The Unwise and the Immoral

The title of this post is related to another incident of victim blaming that was in the news not too long ago.  The incident involved model Bella Thorne having her computer hacked and the hacker making off with a number of private nude photos.  Bella Thorne, to sort of give a big “fuck you” to the hacker, released the photos herself on Twitter.  On The View, Whoopi Goldberg criticized Thorne saying essentially that one has to know in this day and age that storing such photos on a device connected to the internet (and you are a famous beautiful celebrity) is setting yourself up for this type of theft.  Goldberg then received a ton of backlash including some strong words from Thorne herself for being criticized when it was of course the hacker who was the person who did something wrong and that Goldberg “should know better”.  I suspect Goldberg does know better.  There is nothing about her that makes me think she isn’t a good feminist.  She has always had a no nonsense, blunt style and her comment here I don’t think is meant to give the hacker a pass.  I’ll go so far as to say that I think she makes a good point.  A point we should be able to talk about if framed correctly.  Before I get accused of victim blaming, let me go into more detail about what I mean.

Hacking is a reality of this day and age, and Thorne isn’t the first victim of this type of attack.  This has to be part of our consciousness.  There are laws against hacking, which is invading someone’s privacy and stealing personal property, and their should be.  It is theft and violation, plain and simple.  We can say that the hacker is immoral in his actions.  I think we can say that we all wish we lived in a world in which there were no hackers, and in which a woman’s body wasn’t a commodity that someone could profit on, such that this hacker could ostensibly get leverage over Thorne or other victims of this crime.  As a society we must continue to strive to fix this bigger problem.  Since we don’t live in that kind of society yet, we must also act wisely.  To do so requires us to be able to have conversations about wise and unwise actions to keep people and property from harm.  I am sort of reminded of that old joke where a guy meets a doctor at a social gathering and tries to get some free medical advice and says “Hey doc, my arm hurts whenever I do this. (Imagine whatever arm motion you like).  What should I do?”  And the doctor responds “Don’t move your arm like that.”  Clearly there is a bigger issue to solve Image result for moving arm gifwith that person’s arm, but in the short term, not doing a motion that causes you pain might be wise.  We should be able to simultaneously talk about short term solutions to protect ourselves, while also addressing bigger issues that increase equality and safety for all people rendering this short term acts of caution more irrelevant over time.

If there is a neighborhood where you have an increased chance of being mugged or harmed, all sorts of people will tell you to avoid walking through that neighborhood.  It is not meant to say that they condone violence or theft upon you or anybody else, it is simply meant as advice to keep you out of harms way.  We don’t get all bent out of shape by such advice, but the conversation goes south when women are blamed for their decisions in these types of incidents, or worse crimes like sexual violence.  And I think for good reason.  There have been some criticisms of social media for the fighting that erupted between two women who are likely on the same side of the fight against the patriarchy, but I’m actually not too upset about social media here, because maybe this is a conversation that needs to be had more often.

We have an older and wiser Goldberg, criticizing the wisdom of a younger Thorne.  Perhaps Goldberg feels like she was helping young girls everywhere be wary of putting compromising pictures of themselves in less than secure places based on what can happen to them.  Goldberg’s mistake however was that she also lacked some wisdom here.  As much as I’d like to live in a society where we could have honest conversations about what is a wise or unwise decision when crimes happen, when it comes to crimes against women there is just a long history of the “unwise” decision of a woman being used as an excuse for a man’s immorality and criminal behavior.  If a person is beaten and robbed in that unsafe neighborhood, the police will still arrest and charge the perpetrators, but too many men have gotten off Scot free because of what was deemed a woman’s unwise decision.  Furthermore the basis of what was considered unwise for a woman, does not apply to a man.  In fact very often their unwise decisions are used to further excuse them from wrongdoing.  A woman drinks too much at a party?  Well then of course she kind of Image result for victim blamingdeserves to be raped.  A guy drinks too much at a party? Well clearly he didn’t really mean to rape her, he just had too many beers and didn’t know what he was doing.  Let’s just sentence him to talk about the dangers of drinking.  It’s a huge problem and women have a right to absolutely tired of it.  Goldberg could have said what she said in a much better way that made it clear who the bad actor was in this situation.

Let me also add that the best people in our society are ones who could take advantage but don’t and instead help people be more safe.  Thorne was already punished and probably knows by now what she should have done and doesn’t need Goldberg’s advice after the fact.  So the timing of the comment is also unhelpful.  Like Fareed Zakaria’s advice to Sam Harris after another rant about Islam being the mother lode of bad ideas “Yeah, you’re right, but you’re not helping.”  Being right, and being helpful are often two different things.

20 thoughts on “The Unwise and the Immoral

  1. Good points, swarn. And one other, from a psychological point of view. If someone does something meant to embarass you is do, in effect, what Bella Thorne did: post her own nude pictures publicly. It takes the wind right out of his intentions.

    Fight someone else’s ” fire” about you, with your own fire. Doesn’t have to be nude photos, but
    something that you can admit to doing, or saying and making it very public. You might be a bit embarrassed, but your ‘attacker’ has just lost his momentum.

    I think Whoopie, as much as I adore her, sometimes gets on the wrong side of the right argument, and this time she missed, and telling someone she shouldn’t have done what she did in the first place is one of those phrases like ‘you know what you SHOULD have done…’ when it’s too late, and you can’t go back and start over.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah I agree. It has the “Thank you Captain Hindsight!” feel to it all. lol I think there was a way for Whoopi to bring some wisdom to the table about the reality of hacking, while also supporting Bella Thorne and others who have had their private digital information stolen. And maybe there was a better time to say it as well than right after the incident. That moment should have been just for supporting Thorne and praising her for her boldness in making the hacker irrelevant.


  2. Brilliant post, Swarn. This gives the issue some context for me. Until now, I had just seen snippets of the debate and I would understand where Goldberg is coming from. There is an age for not giving an eff. Her comments could have been inappropriate but maybe her audience was not Bella but everyone else who is the habit of storing nudes where they could be hacked.

    This brings me to the second issue. Why, in a sexualized world as we live in currently, where nudes and sex is everywhere would someone still blackmail using nude photos or we are not as liberated as we think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree mak. Like I said, I think she could have framed what she said differently…something “People like this hacker are really the the worst kind of people, but until they go away we need to be careful about the type of information we keep on any device connected to the internet.”

      You make a good point. Clearly for Thorne when push came to shove she didn’t care too much over having nude photos of herself out there compared to letting the hacker have the upper hand. Despite living in a society that is very sexualized, even famous, beautiful women draw a line between nudity and whatever other clothes they might wear publicly. Clearly not all models are also nude models. Most women in the public eye would rather keep their naked body out of it. That being said, it does seem like it would be tough to get much leverage out of celebrity through nude photos…sex photos might be different…but not just nudes. Perhaps the hacker figured with her being only 21 and having been famous as a child actress she would be more easily intimidated.


      1. You make valid points and I agree.
        Why are our bodies and especially women bodies so sexualised? I hope a time will come when we will all be nudists so having our pictures online would not be a reason for extortion. But then, this is a dream I know will not see the light of day. I don’t want people seeing my one pack

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I do think we are starting to see things change a bit already. I mean 30 years ago even Thorne probably couldn’t easily give a big “fuck you” to the blackmailer. And certainly if she was a primary celebrity in a more conservative country she would not have such freedom either. So I agree that this wasn’t the most effective blackmailing scheme. lol And maybe, even if we aren’t getting to the all nude society, hopefully we can get to the point where we don’t see it as such a big deal.


  3. Have missed your posts, Swarn. I’ve kind of been off the radar, myself. So. Good thoughts here, especially in conclusion. Most of my life, I have striven to do the ‘right’ thing, which wasn’t always popular. I realize I likely wasn’t being too helpful at times, and that distinction is important. Thanks for pointing it out to your readers. Aloha. 🌺

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Bela! Between the end of the semester, travel, and just having two young children it’s been tough to get many posts out of late! Likely things will remain inconsistent this summer as I am on more daddy duty! lol

      Obviously the right thing can also be helpful, but sometimes it’s not, and it can be difficult to know the difference. And it could be that sometimes it is helping, but perhaps not maximally. It’s a tough thing. Certainly in this case I didn’t mean to chide Whoopi Goldberg too much because hey I think it’s useful to get people thinking about the dangers hacking can represent to our lives, whether it is the theft of nude photos, our identity and other private information. Sometimes it only takes a better framing of the argument to go from right and not helpful to both right and helpful. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There has to be room for advice about caution, but those who give it also have an obligation to avoid any implication of victim-blaming, and certainly of excusing the criminal.

    Hackers, like rapists, must be punished harshly whenever they can be caught and convicted, and no amount of carelessness by a victim should be considered to mitigate their crimes. That being said, since hacking (and rape) are not going to disappear anytime soon, there is value in practical advice about how to avoid being victimized. If you remind somebody to lock his car when he’s parked it and will be leaving it for a while, nobody would normally accuse you of condoning car theft.

    This is especially true since much of the internet/computer culture and technology is quite new and many people genuinely don’t understand what’s safe and what isn’t. People continue to use Google for internet searches, to carry smartphones, to store personal stuff on “the cloud”, and even to use Windows 10, despite abundant evidence that all those things are essentially asking to be spied on or worse. Hell, in many cases we can’t even get state governments to secure their voting computer systems against foreign hackers. They don’t understand the issues. There has to be room for alerting people to the risks. But no, never blame victims or try to mitigate the guilt of criminals on such grounds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I apologize for the late response here infidel. Thank you for your comment.

      I think you are probably right that despite someone like Thorne growing up with the interenet, that’s different than really understanding security and how easily one can be hacked. I think right now we are perhaps more adept at using technology, but less knowledgeable about how it comes to be thus we don’t know how to protect our information.

      And I completely agree that it is possible to give advice about being cautious while also not victim blaming. I don’t think Whoopi’s intent was to do that here, but her choice of words was perhaps poor.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Swarn,

    I recently just returned to the blogosphere, having been away to care for my beloved mother full time, as described in the post that I just recently published.

    I am delighted to see that you have continued to write about many pertinent social issues with incisiveness and fervour on your blog.

    Wishing you a lovely September and a happy Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SE. Glad you’re back as well. If you look at the dates of my blogs though, my posts have been few and far between as well! Having two young children keeps you busy! Hope all is well with you and that your break from the blogosphere meant a good deal of rejuvenation!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I am so sorry SE to see the passing of your mother, but you have written a wonderful eulogy summarizing her life. I have been to Malaysia several times myself, and I love the country and the people. She seems like she was a wonderful soul. Well your break may not have been rejuvenating in the traditional sense, but sometimes take time away from other responsibilities to invest in the care and love of those matters most is important. The feeling that we gave our all at the end for those who means so much to us, allows us to lift our heads up in hope for the future rather than remaining with eyes downcast in sorrow. Sometimes it feels when someone close to us passes that it is only then we realize how much of that person is really with us and it makes us feel reborn in a certain way, or makes the world look different. I hope there is some element of rebirth right now in the shadow of your sadness.

          Liked by 1 person

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