Original image of Governor Palin courtesy CBS News.
What if all your friends could comb through all your email messages, ever, to see what you really thought about them? What if your family members could see every email message you ever sent? What if your employers (past, present, and future) could see a complete archive of your professional dealings via email?
Could you withstand the scrutiny?
I'm not sure I could. I am highly profane in my email traffic (I'm an engineer by training; profanity is a necessary tool). I'm cranky. I tend to tell my correspondents about how little sleep I've gotten and how long it's been since I've had lunch.
Of course, my email archive also has a lot of personally identifying information as well. It has birth dates, dates of events, addresses and contact information of people who might not want their information made public, and even, probably, password reset codes for various services.
I would not want to share my email with the world. You probably wouldn't want to, either.
Our politicians, though, often do. Or, more precisely, they often are required to, after putting up as much of a fuss as possible.
This is certainly the case with Sarah Palin. The State of Alaska finally acceded to disclosure requests and released a massive dump of 24,000 email messages to various media entities, covering her nearly three years as Alaska's chief executive.
- Chicago Tribune: Palin emails from 2008 show she had her eye on VP slot months before being named to GOP ticket
- Washington Post: Palin email search engine
- MSNBC: Palin e-mails reveal a powerful 'first dude'
If you want to know what Sarah Palin thinks and how she works, you can find out. It comes as little surprise that there are very few surprises in her archives. Palin, while aggressive in her self-promotion, has shown very little artifice in her public presentation.
We've learned that Todd was, indeed, called the "First Dude," we've learned that she really did call herself "momma," we've learned Todd had a lot of involvement in her administration, we've learned she's pretty protective of her kids, and we've learned she spent state money in dubious ways for the benefit of her family.
We also know that she used a variety of personal Yahoo accounts (we knew this a few years ago, when a hacker broke into one such account), and we know she's pretty prolific in her email traffic.
In other words, we've learned nothing new.
I've often talked about the difference in tone and style between email and traditional forms of written communication. Email tends to be more casual, so when we read an email archive from someone's administration, we tend to get a much better feel for that person's personality than we might from reading a printed correspondence archive from a political leader in times past.
And so it has been with the Palin data dump. Whether you like her or not is up to you, but the one big surprise coming out of an examination of 24,000 email messages is that there really is no surprise, no shocking inside story.
What you see with Palin is generally what you get.
Could you survive public disclosure of your email messages? What secrets do you have that you don't want shared? TalkBack below (be nice!)