If You’re Ever Dissed in a Hacked Email, Try to Respond Like Larry Lessig

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A classy individual.Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Harvard Law School, a leading advocate for campaign finance reform, and short-lived presidential candidate.

He was also, in the view of the Clinton campaign, circa August 2015, a “smug,” “pompous,” loathsome guy whom a reasonable person might wish “to kick the shit out of on Twitter.”

On Tuesday, these private barbs became public, thanks to WikiLeaks. And so, as Lessig made his way to New York to see his sick father, his inbox filled up with notifications about how much Neera Tanden once claimed to despise him.

Reading through the email, Lessig was outraged — on Tanden’s behalf. Per Lessig’s blog:

I’m a big believer in leaks for the public interest. That’s why I support Snowden, and why I believe the President should pardon him. But I can’t for the life of me see the public good in a leak like this — at least one that reveals no crime or violation of any important public policy.

We all deserve privacy. The burdens of public service are insane enough without the perpetual threat that every thought shared with a friend becomes Twitter fodder.

Neera has only ever served in the public (and public interest) sector. Her work has always and only been devoted to advancing her vision of the public good. It is not right that she should bear the burden of this sort of breach.

This is an extraordinarily sane response. Or, at least, after 15 months of Donald Trump’s maniacal pettiness, Lessig’s graciousness feels extraordinary — as though maturity in the face of insult were a superhuman trait.

But Lessig’s reaction is plainly correct. People have a right to say mean things about other people in private. Let he who has not sent a needlessly catty email about a friend, ex-lover, co-worker, or long-shot presidential candidate start the Twitter shaming.