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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Muddle Headed Thinking and Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photos

This post is going to anger some of you. About half of you angry people will be angered for reasons that are good, and the other because you are so deep in the cult of celebrity that you can't see the forest for the trees any longer. Hopefully, whether you are angry or not, you take some time to pause and reflect on the content of this post and how you feel about it.

In case you have been living under a rock the last week or so, some hackers broke into either the cloud or the iPhone or email accounts of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and some other celebrities and stole some nude pictures that either they or someone known to them had taken with their permission. In two of the cases, the pictures posted were taken of now adult celebrities before they reached the age of eighteen. Those pictures have been removed by the host site, while the others remain. They then posted those pictures on the Internet, which should surprise absolutely nobody. Apple, wanting to maintain the appearance of security in the iCloud, would have you believe that each of these celebrities' email accounts were hacked. While that's certainly possible, the simplest and therefore most reasonable explanation is that the iCloud was hacked. This is especially true given that the celebrities in question have said the pictures were on their iPhones, which then uploaded them to the cloud. For the purposes of this blog post, we will assume they were on the cloud - but if these people were emailing their nude selfies all over the place my argument would remain the same.

The eruption on social media and from women's organizations has for the most part been profoundly stupid. This sort of thing happens to non-celebrities all the time, most often because an angry ex-partner posts pics or videos to the Internet attempting to get revenge for the breakup, and women's groups everywhere don't scream and yell. In fact, a quick search of Google for "ex-gf porn" revealed eighteen million results. Where are the outraged voices? Where are the demands those sites be taken down? Even allowing that ninety-five percent of those sites don't really contain material from ex-wives and ex-girlfriends without their consent, that still leaves nine hundred thousand results! Even a one percent rate leaves one hundred eighty thousand results! Where is the outrage?

The message is, "Don't you dare mess with our celebrities because they are our gods and we worship at the temple of the cult of celebrity." Just for fun, let's take the arguments apart.

1. Posting these photos was theft and an invasion of privacy. I absolutely agree with this one, and am sure these people feel violated to one degree or another depending on the content of the pictures and their personal history. As someone whose home has been physically burglarized, I can appreciate this feeling - though in this case nothing actually came up missing, and so I suspect they really can't appreciate the violation that comes from having your home burglarized. In fact, because of the cult of celebrity, these people will probably never experience burglary and live fairly secure and isolated lives with no idea of the vulnerability of the average person.

Could it be that is why they were dumb enough to place their nude photos on the Cloud? This isn't victim blaming, as many have asserted, but rather a question about reasonable precautions. If your home is ransacked and you left the front door open, the insurance company will do their best not to pay your claim. Putting your nudes in the Cloud is rather like leaving the back door open (you should pardon the expression under the circumstances) and then being surprised when someone breaks in. Again, it's still wrong to break in and steal things, but surprise isn't really a reasonable response. In fact, most average people wouldn't put their nude pictures on the Cloud or in an email, but rather would store them on a flash drive lest the kids open your computer and both of your smiles in all their glory!

2. Women's bodies are their own...(I agree)...and that makes this sex assault. WHAT? Are you kidding me? Do you really want to cheapen what sexual assault is by defining the theft of a picture of someones body as sexual assault? That means if I steal a picture of your car I am guilty of grand theft auto, if I steal a picture of your house I have stolen your house, and if I take a picture of your child I have kidnapped them! Nothing could be more absurd.

3. This is a sex crime. Again, see the above paragraph. This is not a sex crime, it's a crime against property.

4. This is a sex crime because some people who view the pictures will use them to achieve sexual gratification from them. Perhaps they will, but some people find leather to be sexually arousing and we don't outlaw pictures of cows. What if someone feels a naked body is a work of art? Certainly the naked human form has been the subject of art work throughout history. Would that mean that this is an art crime for those people? We need to remember that is was not these women themselves who were stolen, but images of them. I'm reminded of members of primitive religious traditions that refused to allow photos to be taken because they felt having a picture taken resulted in their souls being stolen. What's more, a crime is a crime because of the act of the criminal involved, not because of what they or some other party will do with the stolen property. If that weren't the case, your car wouldn't be stolen until someone other than the thief drove the car and your jewelry wouldn't be stolen until someone else wore it.

I could go on and on about some of the even more absurd responses to this incident, but by now you get the picture. In fact, all this fuss had guaranteed that many more people than otherwise might have went and viewed these pictures. One might even wonder, and again this is not blaming the victim, how upset someone like Sports Illustrated cover model Kate Upton might be because less than a square foot of fabric has been removed from her body. Of course, I haven't seen all the pictures, but if we are talking about someones nipples suddenly become visible what has happened is something that wouldn't even make people in Europe blink twice. These are not, as far as I am aware, pictures of people making love to their partners - and if they were, I would really have to ask who in the world saves such things in the cloud! Again, all the bad judgment in the world doesn't make a crime less than a crime, but we all need to exercise a reasonable amount of good judgment and personal responsibility or we lose the right to be surprised when we are caught with our pants down.

Perhaps the lesson was can come away from in this story is that the Internet is not secure. I would have thought we knew that, but apparently it is new information to some. If your computer is connected to the Internet then the contents of it may be compromised. We can do the best we can to protect ourselves, but the chance is there nonetheless that a hacker will get in. If the Cloud was secure we would all be storing our banking information on it - but I am pretty sure that nobody would recommend doing that! If our phone automatically backs up our pictures to the Cloud we had better either disable the automatic back up or be careful about what we use our phone to take pictures of, hadn't we? I realize it isn't particularly sexy to talk about personal responsibility, but the truth is the more personal responsibility we exercise the less likely it is that our private information will appear in a news story. That's just common sense.

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