Jennifer Lawrence's nude photo leak isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

"Who the hell are you to tell me what to look at?" they say

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The Independent Online

As reports of Apple’s iCloud being hacked flooded Twitter at the weekend – giving people the chance to view nude, illegally sourced pictures of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence – I noticed a subtle shift of tone in the gossip sites who got there first.

Here, the internet seemed to say, was a happy haul of skin flicks for us all to enjoy. These were people’s private moments, acquired in an illegal manner, exactly like a burglar entering a home and stealing polaroids from your knicker drawer – except in this case with a terrifically amplified sense of intrusion as the entire world was being invited to laugh, mock and masturbate over them. I don’t expect many people to agree with that comparison. We are living through an odd wild west era of internet usage where the right to privacy has become a quaint, priggish concept that infuriates by its mere mention.

It is terrifically difficult in 2014 to convince people they have no right to look at illegally taken photos of the actress Mary E Winstead, even if she has given a statement making her sadness and disgust evident. Or no right to look online at the Duchess of Cambridge’s breasts, snapped entirely without consent by long lens camera. Or no right to spread around and screen-grab the pictures a co-worker’s ex-partner might be attempting to ruin her life with. Recently, solidarity or empathy with a person’s need for bodily privacy has come to be seen as weak, sentimental, outdated, against everything we stand for in this brave new unfettered technological world.

If one attempts to argue a right for privacy, or for human beings to behave decently, legally or morally, I find the first line of attack is always bog standard, common or garden victim-blaming.

Because why would you keep a photo of your breasts stored in a locked iCloud account belonging to one of the world’s most reputable tech brands if you didn’t expect it to become an international masturbation aid, you silly cow? And why would you sunbathe on a private property, with an expensive royal security detail paid to detect intruders from miles around, if you didn’t expect this to lead to international humiliation, idiot? This is all your fault, woman.

This leads on to the “Well it’s only a body” argument. We don’t know why this woman is so very upset about her nipples or vagina being broadcast against her will. After all, it’s only a body. We all have them. Obviously, this is hogwash. When a woman’s name has been trending on Twitter for days because photos of her body, the argument that one body has no elevated status over any other on earth is rot.

Also, photos such as the hacked iCloud ones have increased appeal to voyeurs – whether they like to admit this or not – as they’re taken without consent. The power and control lies in the hands of the titillated observer. There are billions of alternative photos available online of consenting naked women posing in gynaecologically explicit manners – if “just a body” is all one wants.

However, the fiercest line of attack when one question’s a right to privacy in the age of the internet is: who the hell are you to tell me what to look at? In an absence of traditional authority, the internet is home to a billion furious lone sheriffs, who turn incandescent with rage if some gentle fool attempts to murmur, “That’s not nice”.

Video: 4chan hacker releases nude photos of celebrities

Within moments of me making the tiniest noise defending Jennifer Lawrence publicly to my 200,000 Twitter followers, a stranger had dug up a tweet of mine from 300 days ago where I’d retweeted a red carpet photo of a pop star I love in a outlandish dress that displayed a bit of her lower portions. “Who are you to tell me what to do, you bloody hypocrite?” was the general gist.

I remember the dress incident well. I retweeted the picture without a millisecond’s thought, believing the frock to be a bold feminist statement. Within seconds, I felt somewhat bad. It was her body, after all, and maybe she didn’t know she was so exposed. I learned something about internet privacy from this experience – although a further by-product of the internet era is that we now have no privacy to learn, change or grow as human beings either, as so much of what we do occurs in the glare of social media.

The “Who do you think you are?” brigade will greet any call for internet civility with utter fury, and threaten to blow up one’s home, or cut off one’s tits, etc. All cheerful stuff. But as I say, we’re in the web’s wild wild west era. Stay safe people. It’s only going to get crazier out there.

Too quick to blame the parents

As moral mazes go, one would be pushed to find a more twisting, turning, heart-wrenching example than that of five-year-old Ashya King and his parents, who allegedly fled an NHS hospital and headed to Spain to seek alternative treatment.

Regardless of the wiseness of Brett and Naghemeh King removing Ashya from Southampton General Hospital and heading abroad for a miracle cure, these are clearly people pushed to the limits of their sanity. The YouTube clip of the subdued child in his dad arms, sitting quietly as his father tries to explain why they are more or less “on the run” is an upsetting watch. This doesn’t seem like the thoughtless, pig-headed jaunt of people who simply think they know better than the NHS.

We are told that we are Europeans, that our countries are united by common goals and that European migrants should be able to use our health services. It isn’t entirely strange that the Kings should see Spain, which favours a laser treatment that they hope might save their son, as a last leap of faith.

Photos of Ashya from not long ago show a happy, healthy lad. His parents have lived through his decline, watched him transform into a different being. If they are not quite thinking straight then no one with empathy can blame them. The thought that Spanish authorities are keeping him from his parents while the case is investigated is wholly ridiculous. It’s a complicated case, but the one thing we do know is that he really needs them.