On Consent & the media

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Recently, two major incidents took place in Greece: first of all. the blackmailing of a left politician on the basis of a video which was recorded by some students who gave it to a reporter, who in his turn used it to expose the politician’s sexual preferences; the second is concerns the Greek Pride parades and is splitted into another two issues: i) a photographer took an unsolicited picture of a trans woman. At first denied doing so, but under pressure from those nearby deleted it. Afterwards an article was written to discuss the topic and a lawyer was asked about it. ii) A few days later, Golden Dawn (the extreme right wing party of the Greek parliament) uploaded the photos from Thessaloniki Pride, which where hosted on an online magazine, to their own site with harmful intentions.

What these cases have in common is that there was no consent given to record the video or to take photos, and this material was used to attack the victims. I hope we can agree that there is something very wrong with blaming the victim. There is something totally disturbing when the actor (this time, the reporters) isn’t accused of violating the law.

Especially when the content is very private, it should be more evident and outraging that rights have been infringed. What gets an adult turned on shouldn’t be headlines no matter the person’s status and work. Setishes and kinks, one’s preferences in the bedroom are unrelated with the competence of making political decisions.

But even in the case of the Pride parades, which took place in public spaces, just being there in the open gives no one the right to take your photo and use them for their own purpose. Photographers might have the right to take a picture of a public event but this doesn’t equal with close-ups of unaware people. Yes, Prides are for the LGBTQI community to show they are proud being who they are despite being constantly shamed. But taking part in the parades doesn’t mean that someone is out of the closet or that a picture won’t create complications for their lives. Insinuating that only people who are out should participate, forces more people in the closet and that’s violence in its own way.

Some years earlier I couldn’t understand that your physical presence or even intentional performance (namely cosplay) does not mean consent. The individual itself has full rights of handling its image, be it public or otherwise. It is the same logic running behind ‘provocative’ clothes and rape, or even not locking your house and having your property stolen. The crime and the felonious behaviour is the fault of the criminal, not the victim.

If we want to see the bigger picture, though, everything mentioned here is closely related to the gossip culture and the yellow reportage. One may claim that ‘social commenting’ is in human nature. It’s also said to be helpful psychologically -since a gossiper doesn’t pay attention to their own problems. But when we hurt someone physically, it is penalised by law. We are so much surrounded by this mentality, stemming from countryside closed societies, that we take it for granted that the others owe us the details of their lives. The paparazzi are fed by a perpertuation of this ‘need’. They do a job which is based on violating privacy and shaming individuals. They actually earn money from an illegal activity which is served for the ‘entertainment of the readers’. This might start changing once each of us understands that gossip isn’t something innocent and that consent must be a vital part in our every day interactions. Have that thought in your mind next time you check a magazine or even when you open your mouth with a mean word on the tip of your tongue.

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