Monday, September 8, 2014


I am really glad I actually didn't learn about Celebgate until last Wednesday (sign of an awesome vacation) or the further developments of gamergate. I was gonna write about them then, and then I wasn't but the internet is single-handedly digging a new trench for deplorability and dragging the averages of human decency beneath standards set decades ago.
Certain contingents are using celebgate a kind of slut-shaming field day and that’s bullshit. Taking racy, or even sexually explicit photos in private, to be shared exclusively with your lover is not deviant, or promiscuous. It's your own damn business.

Every time you take an intimate photo, there is a chance somebody other than the intended recipient will see it. And obviously, that probability increases in direct proportion to the lengths people are willing to go to make that happen. If you are an internationally recognized celebrity, those lengths are long, and should a photo get out, it will enjoy immortality on the internet. To most people, particularly older generations, the answer seems obvious: if clothes come off, the lens cap stays on. After seeing the heinous backlash these women are dealing with, it is an easy argument to make. But love and lust have a remarkable talent for making simple things complicated. Throw some nascent technology in there and things get messy quick.

In a world where cameras are ubiquitous and so much of our lives are mediated through screens, it’s not hard to understand why sexual photography has become a more prevalent part of intimacy and courtship. As human adults possessing free will, we should be able to weigh those risks, and make whatever decision we feel is fit. A risk is not equivalent to a consequence though, especially when a third party you trust promises to mitigate that risk and protect you from consequence.

A networked database would not be my first choice for storing sex pix—that’s what really took this from the scale from a home invasion to a declaration of war against female celebrity privacy—but Apple did not tell people to use common sense. They told them to trust their Cloud, where all their data would be safe. It wasn’t of course, so now they are obligated to explain how they fucked up (in a very detailed and public way), and make it right as soon as feasible. I predict a storm of God’s Wrath-grade litigation, and I hope the damages are severe enough to help Apple understand why some of us are still skeptics.
The fact that people are passing the leaked photos around like bubblegum cards is sick but absolutely predictable. As a former fourteen-year-old, I can tell you I would not be able to quash both my curiosity and my hormones if somebody offered me a consequence free opportunity to peek at what my celebrity crushes get up to in the bedroom. That’s not to excuse it. By and large, fourteen year old boys are terrible people. But short of Great Firewall censorship measures, or divine intervention, I’m not sure how you curb that behavior.

I think one solution is a broader acceptance of sex in general; being willing to talk about it, joke about it, and show it--provided that the parties being shown consent. That’s another post though, and I think it will be controversial and divisive, even if I handle it with care, and that’s not what I’m after. We have enough people stirring the pot. When I started Sarcasmancy, I hoped that I would develop this broad following, but honestly, this blog has mostly been a place to analyze stuff I’ve seen, practice my voice, and share my opinions with friends. If I was looking for attention, there are other models to follow.

Like Gawker. Sadly, they do not have a monopoly on clickbait. Upworthy and BuzzFeed are more prominent offenders, but they have enough dignity to refrain from peddling what they write as journalism. It’s especially saddening and frustrating since I remember a time when their network (or at least Kotaku and iO9) were better.

Gawker's "coverage" of celebgate has been particularly insulting. They’ve made mad clicks on it. Deadspin posted the Upton pictures, but Jezebel has been the most egregious offender. Here is their latest offering. The title presents an obvious positive, which they use as a Trojan for a vapid screed. The thrust of the piece is that Reddit complied with a court-order (against it's stated charter) but Reddit's owner, Yishan Wong didn't feel sorry enough about what the user-created board did (in accordance with Reddit's stated charter) and maybe did not go far enough to correct or apologize for their complicity in celebgate.

I'm glad /r/fappening is gone, but it was largely a symbolic gesture and Wong’s tone reflects that. The circulation of leaked photos is not going to stop, even on Reddit, and a more impassioned response implies more thorough action which would be disingenuous for practical purposes. Reddit is essentially 4chan, refined and writ-large. It is a microcosm for the entire internet (not just the otaku and assholes) that keeps score. There are countless forums organized by interest, and just like on 4chan, the content comes too quickly for human mods to be entirely in control. By and large, the mods do a very impressive job, but there are no codified standards, and next-to-no accountability for shirking or screwing up.

A couple years back, Reddit did a (long overdue) purge of their ‘jailbait’ focused forums featuring suggestive pictures of underage people (in theory, they guarded against out-and-out child porn from the start). A lot of people cried free-speech and slippery slope, but personally, I think that’s always a good place to draw a hard line. I think banning forums founded on ‘the interest’ of distributing stolen photos is a good idea as well (though for certain webheads who regard ownership and privacy as outdated notions I imagine it rankles). By eliminating the forums that openly facilitate the exchange of that material, Reddit made it harder for people to find the photos, and in an instant gratification culture, that actually does quite a lot. The ugly truth though, is that both things are still traded on Reddit, just like the internet at large. As long as there is an internet, terrible stuff will continue to be circulated on it. This is the ugly side of an open communication forum, but both Reddit and the internet should remain as open as they can. Ultimately, Wong’s appeal to personal morality is more honest than an empty promise, or the earnest intent to compromise what is valuable about the site.

Gawker also seems to think that it's hilarious when a male sextape gets leaked, but when it happens to a woman it's sexism. Admittedly, there is a certain degree of theater-of-the-absurd-comedy to Hulk Hogan banging in a canopy bed--something this Tumblr meme pointedly ignores, but Gawker's proud refusal to obey a court order, contrasted against their use of Jezebel as a mouth piece to condemn Reddit for complying with one, is pretty loathsome. If you vocally identify as feminist (and that seems to be Gawker's sole purpose for Jezebel), you cannot celebrate one invasion of sexual privacy and condemn the other from the same soap box. I don't know how their writers don't choke on their own hypocrisy but I imagine it's one of the benefits that comes with having two faces.

It’s not just bad lazy, opportunistic writing; it’s also fuel for the Fedora Brigade. This is the kind of shit that makes confused boys and frustrated men think /r/redpill really does reveal some grand truth about the universe, and why tons of women are suddenly declaring that they are against feminism. It makes everyone serious about civil rights seem petty and sexist by mere association.

I know I’ve been writing about current events, social politics, and Serious Business more than entertainment lately. I know that’s not what I started this site for, or why most people come here, and frankly it’s less fun. But it’s important, more is coming (like I said, I’ve already started working on the next post in this vein) and I don’t think that’s gonna change anytime soon.

The next post I publish will probably be on Guardians of the Galaxy because I had the pleasure of re-watching it last night, and it’s fun enough (and weird enough!) that it deserves some unpacking. After that, I’m going to talk about The Magician’s Land (and the trilogy it concludes) with some Lev Grossman anecdotes from Dragon*Con to supplement it (Go read it. Go read all three. There will be spoilers). The Magicians is a series that wrestles with privilege and the relationship between fantasy.

In other news, I reached the end of part one of my second novel. That’s a gross sentence to read, but the awkward word choice is deliberate. Nothing is actually finished yet. This book changes like Tam fucking Lin as I write it, so now I need to go back and make it so all the chapters agree with each other. Right now, they’re like a pack of over-imaginative kids who can’t agree on who broke the cookie jar and how. It’s already nearly as long as my first book, and all three parts together are shaping up to be about 3 times longer. But I also think it is going to be at least that much better.

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