What happened this week; an open letter.

Five days ago, I saw something on the Internet that bothered me. A local photographer was posting surreptitiously taken pictures of girls in bathing suits from the beach, and a lot of them looked underage to me. It is my understanding that this is a violation of law; in fact, I had seen people arrested for it, as had friends of mine.

I discussed this with friends in a private forum, and following that discussion I emailed the police department of that city. I told them that I had no idea if any crime had been committed, but that it looked bad to me, and that they should be aware that this was going on. They did not respond. I have no idea if they even read their email, or whether it works; their site is a mess.

One person in the discussion mentioned above disagreed with me. He felt strongly that no crime had been committed, that I should not contact the police, and that the most I should do is ask his web host not to host the photos if I found them offensive. He also revealed that he knew the photographer personally. It was his opinion that I was going too far by talking to the police, and that the photographer was likely to be poorly treated by the police and an injustice caused. I disagreed, and we had a heated argument about the principles involved. Several other people also disagreed with him.

Yesterday I and the others in that conversation received hate mail from the photographer’s wife. My friend had decided that the proper thing to do was to forward the entire private conversation to the photographer and an unknown number of other people, without notifying me or any of the others in the conversation.

This meant that someone whom I had accused of a crime had been given my identity and easy means of locating me both online and in person. It also meant that several friends of mine had also been given the same treatment, solely because they agreed with me, when they had not contacted the police or done anything else other than converse.

Demanding an explanation I received the following combination of insults and explanations: that I was a coward; that I had practiced innuendo; that I was “passive-aggressive” (does anyone actually look that up?); that I should have confronted the photographer myself; that I am not a “real man”; that nothing on LJ is really private so it was okay for him to give that information to anyone; and a series of inaccurate comments about “the law”. In this strange double-vision world, I am both a coward for “hiding behind a locked entry” and a fool for supposing that anything was private, and he is the Angel of Justice who has been given the task of educating me about my true place by surreptitiously handing over the information and watching the fun, without any risk to himself. A fine position to be in, safe and enjoyable!

So according to his principles, if I suspect someone of a crime my duty is to confront him personally, perhaps slapping him in the face with my glove in the manner of a 19th century novel, and demand satisfaction, sir! If I instead discuss the problem with my friends in private and then notify the police, it’s the duty of an honorable man to take this private communication and give it to the injured party, so that he can get satisfaction on his own by whatever means he feels necessary, without warning and in secret.

If my friend with the deep sense of honor had just wished to protect the photographer from trouble, there was no need to identify anyone. The solution for someone who disapproved of my tip to the police would be to tip Mr. Photographer too. That would be his own legal problem, and he could take responsibility for it, in the manner of a “real man”.

But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to hurt me as badly as possible, and hurt everyone else who had disagreed with him. So he exposed us all to the unknown risk of retribution from someone who had been accused of a crime.

If a real man confronts, and discusses, and doesn’t hide, does a real man silently betray his friend behind his back? Where was his big confrontation with me, where he said “Sir I have no choice but to inform the photographer of your behavior”? Apparently my duty to confront Mr. Photographer is absolute, but your duty to confront me is totally absent. Suddenly the 19th century novel evaporates and we have a child passing notes in class because someone tattled to the teacher and he wants a beat down at the bike racks after school. Right now, man!

You can slice it and spin it any way you want, feedle, but you deliberately violated a confidence out of spite and anger. You did it to hurt, and not to fix anything or make anything better for anyone. And you did it because you have a double standard between your friend who likes to take pictures of high school girls on the beach and your friend of a friend who disapproves, and because you were upset about an Internet argument. Class act.

You got what you wanted; a lot of people are afraid, miserable, and very very angry. Hurt: achieved. I have no idea how unbalanced your photographer friend is. Do you absolutely guarantee that Mr. and Mrs. Camera don’t go beyond hatemail, or can you even guarantee such a thing? Should I prepare for property vandalism, electronic attacks, a screwdriver in my back? Should everyone else on that list do so also? What if they’d decided instead of sending hate mail to just burn my house down? That would be awfully disappointing, although of course there’s still no risk to you so I guess it doesn’t matter.

I have already said elsewhere, and I will say it again. If your friend has not violated the law, he has my full and sincere apology.

Where’s your apology for the violations of privacy, not just of me but of everyone who dared disagree with you? Where’s your apology for the double standard of openness that only applies to some people and not others? Where’s your apology for secretly giving privileged information to someone with good reason to do me harm? Where’s your apology for the ridiculous set of insults? I’m not the only one waiting.

feedle, I have liked and respected you for years. You have been a model of calm and reasoned discourse, reliably kind and pleasant, funny, intelligent, and one of the most tolerant and thoughtful people I’ve encountered. Your conduct this week is so far beneath you I have wondered sometimes if you were ill.

But now you can’t be trusted, you know. Not by anyone, not for a very long time. That’s your job to repair, not mine.

12 thoughts on “What happened this week; an open letter.

  1. I think this whole thingy is just done.
    There wont be apologies coming from anywhere, It will just go away.
    You guys arent internet friends anymore, I think thats all.
    I wouldn’t worry about your safety, I don’t think anyone is out to physically get you.
    I think if someone was reporting you to the police department for something
    I felt you were not guilty of I would also let you know what was going on.
    Maybe that makes me a terrible person but thinking about it that way helps me to see things from the other side.
    This is one of those things you shouldnt spend too much thought and worry on, It exploded, it sucks, it needs to stop being talked about so it can go away.
    just my 2 cents, as always. šŸ™‚

    1. If it had just been the Internet I would have lost interest a long time ago. This is about people I know in person, and the police, and the real world. Things that matter to me.
      Are you saying that I shouldn’t trust you either? I hope that’s not what you’re saying.

      1. no no, I’m saying you can trust me because I am your friend.
        (for some reason everyone seems to define that word so differently)
        If in a crazy moment I felt you were being attacked unjustly, I might let you know so you could protect yourself. Of course I’m not saying whether or not this is the case at all with this incident, Just how I might react, etc.
        I hate that this is happening and I would like to believe that everything I say on my own personal journal is safe, but there is a reason that my journal is seriously superficial 99% of the time.
        It’s true, you can rarely trust, I’ve learned this the hard time many times, This is no exception.
        By the way, What you said about Passive-agressive. Fuckin A, why doesn’t ANYONE seem to use that term correctly? Fer fucks sake.

  2. Putting this to bed.
    I am the photographer in question.
    Hearing of your allegations towards me caused me some concern, since I was not aware of any behavior of mine that was illegal. I did not and do not believe I was photographing minors. I am not interested in doing so. Having said that, since people do not have their birth dates tattooed on their foreheads, it’s hard to tell in many cases exactly how old someone is – someone that my eyes feel is adult may in someone else’s eyes look under 18; and without asking, neither of us know for sure.
    With that in mind, I attempted to go back through my Flickr photostream and take a more … jaundiced view of peoples’ possible ages. I have deleted perhaps five images that I considered some might find questionable on that basis. I would appreciate knowing, in future, if you consider any image of mine over that line. I do not wish them to so be.
    That said, I do not believe that there was any law that I could even possibly have been breaking. In general, one may photograph anything one can see in a public place. A lot of searching online has failed to reveal any national, state or local law that says that it’s illegal to photograph people under 18, intentionally or inadvertently. It is illegal to use such photographs for commercial purposes, certainly, but I am not doing that.
    If anyone knows better and can point me to some obscure law, I would appreciate it.
    I would note that my photography is not especially surreptitious, either. I am using a point and shoot digital camera with an 8x zoom lens. This does not permit me to photograph people from any great distance or to be especially sneaky about it. Yes, I do take photographs of people without asking permission. This kind of photography has a long history, including many well-known art photographers. In the United States, it has a long history of being found legal.
    My wife’s email, which I read the next morning after she sent it, I don’t think counts as hatemail. Pissed-off mail, maybe. No threats were made, except a legal one at the end should further allegations continue. I would contrast this against the original thread, in which I counted several possible threats of violence towards me. Be assured that I believe in violence only in self-defence, as does she. If anyone wants to see the actual email she sent, I can forward a copy.
    I hope you can see, in your own fear of physical violence against yourself, that my wife and I would have been just as justified in fearing such against us – given that you had supplied your friends with enough information about me that you could probably have found me, and that the mere suggestion of ‘pedophilia’ has been known to arouse lynch-mob violence before.
    I hope you do not judge too harshly. Hanlon’s Razor states:

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    which I think applies well in this situation. I don’t see malice in what he did, and I don’t think I would if the situation was reversed, either.

    1. Re: Putting this to bed.
      Thank you for your detailed reply. I appreciate your candor and your guarantee of nonviolence.
      I still disagree with you about the photography in question, but I am a not a lawyer, nor is anyone who’s discussed this. I claim no particular expertise in the field.
      Also, you are absolutely right to be concerned about remarks anhyone made about violent acts. That was inappropriate and I should have said so at the time; I apologize for not making a stronger case for the rule of law.
      isn’t stupid. I hope you’re right that he was mostly mistaken and not malicious in this case.

    2. Re: Putting this to bed.
      Even if the legal question is still up for debate, there still is the question of decency and it is something that you need to consider. Appearence is reality. Your actions have consequences. Roaming around a public beach taking pictures of girls in bathing suits is gross, inappropriate and just plain creepy no matter if you intentions are innocent or not. People not care if you are an “artist”.
      Why don’t you try this: Take 50 pictures of girls on the beach. Then go up to each of them and inform them that you just took their picture and because it is legal and your form of quasi-art, therefore you should be ok with it. I think the reaction from about 99% of them will be consistant and they will want you to destroy the film or their hunky boyfriend will do it for you.
      Just a thought.

    3. Re: Putting this to bed.
      Since this comment you made seems reasonable, I would hope you could understand that someone like myself, having only made a comment supporting a friend in doing what I believe is the right thing, was pretty surprised to find your wife throwing insults and accusations my way, especially since neither I, or the person who reported you said anything with any hate behind it in the first place.
      Your comment insinuates that you think acted out of stupidity, which leaves me wondering what you think of your wife’s audacious email sent to a crowd of people who don’t even know either one of you, and who certainly didn’t deserve that kind of aggression.
      Frankly, I think the whole thing is out of line. The police are there for private citizens to feel safe. It’s their job to decide what is a crime and what is not, not ours, hence we have the ability to report to them and not the ability to throw handcuffs on any person we see fit. If you did not commit a crime, then you have nothing to worry about, and neither does your wife.

  3. I am so sorry this has happened to you.
    It really just doesn’t seem fair that people who do the right thing should be punished for it, but jesus do I understand why people don’t. It takes a lot of strength and conviction to do what you did and to stand by it. For that you have my utmost respect.
    It was nice to see that you have some friends you have your back. The orange lady did a nice job defending you. I know it’s hard to trust anyone now, especially after someone you thought you could trust for years betrayed you. I know that feeling oh so well, because I am going through it to. But I’m trying not to lose all hope, and I hope you don’t.

  4. I’m late to this party, but hey, if the guy wasn’t breaking the law, he has nothing to worry about. It’s not your fault he was doing something shady. If he knows he’s done nothing wrong or illegal, then why should he care if someone called the cops?
    You and your friends are just being good citizens by looking out for other people. I for one am grateful for people like that.

  5. man, i’d be releasing all sorts of shenanigans on that person right now, via my brother the attorney. also, i’m betting that if his 14 yr old sister was in those photos, he’d be pretty angry.

  6. You are so much nicer than I would have been. I’d keep going and reply to the creepy photographer guy; but I’ll join in and not add more fuel. Take care of yourself, dude. I hope you find some peace.

  7. Here’s my two cents. I’m ignorant of the discussion cum argument regarding the photos. I’m ignorant of the photos in question, as well. Having read the photographer’s reply to your entry, I’m inclined to side with him in so far as the letter of the law goes. The question of the legality of the photos would be one better asked of a friend with a legaist’s background. Not that I am so conceeded at to believe that my support is at all necessary, but I very rarely condone somebody going to the police over any act that might fall under the umbrella of freedoms guaranteed us Constitutionally. In this case, that would be the freedom of expression and the freedom of speech.
    I would think it better to ask the advice of somebody with some background in that area before possibly starting a police investigation. As we know, despite the fact de jure that an individual is innocent until proven guilty, many cases can spiral out of the realm of sensibility and a perfectly innocent individual’s reputation can be forever injured over an investigation, regardless the good and upstanding intentions of the accuser.
    Thus it is the opinion of the Court of the Pirate King that the photographer and Substitute should either let the matter drop or find a knowledgeable third party to arbitrate before engaging a more public legal forum.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.