I posted earlier here about the efforts by lawyers (and bloggers) Marc Randazza and Ken at Popehat to foil the despicable operators of “IsAnybodyDown?” That vile website solicits and uses nude photos of women who have not given permission for them to be posted. It often posts contact information for the women as well, and, as a final touch, promotes an alleged legal service that guarantees that it will get the photos taken down. This is a good bet, since the legal service is operated by the same two men who run the site, though it is very unlikely that the “lawyer” really exists. After Marc and Ken challenged the site, its purveyors launched another one accusing them of secretly working for pornography interests and being funded by the Mob.
These are not, in other words, nice people.
In his most recent post about their ongoing battle, Ken recounted an e-mail exchange with Chance Trahan, who founded and operates “IsAnybodyDown?”with Craig Brittain. It is an exchange that confirms what one would assume about someone who engages in a business like his. A typical tweet from Chance to Craig reads in part, “You aren’t shit to the world you immoral fuck.” Yet Ken was moved to reflect upon even this individual’s humanity, applying the Golden Rule to and musing about how even the likes of Trahan and Brittain can have redeeming qualities. In doing so he provided as profound and lovely reflection on the ethical process of reciprocity, as well as kindness, fairness, forgiveness and empathy. With Ken’s permission, I present it here.“I discovered something a bit disturbing last night. Someone showed me that Chance Trahan puts pictures on the internet showing that he has a very cute young daughter. I’m sure he loves her very much. I’m sure she loves him. Despite the fact that he’s wantonly cruel, and a meathead, it would not surprise me at all to learn that he’s a doting and tender parent. But somehow Chance Trahan is able to separate, in his mind, that little girl, and her mother, and his mother, and any other women he’s ever cared about, from the women being humiliated and abused on “IsAnybodyDown?” He’s able to put them in a separate category when his site posts women’s phone numbers so people drooling over their pictures can call them incessantly. He’s able to but them in separate categories when his site posts mocking posts about takedown requests.
“But Chance Trahan’s daughter is a human being, with feelings, and so are the people depicted on the site. So let me ask you, Chance: when your daughter is old enough to understand — say, 14 — and she asks you if you are proud of what you did with “Is Anybody Down?” and “The Takedown Lawyer?”, how would you respond? If your daughter, as a teen, made a stupid young mistake that too many girls have recently and sent an explicit picture to a boy, and he sent it to a site like yours, would you be able to put that in a separate category, too?
“I believe that people generally are not all good or all bad; I believe that “good people” are capable of cruelty and “bad people” capable of kindness. I think we’re all broken, which comes out to different degrees. Despite that belief, my own brokenness is sometimes expressed by treating people as all bad — and exposing them to easy and occasionally cruel ridicule — when I write about them on this site. But like Chance, I have children that I love. Just as I can imagine my daughters being victimized by a site like this, I can imagine any of my three children, through their own brokenness, falling into a course of evil and cruelty like Craig and Chance have. I would be disappointed and humiliated but still love them, and would hope that others would still recognize their innate humanity — as I sometimes fail to do in writing about bad behavior on this site. A critic might say that when I write about bad actors on this site, I put them in a different category than myself and my kids, something like (though to a very different agree) Chance does with the women his site abuses. So let me make this clear: I’d be happy to take down this series of posts about Craig and Chance and their fraud and extortion and cruelty if they decide to stop doing what they are doing and spare the women on their site and take down their sites. I still believe that more speech — like this — is one of the best ways to address bad behavior, and that exposing bad actors is effective and appropriate. But I also believe, ultimately, in mercy for people who stop doing evil.
“Chance, I recognize you as a fellow father, and human being, in the pictures of you as a proud father with a beautiful little girl. I ask you: look at her, then look at those sites, and make the decision to take them down. I will, in turn, take down these posts, and also apologize to you as a fellow human being for the cheap shots I have taken in the course of exposing what you’re doing — because I’ve done wrong things, too. Craig, I don’t know if you have children. But you seem to have a decent family made up of admirable people who have done good things, and I’m sure you love them and they love you. Look at them, and look at your sites, and decide if this makes you proud, and I will do the same.”
It bears noting that after posting this, Ken learned of further despicable conduct by the pair toward a victim of their website, and withdrew his offer, saying “murum aries attigit”—literally “the ram has met the wall,” meaning that hostilities and begun in earnest and there would be no turning back. That’s all right. The process Ken went through as he considered his treatment of the two men was exemplary, and one that all of us should remember and employe when we are tempted to regard another human being as beyond redemption.