Bella and Whoopi and Privacy

I don’t really know who Bella Thorne is, but I know she is a celebrity.

I know exactly who Whoopi Goldberg is; she is Guinan. She singlehandedly guides Captain Picard through some of his darkest times with her wisdom and insight.

Bella Thorne should listen to Whoopi.

She should also listen to Whoopi because Whoopi knows a thing or two about computer hacking, because her greatest work was in a film where she foils international computer hacking thieves and spies with a giant toothbrush. True story. The movie is called Jumping’ Jack Flash. No doubt her finest hour. Unknown

Here are the facts as I understand them:

  1. Bella Thorne had topless pictures of herself on her phone/cloud.
  2. Someone hacked these pictures from her and attempted to extort money.
  3. As a preventative measure, Bella Thorne released the pictures herself on Twitter.
  4. On the television show The View, Whoopi Goldberg gave advice that basically says “You shouldn’t take naked pictures of yourself because someone will hack you.”
  5. Bella Thorne lashed out at Whoopi on her Instagram saying “Shame on you” (although she insisted upon using the letter U instead of the word you.)

The basic accusation Bella leveled at Whoopi was victim shaming, likening the situation to someone who went out dancing and had a drink or two, then was raped and blaming the victim for asking for it.

I think Bella misses the point, and that puts me in the very uncomfortable position of agreeing with Whoopi Goldberg.

Let’s use Bella’s analogy instead of the facts. A woman who is raped after a good time of dancing and drinking a little too much is a victim. The rapist should be punished to the furthest extent of the law and for what it is worth, I think the laws should be tougher. However, a good mother or grandmother, or any parental figure, will try and teach their children to always be on the lookout for dangerous situations and take extra precautions BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT THE PEOPLE WE LOVE TO BE VICTIMIZED.

Whoopi, as I hear her words, was not as much shaming Bella as she was giving advice. There are evil people out there–rapists, hackers, extorters–and they intend harm. Their victims are usually innocent people just trying to have a good time.

Whoopi doesn’t want to shame you Bella, Whoopi wants to protect the next victim by giving some common sense wisdom. I know that it is hard to understand, but us old folks (okay, Whoopi is thirteen years my senior, but I’m feeling older every day) know a thing or two because we’ve been hurt before. We’ve danced too long, drank too much, and trusted people we shouldn’t have. We don’t want it to happen to you.

Sometimes we come off as grumpy when we do this, but I encourage you, Bella, to listen with open ears to the wisdom of your elders rather than becoming defensive and attacking.

I feel for Bella, I really do. She has been wronged in a personal and intimate way, and she thought she had taken steps to circumvent the wrong. Her mental state, as I observe it in the Instagram video, is fragile. I hope someone close to her will encourage her to go silent for a while, heal, get some rest, and spend time with people who really care about her wellbeing. That is hard for celebrities because of ego and their own sense of self importance. Nevertheless, that is what she needs to do.

Related to this whole squabble is the pernicious problem of privacy, and I think that is what made Bella really angry. She heaped upon Whoopi the emotion she really feels toward the one who hacked her images. She had assumed her pictures were private and would never be seen by someone without her consent. In a perfect world, I wish that were true. Privacy and free speech are eroding in our culture at a rapid rate. Every. Single. Day. It seems impossible to make a secure network that can’t be broken into; and keeping people’s data private is only a pipe dream. It reminds me of my home: no matter how secure it is, an evil person with bad intent will find a way in. There are days I wonder if the internet, as much fun as it is, has not proven itself to be a failed experiment that should be abandoned immediately by all free socieites.

The only real solution to the privacy issue is to make the punishment for hacking so severe–lifetime in prison perhaps–confiscation of all financial resources–no one would ever dream of doing it. The punishment should extend to anyone who knowingly uses or consumes this information, including publication. This should be true of individuals and also of nation states like China, North Korea, and Russia who hack everything from corporations, to media giants, to elections.

Until we can stop this, though, listen to Whoopi. Don’t take naked pictures of yourself. They will get out. This is true for Bella Thorne, but it is also true of the sixteen year old whose boyfriend bullies and pressures her into taking the picture and sending it him. There is good chance when they break up everyone in their peer group will see that picture. This is true of pictures, emails, and all kinds of data and content.

Listen to Whoopi and us old folks. We might not know as much about social media as you do, but we do know about life and human nature and we don’t want to see you hurt.