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The Schmooze

Monica Lewinsky on #CelebGate

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Monica Lewinsky knows a thing or two about having her privacy violated.

In an essay written for Vanity Fair called “Nude Traffic: When Have We Crossed the Double Yellow Line?” the woman of little blue dress fame shares her perspective on the hacking scandal that saw scores of private nude photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton leaked for all the Internet to see.

But enough about that — we know what you want (and therein lies the conundrum). As one could expect, Lewinsky begins her piece with her own anecdote about celebrity nude photo hacking:

“I hate to break it to you, but there are seductive pictures of you in lingerie floating around the web.” I was mortified. That was the gist, several months ago, from a friend gingerly alerting me to the news that some suggestive—and presumably private—photos had made their way into the public domain.

I was both relieved and shocked to see that the pictures purporting to be me, were not me. While I wouldn’t mind having the figure of this “Monica” (no cellulite), I was disturbed by the notion that people might think I’d posed in this way and given permission to have them released (or, worse, been paid for them). On a normal-size screen the model looked more like a Kardashian than a Lewinsky. But on smaller handheld devices, I could see some resemblance.

The fake scare, Lewinsky continues, brought back memories of other very private things being made public (with arguably more serious consequences):

In 1998, more than 20 hours of surreptitiously audiotaped (and often inane) “girl talk” between my putative friend Linda Tripp and me (conversations that were largely about diets and the detritus of everyday life) were published on C-SPAN. This is a far cry from the horror of having one’s personal cache of nude photos hacked and disseminated worldwide, but the searing embarrassment and stinging humiliation are still there.

For all of our Instagram-enabled narcissism these days, there is no small degree of assault involved in having our private thoughts, our private conversations, our private photos dished up for the amusement and entertainment of the masses. Like so many others, I feel outrage—as a fellow victim, as a civilized individual, and as a woman—when other women are so easily and publicly violated. And I have found myself wondering: Have we become a world of pathetic voyeurs? Are we turning into scruffy old men in dirty raincoats slouched in the back row at the Gotham City theater? Or, millions of Tom the Tailors, about whom the phrase “Peeping Tom” was coined—after the character who peered through his shutters as Lady Godiva rode the streets of Coventry? (Let’s not forget that, according to legend, he was then struck blind.)

For the fully story, and a useful highway safety analogy to put ethics in perspective, click over to Vanity Fair.

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