It’s time to give celebrities back their privacy


A great deal of ink has been devoted over the last few days to the leaked nude photos of young female celebrities. I’m not going to devote a great deal of time here to discussing how the leak is related to rape culture. That has been covered very well elsewhere.

Suffice it to say, for now, that intimate photos or video of anyone, published without their consent should be illegal and treated in much the same way as child pornography. It should be illegal to publish, distribute or possess such material.

What I am going to talk about is celebrity culture, because it has become poisonous. In out modern media culture, famous people give up all privacy. They are harassed, followed, photographed, investigated and monitored. Anyone who has personal information about a celebrity can make money selling that information to any number of outlets or reporters.

The thing is that there is no real reason for things to be this way. The fact that the “public is interested” is not enough of a reason to invade someone’s privacy. The idea that it somehow falls under “freedom of the press” and the public’s “right to know” is ridiculous. It is an idea put forward by bad journalists, who have no personal sense of right and wrong.

The public has a “right to know” information about public (government) officials if and only if that information might impact the individuals job performance or speak to their professional ethics.

There is no public benefit to knowing the intimate details of the private life or a successful actor and certainly no public benefit to stolen nude photographs of them.

There is also an argument that celebrities “asked for it”, that it is “part of the deal when you become famous” but there is no reason for that to be true either. All they have really done is be “good” at what they do. We can debate the specific talents of various actors, musicians or others but there is no reason that being good at what you do, or at least successful at what you do should mean that you’re giving up your right to privacy.

This argument, again, is only really useful for bad journalists, desperate publishers or fans who might want to get themselves checked out for their obsessive, stalker like, tendencies.

Finally, there is the argument that “any publicity is good publicity.” In other words, the argument goes, it is good for their careers to be written about and photographed as much as possible. There is some truth in this, if the person in question isn’t very talented or if they don’t actually do anything. This line of thinking is what has given us people who are ‘famous for being famous’.

It is good for people to have their work or performances written about. Good reviews will lead to greater recognition of their talent and more work. It doesn’t do them any good for everyone to know where they shop, where they eat, where they vacation, who they might be in a relationship with and how that relationship is going.

In 2014, celebrities (and everyone else) can communicate directly with their fans via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media. They can decide for themselves what to share, when and with whom. They don’t need tabloids to make those decisions for them.

The invasion of privacy that has become the norm for celebrities has never benefited the public in any way, nor has it benefited any celebrities who were actually good at what they do. It has benefited bad journalists, unscrupulous publishers, lazy TV producers looking for easy ratings and stalkers (including paparazzi and amateur stalkers). It has no doubt contributed to crimes against celebrities and has possibly lead to a few deaths.

It is time to put the tabloids out of business, to restore the privacy rights of famous people and to allow them to sue for breeches of that privacy.
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