Hello, Internet, it’s Megan McArdle again, with a friendly message about morality: You shouldn’t look at stolen nude photographs of celebrities.
McArdle is going to teach us morality. That should be
Yes, yes, I know -- it’s not like your self-restraint will prevent millions of other people from gawking. But the people in the photographs didn’t take them for public consumption, and they’re very upset that you’re looking, and you shouldn’t do things that would make people upset if they knew. There are plenty of other nude photographs out there on the Internet, taken of people who were actually willing to have you gape at them in the buff. The right thing to do is to go stare at them instead.
McArdle thinks you have to be told that looking at stolen private photos could hurt other people.
And hello there, celebrities: If you really, really don’t want millions of strangers to see pictures of you in the altogether, then you should probably not take such photographs on electronic devices that are connected to the Internet. There are a lot of jerks out there, and there's a high risk that some of them are going to steal your photographs and share them with millions of rubberneckers.
Since McArdle knows that other people think victim-blaming is hurtful and unfair, she pretends she is not victim-blaming. She cleverly does this by saying she is not victim-blaming right after she blames the victims for not preventing their victimization, as Mr. Pierce notes.
Am I blaming the victim? Nope. People shouldn’t steal your private photos! Other people shouldn’t look at them! Also, people shouldn’t steal cars or mug strangers or be serial killers. But there are many dedicated jerks out there in this great, big world of ours, and you have to take steps that will reduce your vulnerability to those people. Not because we should have to, but because we do have to.
Wait a second. Megan McArdle said on Twitter that children should be able to walk and play around by themselves. Those kids are doing nothing to take responsibility for preventing their victimization. And she also said that young people should be trained to rush a gunman firing an automatic weapon on them, which would be taking individual responsibility for one's personal safety. But when her bikes were stolen, again and again and again, and again, she did not say the thefts were her own fault.
Well, my fourth bike was stolen this morning, out of our backyard, which has a seven foot stockade fence around it. I have never managed to hold onto a bike more than six months in an urban environment--the previous two times, they left the bike lock, as if to taunt me with its inadequacy. I think I'm done with bike commuting. I'd rather just hand out $100 bills to random people on the street; at least I wouldn't be rewarding theft.
It wasn't an expensive bike, either; it was the cheapest hybrid available in my size. But the fact is, if you own a bike in this city, it will be stolen. I'm willing to brave weather and entitled motorists. But I'm sick of funding donations to the bike theft brigade.
Why didn't McArdle take steps to reduce her vulnerability to bike theft, the second, third and fourth time, if not the first? Why is everyone else but Megan McArdle at least partially responsible for what happens to them?
It's so confusing. One might think that McArdle cares for nobody's problems but her own, and therefore does not want to lift one finger or spend one dime to help them.
The feminists who get angry when people point out the obvious risks of taking nude selfies on your phone or getting extremely intoxicated at a big party full of adolescent guys seem to be arguing that if the patriarchy went away, guys could all be culturally conditioned not to steal nude photographs or rape people, with the few sociopaths restrained by the much harsher penalties that would presumably be enacted once we end “rape culture” -- that there is some way, in other words, to make it perfectly safe for young women to get trashed at frat parties or take all the nude selfies their phones can hold.
When other people get drunk at a party and are raped it's partially their own fault. When Megan McArdle drinks underage and is arrested, does not send in her paperwork, has her license suspended, cannot register her new car years later, and cannot repair her car when her mom clips it, it's the fault of The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Just like it's the post office's fault when she can't mail late wedding invitations. McArdle truly believes that rules do not apply to her. She is special. Only her own emotions are real to her. As Dr. Haidt said, libertarians moralize their intellectual structure.
Now for the painless segue from idiotic bureaucratic snafu to moral: this just goes to show why ironclad bureaucratic rules are such a bad idea. The federal law is meant to protect dangerous drivers whose licenses have been suspended from getting a license in another state--an excellent program. It is not, or so I mote, intended to allow the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to suspend my license for an underaged drinking conviction that took place 16 years ago. Indeed, I don't think that even the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania law was intended to do something so moronic--it isn't as if I deliberately (or even accidentally) failed to comply; I simply didn't have a driver's license for them to confiscate. Since I didn't get one until I was well over the legal drinking age, I'm pretty sure that a moment's consideration would lead any reasonable bureaucrat to dismiss this idiocy.
But of course, we don't have reasonable bureaucrats. We have rules. Rules that Must Be Followed No Matter What. Neither Pennsylvania nor DC can, apparently, do anything at all to prevent the Wheels of Justice from punishing me for a long-past transgression that did not even involve a motor vehicle.
Because McArdle thinks that she should not have to follow rules like everyone else, she finds a philosophy that tells her she is special and should not have to follow society's rules. We should all be responsible for ourselves and nobody else. Trying to help others fight crime to reduce victimization cannot work because libertarian ideology states helping others is paternalistic and erodes individual liberty. For libertarians there is no moral component to helping others so trying to reduce suffering is simply not an option.
McArdle tells us that people will commit crimes and get away with it no matter what we do, so why bother?
I’m not saying that culture doesn’t matter on the margin. Drunk girls were probably more vulnerable to rape in a culture that said “nice girls” don’t drink, and if they did, they were asking for it, so it was only natural for boys to take advantage of their condition.2 Someone who’s been sitting around with other guys telling each other that it’s OK to steal Jennifer Lawrence’s nude selfies because she’s a public figure and she shouldn’t take those kinds of pictures if she doesn’t want them out there is more likely to go ahead and do it than a guy whose peer group says that such a theft would be gross and wrong.
But there’s only so far culture can go. Criminals don’t steal because they think theft is OK; I’m told they get quite indignant if someone steals from them. Penny-stock con men are not one good ethics class short of a regular sales job. Serial killers did not miss the memo on how killing is wrong. Some people do things that they know are evil because they want to, and they think they can get away with it. It is not “victim blaming” to urge their targets to protect themselves from that threat.
Of course, we should all work toward a world with less crime of all sorts. But we will not hasten that day by pretending that we’re already there.
Not that anyone is, but where would McArdle be without a strawman to cover up her utter lack of empathy? It is your responsibility to protect yourself from crime except when it isn't, or when you are Megan McArdle. It's the libertarian way.