Against Celebrating/Viewing Hacked Nude Celeb Selfies

September 1, 2014

I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in my Twitter feed yesterday. I went out for dinner and a movie, came back, and found a ton of people salivating in my timeline over a cache of nude photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton that had been illicitly obtained and dumped onto the Internet. Lots of leering, lots of onanistic jokes. Makes me think that Alan Jacobs is on to something when he writes essays such as this. I just want to briefly make two points.

Point the first: Yes, it is dumb in this day and age to take nude photos of yourself and store them in the cloud. But also: Yes, it is gross that people are hacking into private photo banks with the purpose of disseminating their contents for titillation and profit. And, finally: Yes, it is skeevy that you're taking so much pleasure in this. There is nothing contradictory about statement one and statements two and three. Just because something exists, it doesn't mean you have a right to viddy it. And saying "Ugh, you shouldn't be so stupid as to take those photos!" doesn't resolve you of moral responsibility for looking at them.

Point the second: Obviously, I have no patience for semi-famous people who "leak" sex tapes in order to become reality-star famous. And if you take a nude photo of yourself and, say, accidentally tweet it out, well, that's on you. But this isn't like that. I see little difference between the masses on the Internet celebrating/joking about illegally obtained nude photos of young adults who happen to be famous and the vicious high school prats who distribute photos of their teenage girlfriends for the amusement of their buddies (or, worse, to terrorize an ex). I remember people being horrified by this story. I remember people being outraged by this story. This situation isn't as bad as those, I'll grant. But the mentality is the same.

I suppose this is just the continuation of a long and storied effort to dehumanize celebrities. "Oh, you want to be famous? Well then you can't complain when the tabloids write up your exploits. Oh, you want to be famous? Well then you can't complain when paparazzi stake out your home and get in your face when you're out with your family. Oh, you want to be famous? Well then you can't complain when some skeez hacks your iCloud and disseminates your nude body all over the Internet." At least there's a First Amendment rationale for the first two "can't complains." I fail to see any justification for the nastiness we saw go down yesterday.