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Kids These Days: Permanent Record Paranoia
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Back in the Seventies, all the cool kids knew that when adults warned you that some infraction would go on your Permanent Record, they were mostly blowing smoke. Think of the bureaucratic effort that would be involved in photocopying and mailing records around the country. Once you’re out of here, dude, you’re free. The past will never catch up with you.

Today’s youth, however, live in a very different technological and thus psychological world.

I was talking to a friend whose college-age daughter was applying for summer internships. A large fraction were with firms that had been bought up by a Famous Giant Conglomerate that dominates the industry her college education had been directed toward.

She had done an internship for one of the FGC’s subsidiaries a few semesters ago. Now, though, when she applied online for a position at any of its other dozens of subsidiaries, she instantly received back computer-generated emails each telling her in the same exact language that she was “not eligible for rehire.”

As a test, she applied for more positions at more FGC subsidiaries and always got back the same “not eligible for rehire” message. She concluded that she had been blacklisted for life from the dominant player in the field toward which her college education was geared, probably because during Finals Week she had fallen asleep at her desk while she was supposed to be mailing out promotional trinkets to prizewinners and her boss’s boss had been angry at her over it.

That one exhausted slip-up had gone on her Permanent Record and it would follow her around for the rest of her life like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross.

Well, it eventually turned out that she had been blacklisted for life simply due to a bureaucratic error, and her name was quickly taken off the FGC’s global “not eligible for rehire” list.

But, the Philip K. Dick-style lesson remains: even though the FGC didn’t mean to blacklist her globally for life for one slip-up, it could have. It has the technological capability to do so.

This Permanent Record bogeyman is a lot more real for kids these days than for my generation of Jeff Spicolis.

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  1. Steve, has Unz been able to filter out most of the comment spam?

    If so, is the curation by Steve’s own hand still necessary/a good use of time?

    Was the goal always to filter the content of the posts not the spam?

    Is it just a good excuse to read all your comments as a source of inspiration?

    Please enlighten us.

  2. OT but how many Iraqi refugees should we expect if the ISIS takes over Baghdad?

    will the ISIS pause at Baghdad and the southern oilfields alone?

    I read somewhere that Turkish PM Erdogan needs Kurdish votes so he may intervene to protect the Kurds…….another benefit of identity politics , this time , in Turkey

  3. A nation of people versed in tradecraft.

  4. “Well, it eventually turned out …”: aw, come on, Steve, don’t shortchange us. Who complained, who pulled strings…..?

  5. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when my generation starts to enter public office, say in 15 or 20 years (not that I’m thrilled at the prospect). Are all those social media posts and pictures going to come back and bite them on the campaign trail? And since the government has been hoovering all this stuff up for the last several years, are we going to start seeing archived social media used against political opponents?

  6. The Kurds would NOT welcome Turkish help. The Kurds can defend themselves. In fact, Turkey has threatened many times to not help, but invade the Kurd part of Iraq if they make any move toward declaring themselves independent from Iraq. Why? Because Erdogan is afraid it would inspire the Turkish Kurds to restart their breakaway movement.

  7. Tyler Cowen wrote about this over a year ago in ‘average is over’.

    There are less 2nd chances as everything is measured, logged, and tracked at a younger and younger age.

    This is something I have acute experience with.


    “I hope you know this will go down…on your permanent record.”

    “Oh yeah?! Well don’t get so distressed. Did I happen to mention that I’m impressed?”

  9. The TSA occasionally lets slip/gets called out on the fact that there are always a few dozen people who accidentally get put on the no-fly list or the “screen the hell out of this person” list.
    The numbers as an absolute are pretty low, but if you are one of those dozen your life is a Kafka-esque nightmare.

  10. Another link in the permanent record chain is the credit score. A screening mechanism designed to decide who gets loans is now used by potential employers, landlords, and auto insurance companies. This, of course, provides an automatic leg up to those who graduate without student loans, since 35% of a credit score is based on total debt burden.

    Some states have banned this, but the penalties are so low in some cases ($500-1000 per infraction in Maine, if caught, for example, which means it’s basically a use fee), and the exemptions so broad, that it’s still the status quo for any job someone would really want.

    The irony is that the disparate impact by race is comparable to what IQ tests would be, but nobody considers applying that logic. (For the record, I’m glad they don’t, but it would make more sense to me if they banned both with equal stringency or allowed both; it’s the mismatch that strikes me as odd.)

  11. Hence the popularity of the disappearing message/picture apps.

  12. Buttle not Tuttle. The future is less 1984 or more Gilliam’s Brazil.

  13. I wonder if this type of abuse might cause certain excluded individuals to attempt to lash out violently.

  14. Lot says:

    While student loans are bad for your life, they are not actually bad for your credit score. In fact, mine first jumped above 800 after I consolidated two fed loans into one.

    Seeing that I once had two 45k loans that were completely paid off by the new loan was a giant bonus for their algo.

    Now I am older and much richer, but my credit score is a bit lower since I churn through a couple credit cards are year for the frequent flyer mile sign up bonuses, worth about $1000 a year tax free.

  15. All the budding future politicians at my college avoided smoking pot and putting cool pictures on social media.

    Those looking forward to corporate work partied hardy with no repercussions thus far.

  16. …whines the guy with a college-age kid!

    No worries. In about five years the Millennials will be moving through middle management, and all standards and practices will be moot.

    Our march to low-trust culture status continues apace.

  17. Talk about a permanent record…there is now a “$100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school”…

    “…the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.
    Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.”

    Yes, sold to private companies who sell it to other private companies…

  18. My coworkers show up to work late everyday, sleep on the job, curse out patrons, crash company cars, can’t read of write in English … I’m guessing they are all on a “must hire” list.

  19. There are already companies that sell services that troll your online past and interferes with it or outright eliminates it. At least, that’s what they claim. Do they work? I don’t know, only time will tell. Lots of money in this idea, if it works or if it’s allowed. This is exactly why it’s a good idea to let people post anomalously on iSteve…

    By the way… Good luck appearing squeaky clean. That in itself looks suspicious because it’s highly unlikely. Or are corporate types that naive?

  20. Kids these days are posting pictures of their lady or gent parts on the net, with their real names. I mean…..isn’t that a Darwin award winner right there?

  21. SFG says:

    Buck Rogers XXVc:

    Corporations want obedient conformists, so the fact that you’re able to clean your online self is in and of itself a good sign from their point of view. They don’t actually think you are squeaky clean–that you’re presentable (ie can fake it) is what counts.

    P.S. Did you actually play TSR’s stab at a scifi game? Apparently it was all a way to launder money…

  22. “..let people post anomalously on iSteve”

    Very clever. (Assuming it wasn’t a mistake)


    Eh, the records aren’t permanent at all if the right people don’t want them to be.

  24. So now that Famous Giant Conglomerate has more surveillance power than Santa Claus and is a selective force, how will they shape humans? They have already anathematized smokers and sentenced them to non-mainstream employment. What’s next?
    What traits are most compatible to being a wage slave in an air conditioned cubicle farm?

    Warning to parents of young smokers: they most important thing you can do for your child’s career is to get them to stop smoking, white collar culture has no place for them.

  25. Probably I am getting some aspects wrong. Illegal immigrants get their entire home country history expunged. They also can change identities. They do not have to identify themselves with official ID. At hospitals they do not have to give their true identities.

    All together an illegal alien that arrives at say 20 and becomes legal at 30 might have a tremendous advantage over a similarly situated American with negative accident, medical, school and minor arrest records.

    This advantage is in addition to being able to bring in relatives for cheap or free child/elder care. I personally wonder if they pay health insurance/nanny tax/unemployment insurance/ Workers Comp to their cousin from the home country like regular Americans have to.

    Since Americans overseas have to now report all assets and pay US income tax, I wonder if all those anchor babies and dual citizens who have never been to the US and have no connection to Americans or American are filing tax returns.

  26. In the Steveosphere nobody can hear you commit meritocratic fauxes pas

  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Only solution to this surreal Orwellian blackmail state is to own everything you do. When you are accused by the faceless enforcers hiding behind the great unwashed, own it. Then add to it. Don’t step on the brakes. Step on the gas.

    Call it the New Authenticity: Become Who You Are.

    Didn’t some Greek say something like that? Those homos.

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