In New York Magazine, Heather Havrilesky argues that the Ashley Madison hack should scare us. After all, as she says, “private information that was stolen by criminals is now being used by the public to shame and punish individuals who assumed that their information would remain private”, and that does sound mighty scary.
It’s difficult, however, to overlook the assumption of privacy that those folks made. How does that assumption compare to one’s natural assumption that their partner wouldn’t, you know, betray their trust? Or the assumption that one’s partner wouldn’t betray their trust repeatedly and consciously, and so deliberately and with such premeditation as to subscribe to an online service that facilitates the mass erosion of such trust? And finally, isn’t it conceivable that trusting a company that destroys trust on a wholesale level is… mildly foolish?
Yes, it’s pretty much impossible for me to overlook the fact that a tremendous amount of justice has been done, and that the irony is something to revere. It’s not merely that cheaters have been exposed. This has nothing to do with regrettable moments of irresistible passion or whatever nonsense, or consensual polyamorous relationships, or people who allow their partners to fuck around. The point of the site is to connect cowardly and unscrupulous people to one another, so they can jointly wreck the trust of their partners and destroy any notion that relationships should be equitable and consensual. And have fun while doing so.
Ashley Madison’s motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.”
A fun drinking game? Say anything you want after the phrase “life is short”, and the most humorous one earns a drink.
- Life is short. Lop off a limb!
- Life is short. Jump out a fucking window!
- Life is short. Make it even shorter! Fuck it!
Basically, “life is short” is a stupid person’s attempt at rationalization, not unlike YOLO.
Havrilesky would apparently admonish me as one of those people who have “never been shy about imposing their highly subjective views and principles on one another’s private lives — nor have they hesitated to punish the slightest variation in behavior, the slightest straying from the so-called norm.”
As far as I can tell, it’s virtually a tautology that the erosion of trust… is a bad thing. I mean, maybe it isn’t for sociopaths. But most people who betray someone’s trust come to feel bad about it. I’ve got to imagine that the principle that it’s wrong to fuck your partner over is the closest thing we’ve got to a moral universal. Maybe a lot of people commit that wrong, but it’s still wrong.
But when you join an online community to revel in it, you’ve really taken yourself to a new level. You’re saying that you know it’s wrong and just don’t give a fuck.
So, yes. Privacy is important. People have rights. And the obvious answer to rhetorical questions, like “Do we want our public servants targeting citizens by using information gained through criminal means?”, is no.
But I’ll weep for those who honor privacy and rights, and find theirs violated, before shedding a single tear for those who violate such expectations of others and then cry foul when they’re subjected to similar treatment.
Update: Annalee Newitz from Gizmodo reports that the data suggests that “Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.” My opinion holds, but now this whole ordeal seems even more pathological and sad.