It appears to be a triumph of “ick” over both law and ethics.
Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, was awarded $16 million as her part of a $31 million jury verdict Wednesday against Los Angeles County. Deputies and firefighters had shared gruesome photos of the NBA star; their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; and other victims killed in a 2020 helicopter crash; the family of those other victims received the rest of $31 million. The nine jurors unanimously agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys’ argument that the photos invaded her privacy and caused emotional distress.
I’m sure they caused emotional distress. But how can an event that occurs in public be declared sufficiently private to have the protection of the right to privacy? If a journalist had taken the photos and published them, or shared them on a news website, presumably there would be no way Bryant’s widow would have a cause of action. I don’t see how a bystander with a cell phone could be blocked or sued either. These pictures were shared mostly among employees of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire departments.They also were seen by some of their spouses and in one case by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking. Well not to be unsympathetic, but so what? How does the right to privacy make reality a personal property protected by the law? If the bloody crash occurred where a crowd of a hundred people could see it, how would the law black them from taking photos and showing them to friends?
“I thought to myself, “I am a little girl. I am naked. Why did he take that picture? Why didn’t my parents protect me? Why did he print that photo? Why was I the only kid naked while my brothers and cousins in the photo had their clothes on?” I felt ugly and ashamed.”
—-Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the now 59 year-old woman (above). She was the screaming 9-year-old North Vietnamese girl shown in “The Terror of War”, the famous photograph by AP photographer Nick Uts showing her running naked and burned down a road after napalm was dropped on the village of Trảng Bàng in 1972.
I always uncomfortable with that photograph from the moment I saw it, and thought it was cruel and unethical. Would the AP have published a similar photograph of a white American girl? I don’t know, but I don’t trust the Associated Press (or any press, at this point). It won Ut a Pulitzer Prize and helped energize the anti-Vietnam war effort in the U.S., but the photo (shown in the underlined link above) fails two basic ethics systems: Reciprocity, as in the Golden Rule, and Kant’s Categorical Imperative, which forbids using another human being as a means to an end. Can it be justified under Utilitarian principles, as a balancing of outcomes? Was the benefit of publishing the photo sufficient to make it ethical conduct, despite the harm it would do to an innocent child?
Emily Bridges and Lilly Chant, two biological men who “identify” as female, won the first and second place slots at London’s ThunderCrit cycling last week. That’s the third place finisher with her baby on the right. The Post Millennial, a conservative website, used the photo above and this one…
“For a culture so steeped in violence, we spend a lot of time preventing anyone from actually seeing that violence,” says an Ethics Dunce quoted with reverence in the New York Times essay, “From Sandy Hook to Uvalde, the Violent Images Never Seen” “Something else is going on here, and I’m not sure it’s just that we’re trying to be sensitive.” Hmmm, what could that ‘something else’ be? It’s a mystery!
It’s ethics, you blithering fool. The Dunce is Nina Berman, a documentary photographer, filmmaker and Columbia journalism professor. See that least part? Is it any wonder that journalists are now our least ethical professionals? Jelani Cobb, incoming dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, is also quoted as saying, “I’m not at all certain that it’s ethical or right to display these images in this way.”
Since late last month, April 25 in fact, I have been periodically researching the topic of NFTs or “nonfungible tokens“. The damn things were back in the news yesterday when a digital-only photograph of supermodel Emily Ratajkowski standing in front of a photograph of herself with a smaller, different photograph of herself in the corner sold at auction at Christie’s for $140,000 ($175,000 after fees). Here’s Yahoo!’s description:
“It’s not that the photo can be seen only by the buyer or even that the buyer can physically mount it in a frame (though one supposes the buyer could project it on a wall or screen and put a frame around the projection); it’s that the equivalent of the certificate verifying the authenticity of the digital file of the main photo is unique. It’s really the certificate that cannot be replaced exactly by a copy….NFTs have recently enjoyed a heyday. Nonfungible.com, which tracks such sales, shows massive spikes through the first quarter of 2021 over the last quarter of 2020, with sales volume reportedly in the range of $2 billion already this year.“
Right. I can read that over and over, and it still makes no sense. As far as I can tell, these are like digital tulip bulbs from the Dutch tulip craze crossed with cyber-currency, and people who have so much money they don’t know what to do with it are buying what amounts to metadata as investments. But I may be completely wrong. I eventually gave up on trying to understand NFTs when my sock drawer started looking taking to me.
There is are underlying ethics issues, however. Ratajkowski created her NFT in part to troll Richard Prince, a photographer who has exploited the blurry ethics and copyright laws involving photography to make a lot of money and to infuriate many people, especially celebrities like Ratajkowski. Prince is the master of the digital age of Appropriation Art. When Andy Warhol essentially copied the design of a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and made millions from it, that was the beginning of the trail of metaphorical bread crumbs that led to Prince. Thousands of photographs are placed online every day and appear all over the web, to be copied and re-used in on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and many other cyber-spaces. It is often impossible to track down the original photograph or its source even if one wants to give it attribution or ask permission to use it from the creator—this is something I do know something about, as I deal with it every day. Taking an individual’s image, however, treating it as one’s own and selling it is widely regarded a breach of photography ethics, and arguably a breach of law. “Fine Art,” however, creates a large loophole, and in the loophole dwells the much despised Richard Prince.
Once again I have to say, “I don’t understand this AT ALL.”
The photo didn’t come from the Babylon Bee, it came from the Carter Center, which was not hacked. The place really did send out this ridiculous photo that makes Joe Biden look like Andre the Giant, Rosalynn Carter look like Lily Tomlin playing “Edith Ann” on “Laugh-in,” Dr. Biden look like she’s remaking “Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman” and the former President look like Dorf.
1. What idiot at the Carter Center didn’t pick up on the fact that the photo made the Center’s scions look like dolls? How hard is that? Is this fool still employed? Does he or she secretly hate the Carters? “We’re pleased to share this wonderful photo from the @POTUS and @FLOTUS visit to see the Carters in Plains, Ga.!” the Center’s tweet said. “Wonderful”? It’s an incompetent photo.
2. What allged photographer took that monstrosity? Who approved and released it? Who are these incompetent employees?
3. No masks? No masks inside within inches of two high risk seniors in their Nineties?
1. Today this post, from two years ago, is suddenly getting a lot of views. The reason: there was a resolution of the long-shot law suit by the descendants of two slaves in photographs owned by Harvard University. The slave’s descendant, Tamara Lanier, had employed Benjamin Crump, legal race-hustler without peer, to sue on the Hail Mary theory that
“the images are the “spoils of theft,” because as slaves Renty and Delia were unable to give consent to being photographed., and that Harvard is illegally profiting from the images by using them for “advertising and commercial purposes.” By keeping the photos, the lawsuit claims, Harvard has perpetuated the hallmarks of slavery that prevented African-Americans from holding, conveying or inheriting personal property.”
Sure, Ben….from the post:
“Harvard and other universities set themselves up for this by caving to historical airbrushing demands by the students they have helped indoctrinate, such as when Georgetown University established a policy giving an edge in admissions to descendants of slaves who were sold to fund the school. I would say they have this coming and let them sleep on the bed of nails their laziness and cowardice have made, but therein lies a real danger. Harvard, which of late has been devising and defending one bad progressive idea after another (like discriminating against Asian Americans as Harvard’s own way of helping African Americans get admitted to the college), might just decide to be woke rather than responsible, and let Mrs. Lanier take the photos, thus setting a precedent with endless potential to cause havoc.”
Justice Camille F. Sarrouf of Middlesex County Superior Court this week acknowledged that the daguerreotypes had been taken under “horrific circumstances” but said that if the enslaved subjects, Renty and Delia, did not own the images when they were made in 1850, then their descendant who brought the lawsuit, Tamara Lanier, did not own them either.
In 2016 around this time I took Ethics Alarms to the woodshed for using unflattering photos of Hillary Clinton, like these.
It’s a dirty trick, essentially. Photos capture a split second of life and falsify it by freezing it forever. The news media has been using this tactic against Donald Trump with wild abandon, having essentially given up any pretense of fairness and objectivity. However, the Rasmussen graphic above wasn’t a photograph, and it was employed by the supposedly conservative-leaning polling service. Yet it could have been designed by the Democratic National Committee at its most nasty, portraying the President as a snarling, vicious threat, and Joe Biden as a calm and professional statesman.
Rasmussen was quick with a retraction that raised more questions that it answered:
Why did Rasmussen have the snarling Trump graphic at all?
What kind of “production error” would cause that?
If the company is so careless with its tweets, what else is it careless about?
Was a “rogue employee” the culprit? Again, this does not speak well for the company’s management, trustworthiness or culture.
Any organization that sends out tweets without a vetting and review process is incompetent. Yes, that includes the White House. Especially the White House.
Is Rasmussen really blaming the social media criticism of its botch? Or Trump supporters who have seen enough flagrant anti-Trump bias for a lifetime, and who expressed their anger at this example? The company needs to apologize, not blame the victims of its own system breakdown ineptitude.
I’m going to open up the floor to comments on whatever you want to talk about, ethics-wise. This day looks chaotic for me, beginning with an interment of a dear friend at Arlington National Cemetery. I’ll visit mom and dad while I’m there…
Police arrested Samantha R. Hamer, 26, and Kerida E. O’Reilly, 33, on suspicion of being parties to the crimes of substantial battery and robbery with use of force. They were both in custody Monday night, according to online records from the Dane County jail.
He fell to the ground after he was punched and about 10 people hit and kicked him, one witness told police. Stunned, Carpenter told them he was an ally and had long fought for the kinds of policies they were seeking.
Paramedics treated him but he declined to go to the hospital that night. A week later, he said he had surgery in St. Francis for injuries he suffered during the attack.
I have to believe that sooner or later the cognitive dissonance scale will work its silent magic, to the advantage of Republicans and the detriment of Democrats. These are ugly, scary people who are behind the rioting and statue-toppling, and the classic types that have fueled totalitarian take-overs throughout history (Yesterday was the anniversary of the revolutionaries turning on Robespierre.).
Yet Democratic leaders are fearfully giving them their seals of approval.
Not for the first time, I’m wondering if it’s fair to publish mug shots. Professor Turley is addicted to them, but they encourage people to judge others by their appearances, and publicizing an individual’s appearance at a time when they can’t possibly be at their best seems gratuitously cruel. The photos of the two arrested women…
…prompted lots of mockery among Althouse’s commentariat, most of whom resorted to stereotyping
What the President said, in response to a question about the incident, was, “The person they beat up was a Democrat who happened to be gay and he was probably out there rooting them on or something because Democrats think it’s wonderful they’re destroying our country.”
Typical “fact-check.” This kind of dishonesty has been going on for almost four years, but I’m sure that Washington Post will add it to its “lie list.” The state senator is gay and is a Democrat. Saying what he was “probably” doing is not a “claim” but an opinion, and based on Carpenter’s own protestation, it’s probably an accurate one. By the basic rules of English, there is no way one can fairly say that the President “falsely claimed” that Carpenter was rooting the statue-topplers on.
Two days ago, Law and Crime, usually a partisan website on the Democratic side, posted the detailed allegation of Eva Murry, a 26-year-old woman who is engaged and has two children. The site treated it as a major scoop (“A woman says she was sexually harassed by presumptive Democratic Party Presidential nominee Joe Biden when she was 14 years old”) and the conservative news media picked up the ball and ran for the metaphorical goal-line. Fox News wrote, “A woman related to a former Republican Senate candidate is accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of sexual harassment…The claim comes as Biden is denying a separate allegation made by former staffer Tara Reade that he sexually assaulted her in 1993.” Further down the food chain—much further— the Trump-boosting blog WS sported the headline, “Report: Another Biden Accuser Comes Forward, Says He Sexually Harassed Her When She Was Only 14-Years-Old,” and began, “Yet another Biden accuser has come forward with a disgusting story of sexual harassment.”
Eva Murry’s account has absolutely no relevance to Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault. None. It should not be treated as if it does.
In an earlier post, I listed the three reasons why I am dubious of Reade’s accusation. The first is that she took so long to make her accusation public, a problem she shares with Dr. Blasey Ford and Anita Hill, among others. Second, the accusation looks and feels like a politically-motivated attack, another feature redolent of Hill and Ford. Third, such accusations are always suspect when they are alone.
It’s still alone. Murry’s story is the kind of “this guy is a creep” tale that came from all sides at Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign. We know Biden is a creep, or should; it doesn’t provide any reason to believe he is capable of sexual assault no matter how hard his adversaries try to spin it. Continue reading →