Can you keep a secret?

Ok, I will apologize right off of the bat. That title is pure click bait. But you likely knew that coming in, right? I mean, why the fuck would I be offering to reveal a secret here of all places.

I don’t think I have uttered the words of this title in some time. As years go by I continue to become a more and more boring person, and I don’t think I have had a secret worthy of sharing in some time. It’s a side effect of not doing much of anything with my life and my time. I don’t have any regrets about that – in fact I see it as a pretty good way to be. My life is so dull I don’t think I have had cause to lie to anyone in half a decade. And this is coming from a person who doesn’t even think that lies are an immoral action1

I am only bringing this up because I am currently reading Nick Bilton’s American Kingpin, which goes through the Ross Ulbricht story. An interesting thing came up while reading the book. Towards the beginning of the story Ross is setting up what will become the Silk Road and feels a compulsion to tell someone about it. The person who he tells is his then girlfriend, who later ends up telling someone else. Ross gets mad about this, which is a pretty reasonable reaction. Or so I thought at first.

But something struck me as wrong about it. Obviously, this is why conspiracies just plain do not work. My first question was ‘why the hell would she have told anyone’, which was immediately followed with ‘why the hell would he?’ Well, if you answer one of these questions, you automatically answer the other. The book tells you why Ross told her – what he was doing was hard and illegal, and he needed a confident. But then the question follows ‘if that information was hard on Ross, why in the hell would it not be hard for his girlfriend as well?’ In other words, the same stresses and pressures that compelled Ross to tell his girlfriend got her to do the same. Ultimately, I found myself being unable blame her for telling someone else. I don’t think I blame Ross much either. We humans do love to share. It’s in our very nature.

But within that realization was another. If you have a secret, and you are just boiling over to tell someone, you have no reasonable expectation that they actually keep that secret. If you could not contain yourself, what expectation do you have that someone else should? And in light of that, it seems to me that asking someone to keep a secret is fundamentally an immoral act. What you saying is this: either

I cannot bear the weight of keeping this information a secret, and thus want you to hold the burden in my place.

or

I want the joy of sharing this information with another, and expect you not to relish in the same joy.

Yea, that’s just not a very nice thing to do to a person, is it? The former is obviously much worse than the latter, but neither seem like things friends should do to friends.


1 This is probably one of those damned hot takes I find myself having, wherein everyone disagrees with me and I cannot for the life of me figure out why. So here it is as briefly as possible: for Lies to be immoral they have to be so in all circumstances. So if you can think of a circumstance where telling a lie is not immoral, ergo lies are not so by their nature, and you need to move the conversation on to the situational context of the lie, as the rest of us have done. So, imagine a guy knocking on your door. You open it and find he is holding an axe. He asks you “Where are the children.” If you answer him honestly, you are an ass. If you lie, is that lie immoral?

Eat shit, Immanuel Kant.

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