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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We all need to be wary of how we use e-mail

Hillary's dilemma speaks to the very nature of this brave new age of communication

By Jim Keyworth
Gazette Blog Editor

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been blasted for using a private e-mail server when she served as Secretary of State.  In a very insightful article on the subject in the March 13 issue of USA Today, columnist Michael Wolff argues that she should be praised, not villified, for using a private server.

His point, that e-mails are unlike any form of communication known to humankind and have the very real potential to get us in very big messes, is information that we can all benefit from.  Here's part of what he had to say:

"The very reason e-mail is so incriminating to everyone is that the form defies calculation.  Its very nature is to make a record of thoughts, moods, doubts, irritability and backstabbing that no one would want to make a record of, and that - when and if those e-mails return to you, sometimes years later - it will present a reality that you can't defend against because, actually, it's not reality.  Or was a parallel reality.

"It's e-mail!  And while everybody understands that e-mail is actually different from real life, try to explain that in the media or in court....

"Nobody is a hero to his valet, and nobody is a straight shooter in his or her e-mail.  Everybody incriminates himself or herself."

"It's a 'gotcha' medium."

Who hasn't been burned, to one degree or another, playing with the fire known as e-mail?  I know I have.

When a squabble between two of my neighbors ended up in court some years ago, a sympathetic e-mail exchange between myself and one of the combatants was introduced as evidence to show my friend's harmful intent.  I didn't come off as a choirboy in sympathizing with him.  And the fact that it was all taken out of context made it sound even worse.

Wolff concludes Hillary was showing the kind of foresight we need in a leader when she chose to protect her e-mails from misuse and abuse by the media, the opposition and even the enemy.

It's a lesson we would all do well to heed.  I hope I have.

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