Omarosa Manigault Newman is a former reality TV star (boo!), a former former political aide to President Donald Trump (boo!) and the author of a tell-all book that tells us all lots of disturbing things about the president that we already knew (meh!).
She'll go down in history, however, as a woman who used her personal smartphone to record hundreds of conversations inside the White House without the knowledge or consent of the other people in the room (hooray!).
While serving in the White House, doing whatever it is she was doing there, she carried two phones -- one, a secure, government-issued phone, which she used often for conference calls and an insecure personal phone, which she used to record conversations either in person, or taking place via conference calls on the other phone.
We all push for legalizing the of recording any conversation we are allowed to participate in. And Omarosa should be the poster child for that movement.
Here's why. As a reality TV star who really had no business working in the White House (only the best people...), nobody would have taken her claims seriously after leaving the White House. She could say the president is a racist. She could say that his staff is complicit in all kinds of transgressions. She could say anything, and not be believed or taken seriously.
But because she has recordings, her credibility is irrelevant. We can all just listen to what actually happened. It's a beautiful thing.
The truth is that in general there is a stigma attached to recording conversations. As a journalist, I've been asked many times to not record conversations -- on politician even said they didn't want a recording because he didn't want to be misquoted. What he meant, obviously, was that a recording would prevent him in the future from lying about what he said, removing his ability to claim that he was misquoted after being accurately quoted.
There is less stigma in lying in public about what one said in private.
I think these should be reversed. Now that the liars have completely taken over our government, I think it's time that we all push for the right to remember what we heard with our own ears in any way we want to remember it -- including remembering through electronic recording.
In the past 100 years, the rise of surveillance tech (from microphones to hidden cameras to location tracking) has been hijacked by the powerful to gain even more power over the less powerful.
Governments, police departments, spy agencies and corporations have all been granted enormous power to record, track and observe citizens in any way that benefits their own objectives, whether honorable or not.
Meanwhile, the taboo on citizens surveilling back remains firmly in place.
With the advent of recording equipment in the 20th Century, for example, it became routine for police to audio or video record police interrogations, but remained illegal for the accused to do so. As a result, the police have all the control over the "memory" of what happened during an interrogation. And this is a major power that enables bad policing.
It would obviously be better if police recorded everything, suspects recorded everything, then we could all go to court and let the jury hear the full truth of what happened in that interrogation room.
If you believe people shouldn't record conversations that they are legitimately allowed to participate in, on whose behalf are you holding that belief? The liars? The governments'? The corporations?
I say that if they can surveille us, we can and should surveille them.
To be fair, I don't believe it's right for people in general to secretly record other people without the other person's knowledge and consent -- unless there are serious crimes being committed. I'm a big fan of recording babysitters, nannies and other care-givers suspected of abusing the helpless, for example.
However, in a perfect world, where recording is legal and everybody would know it, I suspect there might be a lot less lying, corruption and official abuse of the powerless by the powerful.
In other words, in a world where the powerful have a monopoly on surveillance, the liars have all the power. But in a world where everybody can surveille, the honorable people have all the power.
After all, the only reason Omarosa has so much power right now is because the people she recorded were lying, abusive, corrupt and shameless. If they had done and said honorable things behind closed doors, they would have no fear.
After all, the ability to secretly surveille is one of the major things that make the powerful so powerful. In a democracy, shouldn't the people be powerful?
Omarosa is showing the way. I think she's a hero.