It could happen to anyone of us.

punch in the face


Salacious photos are not something to generally be given the time of day.  When the topic comes up as part of another 'scandal' in politics or a celebrity's life, I tend to shake my head and wonder what the person was thinking.

Notwithstanding this, a subplot running through this week's 'The Newsroom' episode was cause for reflection, particularly around this idea (or myth!) of privacy in today's world.

The subplot in question was explosively introduced in the opening scene. Nude photos of one of the characters, Sloan (a respected TV anchor), had been posted up on a site.  These photos quickly went viral, and the channel is left to deal with the results.  The interesting thing about these photos was that they were taken with her consent by an man she was dating and trusted implicitly at the time.  When she dumped him, he took the due 'revenge' he felt was 'owed' to him through by utterly humiliating her.

'I am feeling something very I don't know how to describe right now', Sloan says on the show.

Betrayal perhaps?  Insecurity? Utter helplessness?  One can only imagine what it must feel like to have a truly intimate moment be broadcast online.

Her confidante at the time said it was rage - or will quickly turn into rage.  Sloan finishes the episode in the boardroom of said jilted lover, punching him out and getting a little revenge of her own.


There are a number of interesting readings of this plot.  Sloan's character is a genius; she's a well respected economist and commands audiences of hundreds of thousands.  Surely, a thirty year old highly educated woman wouldn't put herself in this situation.  Surely she would think to delete identifying photos if they were taken, even if she had consented?

Well if recent history is anything to go by, people do very silly things with cameras and phones without seeming to think about the consequences (or in the case of Anthony Weiner, even seeming to care). In this case however, Sloan wasn't doing anything technically 'wrong', so that argument is less substantial.  It does raise the question about the line between an individual's public and personal life though, particularly in an age where this is becoming increasingly blurred.

She sights her implicit trust in this guy as the reason she didn't expect this sort of revenge. 'It wasn't a bad breakup - but even if it were, would this be okay?!', she asks, and rightly so!  Humiliation and the essential defamation can regularly - and do regularly - annihilate reputations.  We all know that reputations are the easiest things to damage and the most difficult to repair.  So the act of distributing the photos we can agree, is immoral.

Is it criminal?

Whose responsibility is it to ensure these things don't happen?

Is your privacy always your individual responsibility or should is there an implicit trust in relationships with people - and institutions - that should also bear part of the burden?

It feeds into a larger question about an individual's right to privacy, particularly with the exposing of PRISM, the actions of the NSA and even the likes of Google implying that privacy online is a myth.

Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to effectively operate in this society without being online.  So how does one walk the line?  Are we all to always be on-guard and take precautions, accepting that being selective about what we share - even to our closest friends - is never really actually private?

What will happen when people growing up in this online society become leaders of state?  Will there never be any surprises because everything is already online? Will our moral appetites change because we become accustomed to every single infraction being displayed and obsessed with the world over?  Or will there be an industry based around the erasure of online profiles to give people an opportunity to 'start afresh'.

What do you think?




War and Peace: A Case for Individual Responsibility?

This was originally posted on it out here! ***

Is conflict a part of human nature?

An interesting question indeed.

The short film below illustrates what happens when you take individuals from opposite sides of the pack mentality and place them in a neutral environment.

There is no denying the human race is obsessed with conflict. Our history as a species is riddled with conflict; often great change is only ever achieved through periods of upheaval, also often characterised by conflict.

It would seem that conflict and war is one of the great catalysts for change. As humans it is so easy for us to disregard an injustice if it doesn’t affect us, however once the conflict reaches our circle of comfort we are then catapulted into action…so then perhaps it can be said that conflict is a part of ‘human nature’, or at least the human story.

Couldn’t it be argued however, that ‘anything humans do’ is a ‘part of human nature’? If so… does that mean everything should still allowed to be seen as acceptable?

Where is the line between blaming our collective actions on human nature and taking personal responsibility for our actions?

Conflict is inextricably linked to the concept of “War and Peace”; the age old battle between “good” and “evil” illustrated through decades of battle between empires, to grudges between siblings or the fight on the streets between criminals and the police.

Good versus Evil is perhaps example of an completely polarising dichotomy that is in fact, extremely subjective. Isn’t one man’s terrorist another’s freedom fighter? Who decides who is good and who is evil?  It is a concept also so all encompassing that it can be stretched to meet almost any agenda. Australia is one example where inter-communal tensions are sometimes framed within the “good versus evil’ concept. This often fails to highlight the true nature of any conflict, instead depicting groups as a single, monolithic entity rather than a number of human beings with humanised emotions.

The example of the relationship between mainstream Australia and asylum seekers perhaps, or the Cronulla riots in 2005 or even the fall out after the protests in Sydney (in response to the Youtube video made on the Prophet Muhammed PBUH) are examples of situations where the ‘pack mentality’ overshadowed individual thought processes and where those labelled as ‘different’ were now seen as the enemy.

File:Cronulla riots 5.jpg

This group think process is furthermore fueled by our environment. Shortly after the protests in Sydney last month, comments were made in the media highlighting that “ethnic tensions were set to explode” (source).

A key ethnic affairs adviser to the NSW Coalition government has warned that religious and ethnic tensions in western Sydney have the potential to “explode” the nation’s multicultural fabric in the aftermath of last Saturday’s Islamic riot.

Dai Le, a Vietnamese boat-person and former ABC documentary maker…warned that multiculturalism was threatened unless new arrivals continued to integrate into overarching national values… (source)

In the light of such rhetoric, you cannot blame individuals for perhaps thinking the worst…

So, on further reflection, there are three points that are being made.

Firstly, in situations where opinions are being shaped by a highly influential environment, it becomes very easy to see the world in a good versus evil, war versus peace dichotomy. We all know however, when looking at the facts that life is rarely ever that black and white and often it depends on the individual values and perspectives.

This then leads to the second point on dealing with “tensions” on a broader scale. There is no doubt that incidents such as the Cronulla riots require an investigation of the underlying currents in a community. But the discourse in which such a situation is dealt with must behonest. It doesn’t take a lot to find out what the issues are; often all you must do is ask.

Thirdly, on the question of conflict and human nature, in light of the above…

I believe that it is folly to say that conflict isn’t a part of human nature, given our propensity towards it in history. I don’t believe the ‘human nature’ argument however, can be used as an excuse.

It is our responsibility as humans to live up to our moral standards and take individual responsibilities for our actions, and that means choosing to not engage in conflict.

Conflict used for change is often a race to the bottom; brutality can extend its miserable tentacles and affect generations. Only when a cycle is broken by collective individual actions to act differently can ‘peace’ be found…whatever peace means.

File:Peace symbol.jpg