Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Secret Is Sacred Anymore

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Secret Is Sacred Anymore

Article excerpt

LOOSE LIPS, it was once said, sink ships. Not anymore. All around, an outbreak of loose lips is infecting the country once renowned for its strong silent types, citizens who could be counted on to keep mum. Consider:

A Roman Catholic priest in California revealed in a sermon what an individual said in confession, not naming the penitent but providing enough details so that some listeners could identify him.

CBS deleted a segment on Tonya Harding from a television special, "Where Are They Now?," which was broadcast last month, after the skater accused her mother of secretly wearing a recording device for the network.

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous who once attended meetings with Lee Radziwill in the Hamptons recounted her disclosures to the author of a new biography, in violation of A.A.'s longtime code that "what is said here, stays here."

What, one may wonder, is the world coming to when the clergy, fellow A.A. members and even one's own mother cannot keep secrets? An erosion of respect for confidentiality between individuals is apparent in business, courtrooms and daily life, as Americans are increasingly less inhibited about telling tales out of school.

"In 30 years, this country has changed completely in its attitude toward confidentiality," said Letitia Baldrige, the author of "The New Complete Guide to Executive Manners" (Macmillan, 1993). "When you fell in love with someone, you certainly never told about the way he or she made love, which is what I hear today in casual conversation."

As White House social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy, Mrs. Baldrige once refused to sign a confidentiality agreement on the grounds that, as a loyal staff member, she would never consider revealing secrets.

But that was before the era of the kiss-and-tell political memoir. Since the 1960s, books by former White House advisers have evolved from Theodore C. Sorensen's elegy for the Kennedy years to Donald T. Regan's score-settling revelation that the Reagan White House cleared policy decisions with an astrologer.

In business, companies alarmed about employees' defecting to rivals carrying trade secrets with them have taken to requiring lengthy confidentiality agreements. …

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