I am smart enough to not send naked photos on the internet, however, I often imagine how I would react if sensitive images of me were leaked. After some consideration, I have concluded I would publish my own set of tasteful, Beth Ditto style, nudes to counteract the inevitable ugliness of the leaks.
Jeff Bezos is in a similar predicament. The world’s richest man is being blackmailed with photos of his penis. In late January, the US tabloid National Enquirer started publishing private texts between Bezos and his lover Ms Sanchez. The former claimed that these leaks were politically motivated. Last Friday, the Amazon owner revealed in a blog post how they threatened to publish salacious photo’s of his willy and Ms Sanchez’s cleavage if he didn’t ‘publicly’ say that the tabloids reports were not politically motivated.
Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, could’ve used his own printing press to write his defence. Instead, he decided to make the internet his witness, publishing his correspondence with the National Enquirer through Medium – a free blogging site. In doing so he has received waves of internet support with the Atlantic hailing the article as evidence of the ‘golden age of journalism’.
The emperor with a legion of lawyers and journalists has, through writing this blog post, adopted the role of gladiator fighting on behalf of the public. Not only has he advertised his grievances in plain sight of the networked billions, he also attempts to battle for the general public, asserting that ‘if in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion how many people can?’.
Bezos’s move is aggressive, puncturing the threats of the National Enquirer, rallying media support for the violation of his privacy and condemnation of Mafioso attempts at extortion. Nevertheless, the raw excitement of the situation leaves a bad taste in the mouth. As we have seen with revenge porn, when this happens to ordinary members of the public they are often defenceless. Underneath the roar of approval is the worrying anxiety that they themselves may be picked as the next gladiator expected to fight for their lives on the amphitheatre of the internet.