Sunday, July 19, 2015

When is it okay to out someone?


I've grappled with this for a while, trying to reason that outing someone as political capital, say, a closeted homophobic politician, is acceptable and even beneficial, but my unpopular opinion is that it's never okay to out someone. Period.

And nothing can justify outing a private citizen.

I haven't really been following the latest Gawker scandel, a now-deleted post outing a Conde Nast executive, but that nearly every media outlet is condemning it is a good sign. Reason's Robby Soave makes a salient point about the hypocrisy of being a purported champion of free speech while ignoring someone's right to privacy as long as its the "wrong person":
There is a temptation to defend what Gawker did as some kind of exercise in radical free speech. According to Gawker’s own editorial guidelines, there are only two things that matter when deciding to publish a story: is it true, and is it interesting? Gawker Editor in Chief Max Read defended the story thus: “given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives.”

It would be easier to believe that this was an articulation of some clear principle if Gawker writers weren’t such hypocrites. Many have derided the exact same kind of radical, offensive free speech when other platforms for expression—Reddit, for example—have allowed similarly extreme transgressions. Writers at Gawker and Gawker affiliate cites have criticized the publication of celebrity’s leaked nude photos. They have assailed Charles Johnson for doxing uncooperative story subjects.
He goes on to quote Ken White of Popehat, who tweeted several statements including this one about Gawker's double standards:
It's in line with "humiliate Incorrect people while decrying humiliation of Correct people."
Gawker thinks of itself as mainstream journalism's irascible stepchild whose responsibility is to "take down the man," but Gawker is the man. It's a huge, multi-platform blog with more than 25 million readers. It's fair to note that this isn't the first time they've tried to out someone and in Jon Ronson's book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, Sam Biddle, the architect of the Justine Sacco fiasco, justified ruining someone's career over a tone-deaf joke saying, "The fact that she was a PR chief made it delicious. It's satisfying to be able to say, 'OK, let's make a racist tweet by a senior IAC employee count this time. And I did it. And I'd do it again."

Sometimes "punching up" is just "punching."