The homophobic media practice of printing the pictures and names of people arrested in gay sex stings is best left in the 1950's. But it's 2012 and media organizations still think it's fine to out people who haven't been convicted of anything, putting them at risk of spiritual and physical violence to get a few cheap chuckles from readers.
Should men have sex in places where it's illegal to have sex? No. Is it the end of the world that they did? No.
Do we treat straight public sex differently than we do gay public sex? Of course. Straight people are so proud of their public sex that they named a cocktail after it. Straight celebs go on TV to brag about their public sexual exploits. Reality TV stars build careers and brands around how sexual they're willing to get in public. We laugh when straight teens get caught having sex in public (since they can't do it at home in front of their families, the rascals).
When it comes to gay sex, on the other hand, the public wants arrests and names added to sex offender registries. They want people fired and banished from civil society. They want people to suffer.
They want blood.
CBS Los Angeles posted a short article on an undercover gay sex sting at Manhattan Beach. Without getting into the fucked up nature of many of these stings, CBS LA was perfectly right to cover it. But did they have to run photos of the men arrested? With their names? With their birth dates, just in case want to be sure that you're vandalizing the right person's house? In a downloadable pdf and embedded into the article itself?
Privacy is supposed to be a basic concern for journalists, and this is a clear case where these men's privacy has been violated. Consider:
- None of these men are public figures, so they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- CBS LA has absolutely no idea, because they didn't care to find out, how out these men are.
- CBS LA has absolutely no idea how the employers of these men will react.
- CBS LA has absolutely no idea how these men's neighbors will react.
- CBS LA has absolutely no idea how these men's families will react.
- CBS LA cannot know if all - or any - of these men will be convicted of anything.
- CBS LA cannot know if all - or any - of these men actually did anything wrong (police have a bad track record when it comes to honesty in gay sex stings).
- CBS LA did not publish, and possibly does not know, what each of these men was charged with (i.e., is it justified to out someone if all they're charged with is loitering?).
- The public does not need to know the faces of the men arrested in this sting; there's no reason to believe the public is in danger.
- The public does not need to know the names of the men arrested in this sting.
Publishing their photos does nothing but risk ruining these men's lives. People have committed suicide over these sorts of stories. And it's hard to see a justification for printing their photos other than "Haw haw, look at those fags."
This practice does nothing other than rile up hatred. It's time to leave it in the past.
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