Dunces, Heroes, and Fools In The Wake Of The Great Nude Actress Hack

Perez Hilton Yecch.

Perez Hilton

You should know by now that about a hundred actresses have had their nude photographs hacked from private accounts and posted for the world to drool over. As is often the case in such incidents, the ethical instincts, or lack thereof, of various individuals have been exposed in the wake of the event:

Ethics Dunce: Perez Hilton.

No surprise here: Hilton, a web gossip columnist and a different species of hack than the ones at issue, showed himself to have dead ethics alarms. After eagerly posting the uncensored photos  of Victoria Justice and Jennifer Lawrence on his celebrity gossip blog, Hilton was condemned far and wide on social media, so he first proved he didn’t get it by keeping up the photos but censoring the women’s naughty bits, and then taking them down entirely, explaining that “At work we often have to make quick decisions. I made a really bad one today and then made it worse. I feel awful and am truly sorry.” 

He’s sorry that he is getting slammed, and he removed the photos because of the criticism, and only because of the criticism. How hard is it to figure out that just because someone has illegally made private photographs of women without their clothes on available, it is still a violation of their privacy to publish them? For an ethically inert slug like Hilton, very difficult, apparently. “I was rushed, and thus the obvious fact that what I was doing was horribly wrong never occurred to me,” is a self-indictment, not an excuse. And Hilton’s first reaction was to just blur some parts of the photos, making the actresses look like porn queen, until someone with a brain and a soul pointed out, “Uh, Paris? This doesn’t address the problem,” to which he responded, I assume, “Oh? Oh. OH!!!” and finally took them down. Finally, he posted a full, typically-Hilton juvenile apology, the gist of which was that “he didn’t stop to think.” If you have to stop to think not to do something that is horribly, obviously wrong, then you have deep ethics problems. But then we already knew that about Perez Hilton.

Ethics Hero: Lena Dunham

The writer and star of “Girls” tweeted,

“Remember, when you look at these pictures you are violating these women again and again. It’s not okay. Seriously, do not forget that the person who stole these pictures and leaked them is not a hacker: they’re a sex offender.”

Perfect. And true.

Don’t bother trying to explain it to Perez.

Fools: Critics of Ricky Gervais

Gervais, who is a comedian, tweeted,

Gervais Tweet

…whereupon he was attacked far and wide for being “insensitive” and blaming the victims, by, among others, the afore-noted Lena Dunham, who sniffed: “The ‘don’t take naked pics if you don’t want them online’ argument is the ‘she was wearing a short skirt’ of the web. Ugh.”

Gervais, as I mentioned, is a comedian, and his statement should be taken as a joke, since literally everything he tweets is. When Sam Kineson, The Screaming Comedian, had some of these same critics rolling in the aisles with his satiric attack on sympathy porn fundraising ads by saying, “They keep asking us to give to helkp the starving people in Chad! Why the hell don’t the people in Chad move someplace WHERE THERE’S FOOD??? ARGGHHHH!!!” Gervais was making the same joke except that his has a nugget of truth in it (and isn’t as funny): tech experts have been cautioning users of cloud storage to be careful, and make sure their accounts were secure, or, in the alternative, to expect to be hacked.

Gervais didn’t apologize.

Good for him.

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at jamproethics@verizon.net.


Pointer and Facts: Althouse

Sources: Washington Post 1,2; Herald Sun, Mashable, Daily Mail



16 thoughts on “Dunces, Heroes, and Fools In The Wake Of The Great Nude Actress Hack

  1. And Gervais shouldn’t have apologized. I’d expand his statement to “If you don’t want to be ridiculed for engaging in stupid behavior, don’t engage in stupid behavior”. Amounts to the same thing.

  2. I’d like to know where the line is. If we don’t look both ways before crossing the street, and then get hit by a car, it’s obviously our fault. If we leave our bike unattended downtown in a metropolitan center, and it walks away, it’s our fault. There’s a history of accepting that while we SHOULD be able to do certain things, we obviously can’t, because they aren’t safe.

    It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Bart and Lisa are fighting, and Bart says “I’m going to walk towards you making punching motions, and if you get hurt, that’s on you” And Lisa says, “Oh yeah, Well I’m going to walk towards you making kicking motions, and if you get hurt, it’s on you” (Paraphrasing from memory) and then lo and behold, they get hurt. (But they were both right, ironically)

    Somewhere along the line, that changes though. Somewhere along the line taking appropriate measures to keep oneself safe stops being common sense, and transforms into ‘victim blaming’. Gervais comment is a great example, how dare he suggest that Celebrities not keep kinky pictures of them literally on the internet (because using cloud computing means that your files aren’t actually on your computer, they’re on a separate server that you (or Anonymous, apparently) can access from any computer anywhere).

    It’s OK to blame the dead gun instructor for the Uzi accident, but not OK to talk about the criminal records of teen shooting victims. It’s OK to call a man out for his brazen sexuality, but the same isn’t true for a woman. It’s OK to criticize Israel for blowing up Palestinian targets (That happen to be hospitals) But not OK to criticize Palestine for setting up forward bases IN hospitals. (I was reaching in that last one, I get it.)

    So where is that line? Where is the line between victim blaming and legitimate criticism? Are they mutually exclusive? Is the difference partisan?

    • Humble, I would say that yes, the difference is partisan, but keep in mind that I am both a cynic and an evil conservative. I happen to believe that people should take responsibility both for their own behavior and for the consequences for their own behavior. My belief, and it is only MY belief, is that liberals have and promote way too much victim-think. Hence, women share no blame for getting into and refusing to leave abusive relationships, nor is it possible for a black teen to be in any way responsible for a white cop shooting and killing him, even though that white cop has a broken eye-socket, apparently from being punched in the face (unless a ghost punched him…or, no, I have it. HE PUNCHED HIMSELF. Right). So, I would also say that the line between victim-blaming and legitimate criticism is no line at all. They are two different things and easily distinguishable. That from my “For What It’s Worth Department”.

      • Excellent post, Dragon.

        I don’t know the ages of all of the women involved, but I’ve noticed that people in general under the age of 30, in our country, are too trusting and unrealistic about safety matters.
        I am older and I would NEVER put naked pics of me online in any manner whatsoever, regardless of how safe it is supposed to be.

        • Me neither. More out of consideration for those who might see it. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s heart attack.

    • So where is that line? Where is the line between victim blaming and legitimate criticism? Are they mutually exclusive?
      Good question.
      Maybe some times it is a little of both.

      • They are surely NOT mutually exclusive. Someone is never justified in taking advantage of someone’s misplaced trust or careless behavior, but when one leaves the keys in one’s car in a high crime neighborhood, it is not unjust to tell that individual that he was an idiot. Hopefully, you don’t have to tell him.

        If you want to revisit an example when my assignment of some blame to a victim outraged many here, try this one. Or, more recently, the Ray Rice situation.

  3. The hackers and those peddling the stolen ‘property’ absolutely should be punished. I had an ethical dilemma about even viewing these photos, but curiosity kills the cat, they say (I made sure to let my girlfriend know she is more beautiful). Is this a crime? Certainly, yes. Is it morally and ethically wrong to hack and/or distribute photos that were presumed to be private? Yes. Should we (celebrities included) know better by this point? Yes, and I believe this is the main point of argument among people.

    There is a certain prudence that most are taught to avoid putting themselves in a vulnerable position, be it burglary, theft, assault, sex crimes, etc. It’s odd to me that this prudence is challenged (and called victim-blaming) only when women are the likely victim. No reasonable person ever argues that someone deserves to be the victim of a crime due for any reason, least of all a lack of prudence. But why do people (feminists, mostly), put so much energy into challenging behaviors/actions that make people SAFER? It’s misguided and delusional and hinges on one aspect:

    “We should teach those committing the crimes that they shouldn’t do these things because they are bad. We should not teach people how to NOT be victims.”

    This, of course, is a valid argument, but it is decidedly not SOUND. Why? Because we DO teach people that it’s not okay to steal. We DO teach men (over and over and over again, I might add) that it’s not okay to sexually assault women, and that consent is very important. We DO teach people that it’s not okay to murder. Why then, does it still happen? Because some people suck (enter here: my argument about the perception of normalized violence, rape-culture, and sensationalism and their effect on lawmaking. A topic for another day). It’s therefore prudent to take measures to avoid being a victim of someone who sucks. Nobody flinches at the idea of teaching people to lock their doors, hide their valuables, shut your garage doors, avoid bad neighborhoods at night, take extra precautions to avoid drunk drivers, etc. In fact, most people who DON’T engage in these activities are called fools. Why must we flinch when we teach women to avoid walking home alone at night, not to get into cars with strangers, etc.? It’s not blaming the victim, it’s just being prudent. The only difference being that, because sex crimes mainly affect women, women bear the comparatively unfair duty of prudence (enter here: argument about how well trained women with mace/firearms/etc. level the playing field and my confusion with why feminists are generally anti-gun).

    So where does this argument fit in with having pictures stolen of your phone (a device connected to the internet)? Well, to me, there’s nothing more ironic than complaining about your privacy on a public twitter account.

  4. I find it ironic that even younger celebrities who have grown up in a digital world do not get the dark side. The truth is that everything is hackable, and the more valuable and private it is, the more some kinds of people will want to get at it. You want convenience, you pay with the risk that it will be copied and used against you. Now if you are saving your private recipe collection or that terrible lovelorn poem to your best friend’s brother, that’s unlikely to be much of a target or profit the hacker. Nude photos of anyone, especially a famous person are worth more to the hacker and the subject than anyone else. The internet rarely forgets. I feel some sympathy, but she depended on a 3rd party to protect her privacy instead of herself, not just one 3rd party but many, from the cloud company security to the benevolence of hackers and paparazzi bloggers.

    The victims allowed these photos to be taken and posted them online into the cloud. There is always a risk some hacker (or government agent) might get those photos from camera chip, computer, ISP. cloud, email, flash, or smoke signals as soon as they save the image. You might be able to shame one offender like Hilton, but the pictures are still out there. Jumping on sites to look at the photos is rewarding the scum and the ads companies who pay them by the number of eyeballs they deliver. This isn’t rape, as victims sent copies of their nude photos to be filed at the public library, assuming the security is up to snuff.

    It will never be perfect and you have to expect that.

  5. I think that this serves as a teachable moment. I remember hearing somewhere (concerning Facebook) to not put anything up that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with everybody seeing. Yes, cloud computing is different. However, cloud computing is not the same as a service such as Snapchat, where information is (theoretically) off the record within a few seconds. Thus, it pays to know the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of technology one uses. Whether an asshole ex, a crummy password, or sheer laziness, a network is only as good as its weakest link.

  6. This seems to be so obvious that it’s astonishing to me that the controversy exists. Is it me or do feminists (and other victims groups as well) seem to set out to make themselves ridiculous then shame the people who notices how ridiculous they are? I’m smart enough not to go to a women’s studies department at a university wearing a “Kick me I don’t like feminism.” sign. Or a gang area wearing the opposing gangs colors. Or leave my car unlocked. It seems self explanatory that if you don’t want a nude photo of yourself out there for others to see you just don’t ever allow one to be taken. What reason is there for doing it?


    And yet, there’s my name, right on this very blog, credited as a co-author of this: 36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”

    This incident is an excellent example of this, and one that falls into territory that makes it easy to stray into “You should have seen it coming.”

    The unethical party here is not any of the people whose photos were stolen. It is the person who stole the photos. And I have to admit to momentarily forgetting that.

    Being defensive about how you conduct your life so that it’s less likely that you’ll be victimized by others is certainly a virtue. It is ethical conduct that should be encouraged everywhere with everyone.

    But that doesn’t make a lack of defensive conduct unethical. And I think that’s where I was going astray.


  8. Ricky Gervais had it absolutely right. In fact, you have to wonder if one or more of those poor little actresses hired that hacker, knowing a deviant toad like Hilton would publish them and thus give their fading (or as yet unrealized) careers a critical boost. The Playboy Ploy… with a new twist. But, in the meantime, I have very little sympathy for anyone who take nude photos of themselves and place them in their computer gallery. Is it stupidity or exhibitionism that led them to do this? In any case, there don’t seem to be any good guys here.

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