The New York Daily News proclaimed the unveiling of the massive photo hacking scandal as “Bad Nudes for us All!,” and called it a “Flesh Mob!” The New York Post issued a “Nudes Flash.”
And not surprisingly, Stephen Colbert was a scold: “This is why we can’t have nice things, Internet!” While using his own coverage, titled “The Invasion of Boobistan,” to make body-part and selfie jokes, he also pointed out the inherent hypocrisy in doing so: “I stand with the Huffington Post, which posted a searing op-ed shaming anyone who looked at or shared these photos. So do not -- I mean this -- do not go look at these photos,” Colbert said. “You don’t need to. Instead, check out all the sideboob and nip slips on HuffPost’s actual sideboob page.”
He makes a great point. In our hypersexualized culture, in which a celeb like Kim Kardashian has made her career on an “accidental” release of a sex tape (and some say her “momager” mother sold her out) there’s such hypocrisy and contradiction around the issue of women and sexuality that it’s hard to keep up.
Certainly, by the XXX standards of the images that are readily available on the Internet, these photos are hardly shocking or revelatory. And they’re of celebrities, who sell themselves sexually on screen and when they’re promoting a project. So the thinking goes, “Isn’t this just part of the territory? Who cares?”
The easiest, most knee-jerk response to the hack was to play the fault-within-our-stars blame game. It goes along the lines of, “What idiots! Who would take these photos in the first place and actually store them? They deserve it! They should have been more responsible!”
The best short answer comes from Farhad Manjoo, a tech journalist, who decimates that thinking pretty quickly. “I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards,” he tweeted.
Indeed, the whole mess is a gross invasion of privacy, and outright theft, just as stealing your online credit card identity would be. Many of the victims said they had (or thought they had) deleted the images from their phones or computers. Among other things, we’ve learned that “the cloud” has been given a genius name, conjuring up the celestial cumulo-numbii Zip code where the angels hang out and string harps. The reality is more like storage hell, a squalid place where meth addicts are constantly trying to break into your locker.
No matter how holier-than-thou we may feel about this particular “Celebgate,” as it’s been dubbed for PG audiences, we are all as vulnerable. We all have information or images floating around in the tech ether that we wouldn’t want stolen and disseminated publicly, for everyone to use and see.
Even more upsetting, “The Fappening,” (which unlike Celebgate, is the hands-down gross-outest name for the event -- Google it) has also sparked a massive dump on women. Within a few hours of the photo leak, there was a Jennifer Lawrence “slut” meme created. Many of the slurs exchanged against these victims on Reddit (some of whom were underage when the photos were taken) would make any of us want to retch.
So does the growing online culture of “revenge porn,” in which an ex posts embarrassing pictures on the Web as payback for a break-up or relationship problems, real or imagined. These are photos of ordinary women and teenaged girls. Celebrity is not required -- only a naked human body.
This is serious business, which really highlights the pervasive black-ops underbelly of the Internet, run by hacker sociopaths who engage with each other on sites like 4chan.org. That’s a vast web of message boards on which users post images of everything from their favorite actors to, and I’m not making this up, their favorite bowel movements. It’s a festival of the grotesque, and allegedly, the (mostly male) hackers collected these celebrity images in bits and pieces and spent months trying to “score.” These ethically and soul-dead creeps aren’t looking for financial reward; instead, their rituals are more akin to scalpers bragging to each other about their collection of human heads, awash in a toxic stew of resentment and entitlement.
“Enough with your PC bullshit. It’s tired,” I was told by one of my Facebook friends, a successful man with teenaged daughters, after I disagreed with his post, which he saw as comic and outrageous. After pointing out what morons these stars are, he offered the 24-year-old JLaw some pretty graphic grooming advice for her “special area.” And lots of people hooted and LOLed on the thread. One of them responded to me with an insult that I won’t repeat, but it had to do with tightening up private parts.
I would hope that Celebgate outrage is not only not tired, but intensifying, just like the Internet theft invasion-of-privacy problem.
It’s funny that many brands have now been offering messages to young women on being strong and unapologetic, based on research that shows that their confidence drops tremendously after puberty. Well, stuff like this is a factor. How we talk about girls and women matters. Please remember your humanity.
And to amend a famous advertising phrase, that idiot could be your wife or daughter.