They Know Where I Live

I have spent most of my life terrified beyond measure!

A powerful organization, vast and impersonal and unaccountable, would collect my most personal information.  Every year they would publish it, and spread thousands upon thousands of copies all across the city or town where I lived.  Anyone could find out how to find me simply by thumbing though a few pages, even those who wished me harm!

I’m speaking, of course, of the phone book.

phone books

phone book white pages

Wait a minute!  Didn’t I start this essay by stating that I was terrified of the phone book?

Yeah, well, that was a total lie.  Not only have I never been even slightly anxious at the thought of anyone in the world being able to find out my phone number or where I live, I actually found it to be very convenient.  Most of my students heard of my services through word-of-mouth, and they would call my personal number after looking it up in the telephone directory.

I have received three death threats from people who wanted me to stop training this or that student, and I can’t see how the criminals who called me found my phone number any other way than by simply looking it up.  I could have paid for an unlisted number, but then it would have been very difficult for prospective students to seek me out.

Not that I gave it much thought, as my reaction was not what the criminals were looking for.

evil raccoon relishes death threat

Before you say it, let me assure you that I am fully aware that this was the wrong reaction.  I should have treated each threat as the potentially serious crime that it most certainly was.  But I was young, and figured that the threats were an indication that my efforts were actually making a positive impact.  Stupid, sure, but there you have it.

So what should I have done instead?  Call the police and let them handle it, obviously.  It was unlikely that they would have been able to find out much, as the background noise during the threatening calls proved that they were made from pay phones, but that would have been the smart thing to do.

Close to two decades have passed since the last threat.  Why am I going over such dead ground?

Mainly because there have been a number of online social justice warriors who have been having the vapors at the very thought that someone would post their personal information online.  Called “doxing“, it consists of making known the very information that used to be found in the phone book.

terrified man

I’m soooo scared!  It is like living back in the 1990’s all over again!  How did anyone over the age of fifteen ever survive?

I have no interest in the online ravings of the perpetually aggrieved, but it came to my attention when law professor and blogger Glenn Harlan Reynolds wrote an oped for USA Today.  In his essay, Prof. Reynolds pointed out that Internet feminists ignored the amazing and historic achievement of landing a space probe on a comet in order to verbally attack one of the scientists over his choice of apparel.  Advancing the boundaries of human knowledge, and act which will be known and honored for thousands of years, has to take a back seat to chiding some guy over the shirt he is wearing.

Doesn’t have anything to do with doxing, does it?  But the very bullies Prof. Reynolds took to task immediately doubled down, and accused him of publishing their personal information.  The fact that he did no such thing, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest he did, was not a deterrent to making outrageous and obvious lies.

Some might say that it is extremely dangerous for the private information of public figures to become known.  Fair enough, but I am having a great deal of difficulty in finding any information on how the people so outed have been the victims of crimes.  And what I mean is that I can’t find a single reported incident.  No burglaries, assaults, vandalism, kidnappings or rapes.  Nothing!  People get doxed and …. life just goes on as it always did, even back when everyone was listed in the phone book.

Seriously, I can’t figure out what the hell is wrong with these people.  They claim to be feminists, and that their efforts help women break down barriers by setting an example for bravery, but I really doubt that.

I’ve served next to female police officers during my extremely brief career in law enforcement.  One of my dearest friends is a wonderful woman who is a sonar operator on a guided missile destroyer.  There are women at this very moment who put their lives at risk in order to protect the rest of us.  And these social justice warriors are going berserk because someone can reveal their home address?

I am certain that someone out there will bring up a celebrity named Felicia Day.

felicia day

Ms. Day wrote a brief essay where she voiced some concerns about a controversy concerning video game culture.  For her efforts, someone posted her personal information in the comments section of her post.

This isn’t exactly the same, as Ms. Day states that she has had to deal with stalkers in the past.  Since she has already had to file restraining orders and get the police involved, it is understandable why she would be leery of inviting more negative attention.

3 thoughts on “They Know Where I Live

  1. I’m actually going to take the other side on this one. When phone books ruled the world, the only way to actually put somebody’s personal information on nation- or world-wide release was to own a newspaper or TV station. The people who actually *did* own those generally wouldn’t publish someone’s personal number on a wide scale. Thus, at the time, if you had a problem with someone, you could easily get their number, but could only get it to a small number of people, who were probably local to you. A small number of people conducting a harassment campaign would need to invest a fair bit of time into it.

    Now, somebody conducting one of these campaigns could potentially reach hundreds of thousands of people easily, from all over the world. If you have lots and lots of people, each person can make only one call (a small time investment) and potentially tie up a phone for a long period. And these people are protected by the same anonymity that makes mobs a problem. Compare that to the threats you get, where it’s probably much easier to figure out who it was (if the cops were really interested in doing so.)

    Plus, when you are spreading somebody’s info to a huge number of people, attached to a diatribe that makes the target sound subhuman, you’ve got a higher chance of an actual psycho being among that huge number.

    • ” When phone books ruled the world, the only way to actually put somebody’s personal information on nation- or world-wide release was to own a newspaper or TV station.”

      You have a very good point, but the telephone company did have the information service. Call the local operator, tell them which city you want them to search, and they would look up any listed number across the nation. There weren’t even any long distance charges.

      Oddly enough, it is harder today to find the phone number of someone thanks to cell phones. But it is also easier to find out just about everything else, thanks to online public records. There are even a whole bunch of websites out there which will share their public record databases with anyone for a fee.

      I’ve used them myself to weed out potential criminals from those I accept as students.

  2. “I can’t find a single reported incident. No burglaries, assaults, vandalism, kidnappings or rapes. Nothing! People get doxed and … life just goes on as it always did, even back when everyone was listed in the phone book.”

    People get doxxed. And then people get SWATted. Have you heard of people getting SWATted? That’s a new thing.

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