Gabriella Nagy: Infidelity and the Warped Age of Entitlement

Gabriella Nagy is the poster child for misguided entitlement.  It is a poignant fact about the world that is very, very easy to leave a trail of where one has been and what one has done.  In the good ole days, there was the idea of a paper trail.  Alas, in the age of technology it is very easy to leave what is called these days an electronic trail.  And when we forget this, it is nobody’s fault but our own. 

Ms. Gabriella Nagy has been having an affair; and she is suing her wireless phone company, Rogers Wireless, for revealing on the phone bill the telephone number of the person with whom she has been having the affair.  Straightaway this ought to strike everyone as ludicrous. 

For imagine that Ms. Nagy was at a friend’s house for a party and there Ms. Nagy left her cell phone.  In order to find out to whom the phone belongs, the friend peruses the phone’s history.  And in doing so, the friend sees that Nagy has been having these extensive hour long conversations with a certain number.  Well, whose fault is that?  Nagy’s fault or the friend’s fault?

My answer is very simple: It is Nagy’s fault.  Why?  Because precisely what we all know is that these histories and electronic trails are part and parcel of the electronic devices that we use.  The typical internet browser is a marvelous case in point.  If you let me use your computer, then I can easily enough get a sense of what sorts of sights you visit on the web.  In that case, it is either your fault for letting me use your computer or your fault for not clearing your internet browser and getting rid of the “cookies”. 

But this much is clear: You cannot sue me if, upon using your computer, I learn through using your browser that you have been visiting mostly porn sites. 

Ms. Nagy’s husband agreed to pay the bills for the internet and cell phones; and upon receiving the bill from Rogers Wireless he noticed that length calls were being made to a certain number.  The husband called that number only to learn that the owner of that number is the man with whom Ms. Nagy has been having an affair. 

The husband left her immediately.  What Ms. Nagy cannot seem to wrap her mind around is that it is she who made the mistake—not Rogers Wireless. 

For in this day and time, common sense would say that if a married person is going to have an affair it would be very, very smart to use a cell phone other than one that is part of the family billing arrangement.  Again, such is what common sense would dictate.  This is especially so if one has a job earning $100,000 a year as in the case of Gabriella Nagy.  For a mere $20 to $30 a month, she could have had a cell phone that was completely independent of the family billing arrangement. 

It is my profound hope that Ms. Nagy does not win her $600,000 lawsuit against Rogers Wireless.  There is nothing that remotely resembles negligence on the part of the company.  Or, to put the point another way, there is no precaution with regard to privacy that Rogers Wireless ought to have taken.  Certainly, it cannot be said that Rogers Wireless ought to have known.  Quite the contrary, as with internet browsers, the simple fact of the matter is that people do as they please with their cell phones.   What is more, it would be perfectly natural to suppose that no problem lies with a spouse or, for that matter, a parent consolidating cell phone bills.  But suppose that a parent discovers that one of her or his 19-year old children is having an affair with a married person.  Would Ms. Nagy hold that the privacy of the child has been violated?

Most significantly, it is manifestly clear that Ms. Gabriella Nagy is more distraught over having been caught than she is over having had the affair.  And that is most revealing.  It is just so much nonsense that her concern is to inform the world about the carelessness of the cell provider Rogers Wireless.  Carelessness on the part of Rogers Wireless would have been something like the following: She opens up a separate account with Rogers Wireless and the company mistakenly includes that separate account with the other phone bills for the family.  That is a mistake.  And we can see how a company which makes that mistake is liable to damages even in the absence of a private marital affair on the side.  All that it would take is that the separate account is for private legal work.

It is a simple truth about the world that most of us are way too sloppy to not get caught in the wrongful behavior that we commit.  What is most obnoxious about Ms. Nagy’s behavior is that she is in effect claiming a sense of entitlement with respect to not getting caught.  And it is this truth that tells us how morally bankrupt the world has become.  Owing to her own thoughtlessness, she did not get personal cell phone for her affair.  And the simple truth of the matter is that thoughtfulness left her vulnerable and she, alas, is too wicked a person to own that moral reality of her life.

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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