Yes, and more unlikely duo is difficult to ponder. But as it happens, they are linked in their having their comments being recorded when they thought they were talking privately.
People, in case you have not heard: there is no such thing as "off the record" these days. Not only when one talks with professional journalists. There is no "off the record" at all. Period. Because everyone, yes everyone is now in the media business. Or can be, if they want to expose something you said in private.
Anybody, yes ANYBODY can record your comments and place them for the world to see...and they can go viral.
So what does this have to do with Paris Hilton? She was allegedly mouthing off about gay men in the back seat of a cab with a friend. Trashy talk, insulting to gays. What she didn't think about was that the taxi driver was perfectly capable of recording her comments. And he did.
And then there is our presidential candidate Mitt Romney who is still trying to dig himself out of the hole that his comments made at what he thought was a private donor dinner have become global fodder for people wishing to illustrate how out of touch he is with nearly half of the American population that votes in presidential elections.
There is a lesson here, not just for politicians or semi-famous celebrities. It is for all of us. Anything you say--yes, anything--can be recorded and shared with others you may not want to know what you said.
Rather than wring our hands about this, though, I believe there is an interesting irony. Fact is, some of us grew up in a time and place where the conventional wisdom was that no one should want to be in the newspaper except for the announcement of their birth, their wedding, and their death. Otherwise, one was best to be discreet and live life away from the media. I remember my husband telling me that at JP Morgan (in what former Morgan folks refer to as the "old Morgan") there was such a premium placed on reputation that there was a company-wide understanding that one shouldn't have to ask if a contemplated action broke any rules; know the standard was simply "would we want this talked about in tomorrow's newspaper?" If it would be an embarrassment to Morgan's reputation for good people doing valuable, worthy work, then it shouldn't be done, regardless of whether or not it broke the law.
Now, companies seem more bent on employing a phalanx of attorneys who help them stay just this little hair-wide sliver of space away from breaking the law. Forget about reputation: if it makes money and doesn't openly break the law, go for it.
So back to Paris and Mitt. It's not that they should simply be careful because others can learn what they said. It's that they should not talk that way in the first place! Rude, ignorant, cruel comments have no place anywhere, even if they are said in supposed secret. Trash talk is trash talk no matter how many people hear it.
Maybe the proliferation of media could take us to a new and better place, where people begin to talk carefully, kindly, politely again.
Now that is the kind of conversation worth talking about.