On November 12, 2014, ten years and a distance of 6.5 billion kilometers after its initial launch, the European Space Agency successfully landed a probe on a targeted comet whirling through space. This has never, ever been done before. On the very same day, Paper magazine released photos of Kim Kardashian’s ass. The internet exploded in response. Not because of the groundbreaking achievement in astrophysics — but because Kim’s photos did, as predicted, break the internet. Memes were bountiful and productivity diminished. The media, internet and all of its distraction-loving followers always has and, tragically, always will remain obsessed with the superficiality of celebrity life. And in these moments, it unfortunately occurs to me that the stars of Hollywood have a greater gravitational pull than the stars (and comets) of our galaxy. Sigh.
We the people love to be entertained and remain blissfully ignorant. Celebrity scandal, success, publicity, and mockery are a part of our culture and everyday lives. Some celebrities choose to stage dramatic personal events solely for public relations. And sometimes, celebrities are the target of malicious defamation for the personal gain of others. With no greater canvas, and no greater audience — celebrities are an ideal center of attention with which to become instantly [in]famous.
In the last few months, some of the most controversial and disturbing celebrity gossip involved Jennifer Lawrence, among many others, and something otherwise known as The Fappening. Private, nude images of celebrities stored in the cloud were obtained illegally via hackers and spread all over the internet. As expected, much of the public loved the leak. Some loved the drama and some, unabashedly, loved the images — but not nearly as many were adamant about establishing a discourse on what this violation actually means for all of us.
Violations of human rights are not purely minority-targeted. Sex crimes are not merely physical. Violations of privacy are not strictly bureaucratic.
Of course, it’s easy to feel as though what’s happened to Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t ever happen to us. After all, I would have loved to have been cast in The Hunger Games series — but that’s not a reality that I’m expecting to experience any time soon (but hey, Hollywood, I’m available if you need me). Therefore, the attention reserved strictly for celebrities, albeit positive or negative, is an experience from which we feel isolated — often feeling as though we are not even living on the same planet. Except, of course, that we are.
Publicly humiliating women by releasing nude images (or any other private material for that matter) is not only a violation of privacy and a sex crime — but also an enormous red flag on our integrity and ethics as a whole. Why is an invasion of personal privacy OK when the subject is a celebrity? Why is it OK to publicly release private, sexual content of a one-night stand or ex-lover? Why are the actions of the NSA a breach of privacy, but not any of this?
What’s happening is that we don’t have a singular policy about constitutional violations of privacy and rights for everyone, for all circumstances. Well, actually we do. We just don’t have a code of ethics that supports and defends those rights even when we ourselves are not the target. These are violations of privacy, whether you’re getting pleasure out of seeing naked images of Jennifer Lawrence or not. It’s a violation of privacy whether initiated by the government or hackers, and whether it’s illegal surveillance of telephone calls or the retrieval of celebrity pornographic images. If the government is shamelessly violating our privacy, we are up in arms. When a celebrity’s privacy is violated, we unapologetically gawk. I can assure you, the government is just as pleased with all of the data they have accumulated from tapped phone conversations — but the good of the few does not outweigh the good of the many.
We are all victims, and we are all corruptors, as long as we continue to accept that sometimes it’s OK and sometimes it’s not, depending on who you ask.
Not surprisingly, I’ve asked myself a number of times, “How many supporters of The Fappening are also anti-NSA?” — and I can’t help but think that statistic would be an alarming and disturbing pretense.
We the people have a great concern for our violation of privacy as disrupted by the government in its direct disregard to the fourth constitutional amendment — and yet, we the people ignore violations of privacy, as pertained to sexual matter and the rights of “someone other than me,” as merely a matter of opinion, depending of course on who is the subject and who is the subjugator.
There may come a time when privacy is simply a thing of the past. If we value our privacy, then we need to fight for what’s best for all of us. We must stand on a morally high ground that violations of privacy in any form at all are a violation, period.