by Roy Klabin
The indignation over the recent celebrity nude photo hack is as ludicrous and as it is hypocritical, especially when it comes from the very media companies that spend billions of dollars constantly sexualizing the very women who were targeted.
This entire “scandal” is representative of how information is distorted in our online culture. Driven by the quest for pageviews, too many media outlets have been forced to debase themselves with the constant publication of scandal, simplification, and social crusades. News has become a contest of attention-seeking children, rather than an exploration of information, fact or original thought.
The truth is these iCloud vulnerabilities have been known and written about for years. More importantly, the same news outlets that are leaping onto the outrage bandwagon are completely ignoring how they’ve covered these events in the past — when the public temperament was disinterested in issues of privacy, and more curious about gossip. Where was the indignation for Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Dustin Diamond, Fred Durst, Colin Farrell, Hulk Hogan, John Edwards, or Kim Kardashian? Where was the moral outrage when a film of Marilyn Monroe performing oral sex was sold to a New York Businessman? Is an audience of one less offensive than an audience of a few million when someone’s privacy is being sold to the highest bidder?
How are we meant to take moral guidance from companies like BuzzFeed, who write three separate articles about John Hamm’s penis? Or The Huffington Post, which ran a poll for readers to judge leaked pictures of Greg Oden’s penis — and in an unfathomable contrast, Odenapologized! The double standards would be mind-numbing, if they weren’t so painfully indicative of how media companies operate today: churn and chase public opinion, rather than maintain any genuine ethical line.
Some articles even decry this hack right next to a related stories section that entices users to click on celebrity wardrobe malfunctions:
In the eagerness to simplify this story, reddit (where the pictures were most disseminated) has been painted as a community of perverted monsters, peddling in child pornography. The reality is that reddit embodies a microcosm of the entire Internet, visited by millions of users around the world, and acting as a central hub for media, viral content, marketing, and the exchange of ideas. To judge a website that massive for one sub-section is like saying Paris has a nice radio tower. CNN even had a supposed “expert” describe 4Chan as a person, rather than a site.
The news of today seems to be about reaching the finish line first, even if you have to burn the facts as fuel to get there. And that’s why these media companies are really mad… they got beaten to the punch-line by the image hosting sites shared on reddit and 4Chan. So instead of being able to peddle the nudity themselves, they’re spreading a new kind of pornography: Outrage Porn. They get to capitalize on the same Hollywood fame, with a more convenient and sympathetic narrative.
What happened to these women is a tragic violation of privacy. But publications asking people to stop clicking on the content or pretending to be offended, after they published hundreds of their own articles discussing the barely covered genitalia of the very same celebrities is such a nauseating example of stupidity it makes me wonder where they got their journalism license, if only there were such a thing.
Let’s not deny our own human nature. If looking at naked pictures wasn’t enticing, then these pictures would not have been taken in the first place. They weren’t intended for public viewing, but blaming a rubbernecker for the car crash they’re looking at is moronic. More importantly, it’s the publications covering this story that are as much to blame for people having access and interest in the pictures. They are actively promoting the topic and feeding off the attention like parasites. Half the people who found out about the pictures, did so through one of the media outlets calling it a “travesty.” I’d have far more respect for a publication that had the dignity to write: “We don’t traffic in stolen information.”
But apparently I live in a fantasyland.
Roy Klabin is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, where he focused on long-form video and reporting. His coverage of New York based drug dealers was featured in The Atlantic and he’s written on various topics including politics, crime and emerging technology for Mic.com.