Port: The public consistently wants contradictory things

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Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. -- The kerfuffle last week over the privacy of Care19 contact tracing app was revealing of an alarming level of cognitive dissonance from the public at large.

Yet another example of how the masses tend to want completely contradictory things, and yet don't seem to be aware of the contradictions.

The gripe about Care19 is that it was supposedly sharing data with Foursquare.

That isn't quite what was happening. I interviewed Tim Brookins for my Plain Talk podcast, and he told me that not only would it be illegal for his company, Fargo-based ProudCrowd, to share data collected by the Care19 app he developed, but that data isn't really worth much anyway.

Unlike the billions of users of services offered by companies like Facebook and Google - a number which includes this humble columnist, and almost certainly every one of you readers as well - the folks who use the Care19 app are anonymous. When you sign up, you're assigned a number, and your identity is only associated with your data if you to choose to disclose yourself.


Who would want to buy that sort of data when plenty of other tech companies have much more detailed information about us on the market?

Which brings me back to the cognitive dissonance.

Where were people griping about the supposed privacy trespasses of the Care19 app?

On Facebook.

And Twitter.

Platforms which, I guarantee you, know far more about you and your life than ProudCrowd ever will.

This sort of mass hypocrisy isn't unusual for the hoi polloi. Every election cycle brings us loud denunciations of politics-as-usual. A lot of hot air about corruption and malfeasance and how the folks in centers of government are sticking it to us.

And then we Americans re-elect the incumbents.


According to the Center for Responsive Politics , the reelection rate in the U.S. House of Representatives - that is to say the percentage of incumbents who run for re-election and win, hasn't been south of 90% since 1992, when it was 88%.

The rate has never been lower than 85% going back to 1964. The Senate is more volatile, but the rate there has hovered from the low 80s to the mid-90s since the 1980s.

Incumbents are kind of like the New York Yankees. Everybody says they hate them, but that doesn't stop them from winning.

Think of the national debt, too. Polling consistently shows large and bipartisan majorities in favor of reducing the national debt, yet the public also supports tax cuts and expansive government programs.

Our politicians, for all the blather about how-out-of-touch the buggers are, deliver just that by running an annual budget deficit which adds to the national debt.

It's fashionable to blame the political class for our dysfunctional government, but really they're just giving we hypocrites exactly what we're asking for.

Which probably explains those reelection rates.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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