Surely by now you’ve heard about the naked pictures. Why be specific or provide links? If you are reading a political/cultural blog, you’ve heard about this. If you haven’t, I’ve given you a hint as to what you might Google. I’ll see you when you get back.
I really didn’t want to say anything about it. We’re on the verge of two wars, a mid-term election, race riots (they’re dying down but still), and yet this is what will consume everyone’s attention for at least the next few days. When I went to Drudge and saw “Naked Hacker Goes On Run” as the banner headline, I knew I had no choice. Plus this scandal instantaneously became a front in the culture wars and specifically the battle between uncouth men and angry feminists. We can’t escape it.
So, here are my talking points.
1. Men are driven sexually by imagery in a way that women cannot understand, just as women tend to be aroused by literature in a way few men could understand. That’s why, to answer TIME magazine’s absurd question, there will be no hacked pictures of men. That would require a female hacker with sufficient skill as well as the determination to see and disseminate pictures of naked men. The odds of that combination, I would wager, are hovering around zero. A gay male hacker, perhaps.
2. Feminists are denouncing the leak as a sort of virtual-rape, a manifestation of rape culture, etc. I think we can say that the morality of the act of disseminating what were intended to be private intimate photos stands somewhat apart from this claim. Just as feminists and the left in general acted as if the Obamacare mandate had existed from time immemorial when Hobby Lobby’s religious rights were upheld by the Supreme Court, they are now acting as if we live in an age of unprecedented male boorishness and aggression. We live in an age in which the morally righteous and the morally depraved are apparently separated from one another primarily by how much shock they can express whenever something bad happens. It is a sort of mock display of innocence, a show to the world that you are just so good that you couldn’t even imagine such things. It happens often enough on the right as well, such as the shock that we are all supposed to express when third-worlders express their gratitude for American interventionism with bullets and bombs.
Meanwhile, as Ian Tuttle so excellently argued in the National Review recently, feminists have been silent on the holocaust of rape that took place in Rotherham, UK, over several years. Here you have an actual culture of rape, a culture in which it was and remains acceptable for dirty old Pakistani Muslim men to abduct young white runaways and gang rape them for years, and the silence is deafening. Maybe America’s feminists don’t hear news from the UK (highly unlikely). Maybe the race and religion of the rapists has something to do with it (more likely).
Finally, I can only imagine what we might hear if men, as a group, reverted to 1950s norms of politeness and courtesy. I get the sense that nothing men are able and/or willing to do will ever be good enough, that most men know it, and therefore choose to simply behave without restraint. Women will ultimately have to choose what sort of men they want: uncivilized barbarians who commit actual rapes whenever they feel like it, civilized men who may insist on taking the lead in partnerships, or the sort of emasculated, basement-dwelling, resentment-filled perverts that are the natural result of modern feminism’s influence on society. I don’t see any more than 10% of us ever becoming pajama boy.
3. We will also hear from the same types what we always hear about date rape. Suggestions that people either a) take greater measures to secure their electronic data or b) abstain from taking nude photographs of themselves altogether (oh the horror!) will be met with the familiar refrain that one is “blaming the victims” in making them. I can only repeat what I’ve said before; statistically, a thing like this is likely to happen every so often. If you are a nobody with nothing of importance stored in a cloud (like me), you have little to worry about. If you are famous, attractive, and have data stored on a cloud, the chances that someone, at some point, will hack into it are considerably higher, higher still for female celebrities. The mistake people make is one of confusing statistical probabilities with moral agents. Considered from the standpoint of statistical probability, a data hack is no more personal than a flood or an earthquake. And while the hacker is certainly morally responsible, so are we all morally responsible for being aware of the risks involved with everything we do.
Pretending that you do not or cannot understand these things makes you appear to be a righteous person in these times.
If you really can’t understand, as a thought experiment, imagine that an advanced AI perpetrated the hack and spread the photos by mistake. No intention, no malice, no victim. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so outrageous to suggest that one take personal responsibility for managing the risks involved with their behavior. The outrage results from the growing delusion that a perfect world can exist in which all people, with the right amount of education, indoctrination, or coercion, will all act and think in the same way. Unlike horny men who will practically break their necks to see a pretty woman naked, that sort of thinking is (relatively) new, and it is dangerous.
4. All of that said, it was a criminal act. Find the guy. Prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. The damage is done, but we can choose how to move forward: with more utopian delusions, or with a rational understanding of probabilities, risks, and personal security. I’m not going to join the chorus of boys expressing glee and delight over this. Nor am I going to join the chorus of non-feminist women who have judged the celebs for taking the naked pictures in the first place (of these, I have seen quite a few in the comboxes). What the hell do I care if people take naked pictures of themselves?
I will say however that prior to this scandal, I hadn’t even heard of most of these celebrities. You can’t be half-way plugged into the culture without knowing who Jennifer Lawrence (I can’t help but appreciate her talents as an actress) and Kate Upton are. Most of the rest of them I was barely familiar with or not at all. I think we all know, though only few will say, that this will likely provide boosts for their careers in the form of greater exposure, pun unavoidable. I wouldn’t begrudge them for making lemonade out of this sour event.
My own semi-utopian dream is that people everywhere use incidents such as these to fortify themselves against foreseeable dangers. Some will, many will in fact – even many of the publicly outraged will quietly engage in some personal risk assessment with respect to their online data, just as many liberals quietly purchase guns and avoid certain parts of town in spite of their public outrage over guns and racism. I don’t get as angry about that hypocrisy as many on the right do. I take it as a hopeful sign that when push comes to shove, many of them will finally drop the act. In the meantime, though, it sure does stink.