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Is Tumblr the New Medieval Stockade?

Public humiliation as punishment has a long history. What has changed are the tools we use to inflict it. The Web now provides us with a far more public and potentially humiliating vehicle than ever before. Until, that is, we become inured to its effects.

Blogs have often been used as a post on which to publicly whip those who've offended us. I certainly have taken a few shots at others in this space. People Who Sit In The Disability Seats When I’m Standing On My Crutches is a perfect example of a more sustained campaign.

However, Tumblr, which promotes itself as "the easiest way to express yourself," seems to have become the weapon of choice among the eternally aggrieved. You need only look to This Is Why You're Fat, Look at this Fucking Hipster, and Asleep on the Subway for evidence. I'm sure there are other examples, which I'd love to know about.

I'm sure some of those pictured are jerks who deserve ridicule, while others are actually lovely people who are guilty of nothing more than getting silly during a night out or being too tired to stay awake on a train. That's not the point.

Even film crews and photographers working on a public street with the intent of publishing and distributing their work must get signed or recorded waivers from all passersby whose images they capture. If they don't get a waiver, they must obscure the individual's image so they're not identifiable. There's a reason for this: even in a public spaces, we all have a right to our privacy and to the published images of ourselves.


porpentine11 said...

More like the panopticon. Someone is watching you so behave.

Steve said...

btw, not entirely true that "Even film crews and photographers working on a public street ... must get signed or recorded waivers from all passersby whose images they capture"
I have worked in places that were being used by film crews (particularly Metropolitan Hospital). Signs were posted in the lobby saying that if anyone entered, it constituted permission. In sum, if I went to work, they had permission. My alternative was not to go to work. Definately a Hobson's choice.

I can't remember who it was, but during the last couple of Supreme Court nomination hearings, someone made the claim that the questions of the nominees were way off the mark. The claim was that during the next generation, the important cases before the court would focus on privacy rights (or whether or not there even were such rights).

Given the present make up of the Court and the current fears of much of the population, it is entirely possible that "privacy" will become an outdated concept.