat that “if you’re innocent you’ve got nothing to hide” cliche.

I know that this scandal is complex and there is more to it than this, but I do think it’s an interesting aspect to think about.  The quote above may not be a perfect analogy, but it does seem to be an interesting parallel in some ways.



*I hadn’t heard of Greenwald until I saw this quote.  After a brief internet search I found out that he worked as a civil rights litigator and now writes on many political issues (for the New York Times,, and the Guardian to name a few). 

**This is saying quite a bit since under the new CBA, the NFL doesn’t really need any evidence at all; Goodell can basically act unilaterally based on whatever he thinks is best for the league.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in sociology, Sports


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