Privacy will belong to a new top 1 percent

Froma Harrop, syndicated columnist

Why did Jeff Bezos, founder of tech giant Amazon, send gushy texts to his paramour, it appears, without using encryption?

Why did he even take selfies of an intimate nature?

There are more whys to come, but these two are related to questions of privacy, which, we are told, is dead. Shouldn’t Bezos, of all people, have known better? His own product, the Amazon Echo, has been accused of listening in on conversations in people’s homes.

Actually, privacy isn’t dead for an elite group of Americans who avoid modern technology, particularly the online kind. A friend pushing 90 has never owned a cellphone. He doesn’t go online, doesn’t take photos or even do email. About the only way to invade his privacy would be for FBI agents to break in and place a bug. And that would be a massive waste of the taxpayers’ money.

Incomewise, this man is somewhere in the bottom 25 percent. Bezos, the world’s richest man, sits at the tippy top of the .0001 percent. Privacywise, however, my friend occupies the top 1 percent. Bezos scrapes in the bottom 1 percent — especially since the National Enquirer devoted 11 of its precious pages to his extramarital affair with one Lauren Sanchez.

Bezos has accused American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s publisher, of extortion and blackmail by threatening to release more compromising pix and steamier texts if a certain condition wasn’t met — namely, that Bezos publicly say that the Enquirer’s reporting of his affair was not politically motivated.

Of relevance here is that Bezos owns The Washington Post, which is not friendly to President Trump. The Enquirer has been quite friendly to Trump. (Almost no story these days has nothing to do with Trump.)

It was quite stupid for the publisher of a supermarket tabloid to work over a man who has an estimated $136 billion rattling around his pocket — doubly so because AMI recently signed an agreement with federal prosecutors stipulating it “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years. This stemmed from the authorities’ letting AMI off the hook for having paid a Playboy model hush money to stay quiet about her tryst with Trump. Her revelation might have hurt his presidential campaign.

The assumption must have been that Bezos would fear public ridicule enough to give in to the demands. Whether threats to reputation are the same as demands for money remains subject to debate.

Then there’s the question of how rich people define reputation. Bezos may not care all that much what the public knows of his private life. A personal fortune provides a good deal of social cushion. In a similar vein, Trump waves off reports of his tawdry affairs. When journalist Timothy O’Brien wrote that Trump was worth a lot less than he said he was, however, Trump sued (and lost).

A few more whys before we go.

Of all the willing women in the world to cavort with, why did Bezos choose one whose brother is aligned with his sworn enemy, Trump. (The brother is suspected as the source of the leaks.)

Why couldn’t Bezos have gone classier than a former host of the Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance”? Refined women can also be sexy.

Why didn’t Bezos write more artful love texts than the adolescent “I love you, alive girl” and “I basically WANT TO BE WITH YOU!!!”?

This is the guy who totally disrupted the book business. Hadn’t he read some of the literature he took over selling — at least James Ellroy?

We are well into the age of privacy haves and privacy have-nots. But privacy, it seems, remains one value that cannot be bought.

Editor’s note: Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.