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Big Brother Is Listening to You

Over the weekend, the groups I belong to on Facebook were aflame with Lena Dunham’s unwarranted bit of eavesdropping on American Airlines employees.

The scandalous talk she reported overhearing was as follows:

American Airlines said Dunham's comments had them "concerned" and asked her to direct message with more details. Dunham obliged, explaining that she had been flying a different airline and was walking to baggage claim when she overheard two female attendants walking and talking "about how trans kids are a trend they'd never accept a trans child and transness is gross."

Besides the fact that Lena Dunham is not particularly popular in my circles (we really object to child molesters, as well as people who lie about having been raped), there was the feeling that, yeah, we’re adults and we understand that when representing your company, such as when you’re in uniform, you should be careful about expressing opinions the public at large – or your company head – might find objectionable.  On the other hand, in public adult human beings give other human beings a certain amount of space and tend to assume the best – according to our lights – of them.  After all, you can’t be sure that the conversation you just overheard wasn’t the tail end of a long in-joke between friends who have been giving each other a fair amount of ribbing for a long time, and whose real opinions might, in fact, be the exact opposite of those expressed.

Besides all that, there was a feeling that Lena Dunham was doing her best to get these people fired for thought/word crime, and because their words deviated from Lena Dunham-approved speech.

But the plot thickens, since apparently Lena Dunham was, in fact, inventing the whole thing.  Or as we mere mortals would put it, “lying.”

So why does this matter at all?  A woman who once made up a story about having been raped by a college Republican is now making up stories about airline personnel engaging in transphobic talk.

It matters because American Airlines took Dunham’s tweets seriously and started investigating whether its employees had really engaged in such talk.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the idea that the employees are always representing the company, and as such can’t let their hair down while wearing the uniform.  I think the normal human mind can easily grasp the idea that two women walking from one flight to the next, without taking the trouble to change out of their uniform, are still private citizens, as opposed to, say, airline employees standing at the podium and announcing over the intercom that they don't like or will not help board transsexual passengers.

Let’s consider instead that employers seriously took the unsubstantiated tweet of a power-hungry celebrity and engaged in a witch-hunt for employees that might, in fact, have uttered such heretical words as “trans kids is a fad.”