A Cancer in the Body Politic



What I’m listening to: I commend to your attention Monday’s episode of The Daily, the New York Times podcast. It was called The End of Privacy as We Know It?, and outlined the efforts by a new tech company to scrape every photograph from the web, I mean every single photograph, apply artificial intelligence and facial recognition to the database, and then resell it.

And the customers, so the podcast goes, are currently limited to law enforcement and private security. But you wait: I predict they will shortly include the general public, folks like bill collectors and “bail enforcement agents” and who knows what other people with nefarious aims. Wouldn’t this be a fantastic tool to find a domestic abuse victim who’s trying to be anonymous in a new community?

Alas, this is what we get when we have unbridled tech capitalism with non-existent regulation in what amounts to the Wild West.


I have been thinking a bit about the online dynamic lately. There is, I know, the hue and cry that somehow, information wants to be free, and people get their news from Facebook and online this and Twitter that, and so on. And you’d better get with it! And there comes to be a frenzy, if you will, to get with the program, to be the first with the most: the most likes, the most impressions, the most shares.

And I agree, in cases of public emergency, or where it’s important to reach a large number of people quickly, Facebook is a great tool, as is Twitter. But beyond that?

Simply, I don’t really give a damn. You’ve read my rant before on Facebook deliberately escaping and avoiding the strictures that normal publishers like us face, so I won’t dive into it again. But I do have an example that touches close to home, so let me tell you about it.


Weekend before last, the Putnam Valley Library had a somewhat unusual presentation: Drag Queen Story Hour. Stories, for children, read by a drag queen. It’s theater, if you will, stories read by a man dressed up as a woman. It’s not my thing, necessarily, but I’ll tell you, the kids there appeared to have a great time. And why not? Stories read by someone who enjoyed reading, plus itsy-bitsy-Spider. Plus plus. Naturally, this prompted protests by those who feared our youngsters would be inculcated with gay-dom and transgenderism and who knows what else. And counter protesters, in support of the library. And a half dozen cops, plus a canine, to keep order, plus Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio (with his canine Memphis!).

I made a simple post about this on Instagram and Facebook for our sister paper, the PCNR, with four photographs. All sides. And the post on Facebook blew up, reaching many thousands of people and drawing more than 500 comments. And here’s what I discovered: An astounding number of people posted vile, hateful and violent comments. Then, people on both sides took to using graphics to avoid our obscenity filters. What’s that about? The name-calling was over-the-top. My partner and I, simply, tired of it. We deleted the whole post.

We don’t intend a forum like this to be associated with the good name of the Courier and PCNR. We will, for now, maintain a Facebook presence, simply to highlight each new issue and to be available in case of public emergency. Beyond that, we hope you continue to want the most news you can get in Putnam County. And to get that, just buy a copy of the Courier, or subscribe. It’s civil, it’s readable, it’s been edited by a trained journalist. No Russians, no name-calling.

Until next week.

Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Putnam County Courier and the Putnam County News & Recorder, in Cold Spring. Reach him at or by phone at 845-265-2468.

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