As the debate continues over how to deal with social software where social unrest is concerned, I was struck by the following text in a report on today’s BBC News Web site:
BlackBerry has offered to co-operate with police investigating the riots - prompting attacks by hackers angry that the company could be prepared to hand over user data to authorities.
Asked what BlackBerry's co-operation would involve, [Acting London Metropolitan Police Commissioner] Mr [Tim] Godwin asked to "plead the fifth", adding: "I would rather not answer that question as it is an investigative strategy."
That “fifth” is, of course, the Fifth Amendment to our own Constitution. Godwin’s usage is not quite consistent with “original intent;” but the phrase has a more general connotation of refusing to answer a question for a legitimate reason.
Godwin clearly was not appealing to our own Federal Law as a guideline for his actions. However, the phrase probably entered his working vocabulary through the abundance of “law and order” narratives, both fiction and non-fiction, available through entertainment media. As a result, consciousness of the Fifth Amendment has acquired a level of global awareness, meaning that crime stories may do more to further an appreciation of our democratic processes than any of our more “official” approaches to propaganda!