Celebgate Is Just Theft

Jennifer LawrenceThe Young Turks produced a segment, Celebgate Hacking Excuses. I haven’t paid much attention to this. All I had heard was that this happened to Jennifer Lawrence. This caused me to search her name on Google because I had no idea who she was. I still don’t really know except that she is the star of The Hunger Games films, which I have never seen. But she’s a pretty young woman and I’m sure that there are scores of men for whom looking at pictures of her naked will be the high point of their lives.

Looking through the Wikipedia page on the 2014 Celebrity Pictures Hack, there are two women I actually know: Kirsten Dunst, who I know from her wonderful performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Jenny McCarthy, who I know because of her nutty belief that vaccinations cause autism. Regardless, I don’t really care.

But The Young Turks segment made me take notice. They went through five excuses that people made for why it is all okay. I should be clear, I don’t care because what these rich and famous women are going through is something that happens to literally millions of poor and unknown women who suffer far greater consequences. But I have no idea how anyone could argue that the stealing of people’s stuff is okay. Jennifer Lawrence is worth $40 million at the age of 24. Would anyone say it was okay to hack into her bank account and steal her money? I don’t think so. There is no difference between that and hacking her account and stealing her photos.

The two stars on The Young Turks found one apologia for the thefts at least somewhat compelling, “Donald Sterling had his privacy violated when his ex released audio, how is the celebrity leak any different?” How about in every possible way? V Stiviano had recorded the conversation. It was hers. Not only that, Sterling knew that she was recording, although admittedly he didn’t think it would be used as it was. How does this have anything to do with stealing someone’s private property?

In the defense of The Young Turks, Ana Kasparian does eventually get around to making this argument. But it is clear that she and Cenk Uygur have been partly blinded by the erotic nature of the subject from seeing that this is just an issue of theft. This isn’t fundamentally about privacy. Someone stole stuff from other people. That is wrong. You really don’t have to say any more.

But let’s suppose that the Sterling tape had not been released by Striviano. Suppose it had been stolen from her and made public. That situation is still not the same as Celebgate. That’s because the Sterling revelations had social merit. Sterling was a bigot whose abuse of minority groups dates back decades. If it took his insult to Magic Johnson to bring light on this, so be it. Seeing Jennifer Lawrence naked hardly rises to the level of a social good.

And before anyone complains that this is all a matter of opinion, I have some advice: stop. Of course it is a matter of opinion. John Kiriakou should not be in jail; he performed a great service to our society by revealing CIA torture. On the other hand, if someone stole Plutonium and gave it to ISIS, that would not be performing a great service for anyone — including ISIS!

So if people want to argue that the availability of naked Jennifer Lawrence photos is a great social good, I’m willing to listen. But don’t pretend that Donald Sterling is a victim in the same way that that Jennifer Lawrence is. She was robbed. And in the 2014 Celebrity Pictures Hack, that’s really all that matters.


I hate the “-gate” approach to naming scandals. That Mitchell and Webb Look says all that needs to be said:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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