It was only a matter of time before someone decided to get on a high horse and wag a finger at the victims of the Porn Wikileaks release of some 15,000 real names and addresses of porn performers and their families.
CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk, known for his irreverent commentary, took it too far when he commented about the wiki, saying, “For some reason, I am reminded of Eric Schmidt’s dictum. You know, the one that went something like: ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.’ It comes to mind because someone whose motivations seem slightly troubling has taken it upon himself to be the Julian Assange of porn. The site doesn’t display diplomatic messages from one porn star to another. Instead, it attempts to offer a comprehensive revelation of who these stars really are.”
It’s clear Matyszczyk hasn’t read the site. Or at least this is our hope. Otherwise he is essentially stating that libelous statements now attached to the names of thousands of people, names such as “pornographic whores and hookers,” “gays that have ruined porn,” “fag lovers,” “gay Mexicans,” “high-risk HIV,” “tranny-fucker,” “faggot” and “rapist,” are “who these stars really are.”
Surely even a man who prides himself on being irreverent and even brash would never be so imprudent. And surely if he were that imprudent, CNET wouldn’t stand for it.
Or are we wrong? At another point in the piece, the author states he’s clearly aware of the language employed on the site: “The site itself also reflects this ranting, hateful lexicon. Even though its mission statement seems remarkably similar to that of Julian Assange and friends.”
We fail to see what libel and the spread of personal information of people who may or may not have had a career in the adult industry (some of the people tested by AIM, the clinic whose records are said to be compromised, never performed in porn, and many entries list not simply performers’ but also the information of their family members), have in common with a project launched to make a government answerable to its voters and allies.
But even if the information only dealt with porn performers, is it appropriate for anyone to minimalize this dangerous level of exposure by saying the victims should have known better when they signed up to work as porn stars?
As adult performer Lorelei Lee told Tracy Clark-Flory: “The combination of volatile public reactions to sex work and an audience perception of performers as more accessible and/or less ‘real’ than other women makes us a target for hateful rhetoric, harassment, and too frequently for real violence.”
She’s right. We just don’t see how this site serves any purpose other than terrorizing people and inciting violence against sex-workers, homosexuals, transgendered and queer members of the community. We’re appalled that CNET is allowing Matyszczyk to brush this off like it’s not a big deal, or somehow something the victims of the leak failed to take into account when they went into the industry. Anonymity is one thing, but this is three inches short of a hate crime.
The closing words of the article attempt to impart a lesson:
The porn industry is undergoing considerable changes, especially with the huge proliferation of free online porn. Will the existence of PornWikiLeaks make some think twice about their chosen means of making money? Or is the expectation now entirely reasonable that anything you do, anywhere, at any time could–at any moment–be revealed online for all the world to see, know, and, of course, judge?
At least he got something right. We’re judging you, Mr. Matyszczyk. As an asshat.
UPDATE April 4, 2011, 1:17PM Pacific: In response to this piece, CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk offers a rebuttal:
What Matyszczyk seems unable to grasp is that calling the man behind Porn Wikileaks a name doesn’t take away from the main message of his piece.
UPDATE April 4, 2011, 6:50PM Pacific: The Twitter exchange continues.
In response to this assertion, Maggie Mayhem posted a piece at the Rumpus that makes a very important point:
The opening and closing of an essay is prime real estate in a piece of a writing. It’s what people notice first and what they walk away with at the end. This essay contained 538 words. The opening and closing (103 words) constitute just under 1/5 (just about 20%) of the total essay length and both are dedicated to questioning whether or not porn performers should feel shame about what they do for a living rather than what actually happened or any form of compelling analysis.
The reason that people are receiving this as victim blaming is because you opened your essay by saying, “For some reason, I am reminded of Eric Schmidt’s dictum. You know, the one that went something like: ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.’” It communicates quite a bit about your priorities that you opened and closed your writing with a sentiment of judgment and shame.
On Twitter, Matyszczyk again iterates that his comments were sarcastic, this time linking to a piece he wrote in March of last year about social media and privacy:
As our editrix pointed out, there is a difference between oversharing and having one’s personal information from a medical database and employer records exposed with no apparent recourse.
Furthermore, CEOs may not expose themselves as they say users should, but at least they are accessible to answer to users when users perceive they have crossed a line (Beacon is gone and Buzz has lost a lot of its buzz). In the case of Porn Wikileaks, no one can, as of yet, be held accountable, not that the person would be willing to make any changes unless serious legal action was taken against him.
These are two very, very different things, and even if, in fact, the column was an exercise in sarcasm, as Matyszczyk claims, it doesn’t read that way, with or without context. As our editrix said on Twitter, it only serves, rather ironically, to side him with the CEOs he initially railed against. We hope he will amend his post to apologize and clearly state — without his trademark sarcasm, which has proven to this point so problematic — what he actually meant.