In many countries, including Canada, 'sexting' — the texting or posting of naked or semi-naked photographs on social media sites — can be considered a crime if the persons portrayed are minors.
Social media is a filter that creates an illusory removal from context. You think you can post anonymously or have your content get lost in the din, meaning you have no accountability for what you say. Comments can be veiled threats, as was received by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin - or, they can be a whole campaign, as was vikileaks.
One the supposed anonymity of social media clearly doesn't do is remove consequence. Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd and many, many others can speak to that. Countless others who have thankfully not been driven to suicide, but have seen their reputation raked through the mud by anonymous posters have suffered as well.
Thankfully, with the bleed of information and the probing of grassroots into the concrete bunkers of the nation, it's getting harder and harder to stay anonymous, meaning accountability is starting to filter back into the equation. The grand irony, of course, is the fact that Anonymous currently plays such a huge role in forcing transparency and accountability.
Social media isn't the only sphere where an apparent lack of accountability and the reliance on a somnambulant public have resulted in transgressions of ethics. The ongoing Senate scandals, various robocall shenanigans, whatever's up with Rob Ford and crack and prison visits - these are all scenarios that would never have been possible without the potential of anonymity or the expectation that Canadians don't care.
If I've learned anything in my travels, my experience in politics and my explorations of people themselves it's that to treat another person in an inhumane fashion, you can't view them as human. By creating a barrier between "us" and "them" - we are smart, they are dumb, we are moral, they immoral, she's essentially whorish and therefore it's okay to treat her as property, he's essentially a thug so gets what he deserves, etc. There's not much difference between wanting to cull Muslims and wanting to remove Roma from Hungary, all immigrants from Greece or gays from Russia - or settle the Jewish Question.
The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.
One thing about drones - you never need to look your targets in your eye. You don't need to train your physique to be in the best possible position of defence, because you will never be threatened yourself. The daily life, the personal interactions, the hopes, fears and doubts - or confidence, hatred and bitterness that may present itself in the eye of your opponent will never register. Neither will, of course, the civilian casualties that will also fall to your attack. It's all in a day's work, after all.
The point of drones, though, is to protect "our" troops from harm. If we can create a fortress America that lets only the economically good people in and export defence through technology, "we" can live a perfect life in a colony removed from the strife churning in that sea of troubled waters.
We won't need to worry about them, unless they are perceived to threaten our freedom.
Drones, robocalls, anonymous tweets... they're all about the elusive dream of freedom as defined by Ayn Rand and Great Big Sea:
Watching the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean Film last Night - At World's End - I was reminded of the theme of piracy, as defined by the film makers - piracy, in their version of the world, equates with freedom. No rules, no accountabilities, just clear horizons and bottles of rum.
This is the definition of freedom that seems to have the greatest traction these days. It's why Rob Ford is so popular - he gives the finger to the rules and all personal expectations of his post, texting while driving, getting a little unruly out at events, dismissing bothersome reports and facts and just going with his gut. By and large it's working for him, personally - whatever happens to Toronto's reputation, whatever gridlock occurs at City Hall or however we collectively fall behind, people still say that they'd prefer a crack-smoking Rob Ford to someone like David Miller.
Rob Ford is popular because he acts like he is consequence-free, as we would like to be. However, his actions (and inaction) are not consequence free - the consequences of his actions have been downloaded to others. Depending on what comes out of the crack episode, we may find that some rather severe consequences of his actions have landed on the backs of others, directly, and on all of us by association.
That's the thing about the Pirate model of freedom - yes, Pirates didn't have to work much, nor work hard and yes, they were free to roam the seas, taking what they wanted. But what they took, they took by force from others. There actually was a pirate code, because it very quickly became clear that shipboard anarchy was a recipe for disaster. Anarchy, each man for himself, doesn't work - it never has.
Be it sexting (sending pictures of ourselves or sending pictures of others), robocalls, drone attacks or any number of actions that derive self-gratification, there are always consequences. You can turn a blind eye and hope to escape direct accountability or you can assume you'll never get caught. If you're powerful enough, you can count on your might of weapons or money to keep consequences at bay, but again you're ignoring a basic historical truth - what goes around, comes around.
Rob Ford will face consequences, in time. So too will the people who have enabled him thus far. Sexting bullies and pornographers are slowly being caught up in accountability as well. The US is paying for its actions through a thousand cuts that will take their toll, with time. Some people will merely see their reputations damaged, while others will see the organizations they have worked hard to build begin to fracture.
We can look back on history as a series of vignettes of aggressive, selfish and willfully ignorant people getting ahead on the backs of others - but we can also see a larger picture of that selfish success becoming watered down as consequences become more severe and society, more complex.
There's a reason why The Golden Rule is universal; in a social context, you can't escape consequence. We can never be free from each other.
The smartest leaders are the ones who recognize and internalize this truth and plan accordingly.