Celebrity Pictures and Asking, "Shouldn't They Have Known Better?"

In the wake of the massive sea of hacked naked photos of women actors, models, and singers (and at least one male baseball player), one of the more common sentiments I have seen is, to paraphrase, “why is it victim blaming to say that they should have known better?” I have actually encountered that defensive question with far more regularity than I have encountered that statement of “they should have known better,” truth be told.

Anyway, to answer the question, perhaps it is not. Perhaps, as several asker of this question have protested, it really is just you trying to alert these wronged famous people (and others, famous and otherwise) to the dangers of online data, storing things on phones, and so on. Maybe.

It is still a lousy thing to do.

Think of it this way. Your friend calls you (yes, most of us don’t count, say, Kate Upton as a friend, but when you act like you have some solid advice to give her about her digital storage needs, I feel like you are kind of blurry about your connection to her anyway) and tells you his house was broken into and he was robbed. Stripped of everything. You remember he only had a push lock in the door handle and a chain on the door, no deadbolt. Is the first thing you say to him, “Hey, a deadbolt is a way better option for locking up your house?”

No, you do not.

You offer him a place to spend the night. You help him inventory what’s missing for insurance purposes, you hang out with him in the police station as he fills out paperwork. This is what you do first.

Then, perhaps later, when he’s fixing up that door or his super is, you throw out a little, “Oh and as long as you’re fixing that thing, I hear deadbolts are a way safer thing to have on your door than the chain.” You are not withholding the information, you are just being, well, human about the whole thing. If the first thing you say to a friend who has survived a crime or violation of self is not “well, you really should have done this,” with a side of “if you were not dumb” implication, then it certainly should not be for random person who you have never met.

And as long as we are on the topic, this whole “they should have known better” meme is such utter nonsense. Yes, things get hacked. Not just naked pictures, but credit card numbers and emails and websites and who knows what else. Just like houses get robbed and cars gets stolen. That does not mean we do not have an expectation of safety. We know people are victims of crimes, but we do not run for the hills to live in caves by ourselves. We still carry credit cards and live in houses and drive cars. And never, when someone we know gets mugged, or robbed, or their car stolen, do we tell reply with “Should’ve known better than to own property or carry a wallet.”

Additionally, to flog my own personal hobby horse here, this is another moment where a corporation or product fails in its claims, its designed mission, and we blame the consumer. The fact is we are all sold our digital things with promises of their safety, of their security. Our knowledge that our email might get hacked does not mean we do not have the right to be pissed at Google when our Gmail inbox is broadcast over the internet for all to see. Nor would it be ok to tell a friend who suffered such an indignity, “What did you expect, email gets hacked sometimes.”

And finally, the whole “don’t take a naked picture at all” solution. These are people, unequivocally beautiful people, who have relationships with our beautiful people who they are rarely in the same physical space as because of location filming, tours, promotional junkets, and God knows what else. They have machines in their hands that allow them to express intimacies that would otherwise be impossible. In World War II, a girl might send her beau an envelope with a cheesecake shot of her to him on the front lines. That girl was probably your grandmother and I bet you do not think less of her because she once did that for a man she loved. Same damn thing, we can just do it quicker now. This is not a case of “those wacky and deviant celebs, am I right?”.

But let’s assume that all the criticisms of these victims are true: they should have known better, everyone knows the Cloud is not secure and they should not have bought into advertisements that stated otherwise, taking nude pictures is wrong. Let’s say all that is true. It is still a lousy thing to say right off the bat.

Have you ever done something ill-advised that left you exposed, vulnerable, open to shame and ridicule? Most, if not all, have. Maybe it was not nude pictures, hell, maybe it was not even something others would call a “big deal.” Nonetheless, the moment it all went pear-shaped and left you out in the open, your “sins” put up for everyone to see? That moment where the world suddenly seems to be spinning without you? Be in that moment.

Now imagine the jackass that puts a hand on your shoulder and says, “You screwed up,” instead of “Sorry,” or “I’m here,” or just “Damn, this sucks.” Who the hell needs that guy? Who the hell wants that guy? And who the hell asked you to be that guy?