What’s the difference between a photograph of a naked child and kiddie pornography?
If you don’t know the answer a bright future awaits you at Facebook, which has suspended a Norwegian journalist for posting up Nick Ut’s Pulitzer-winning photograph – probably the most iconic image of the Vietnam War – showing a naked girl fleeing from a napalm strike.
The shocking part of this story isn’t Facebook’s arrogant, priggish, undiscriminating, knee-jerk PC decision to censor that historic photo. Rather, it’s the fact that Facebook is stubbornly continuing to insist that it did the right thing, even to the point of insulting the Norwegian Prime Minister.
This has prompted the editor of Norway’s largest newspaper to publish an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, accusing him of abusing his role as the “world’s most powerful editor.”
Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”
“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” he added.
Hansen is dead right. It would have been so easy for Facebook to have resolved this issue sensibly and amicably. Big corporate bureaucracies often make mistakes and all it would have needed in this instance would have been a quick email from a junior Facebook grundoon to one of the higher-ups.
“You suspended his Facebook page because of what?” the executive could have said. “Look, I know you’re only about 12 years old and think anything before Justin Bieber’s first YouTube appearance is, like, ancient history. But that photograph is a legend. Apart from maybe the self-immolating monk and the Vietcong guy being executed and the guy at Khe Sanh with the thousand yard stare, it’s got to be THE photograph of the Vietnam war. I don’t expect you to know this necessarily, but I would expect you to show a bit of common sense. I mean, is it not kind of freaking obvious that there is NOTHING sexually titillating about a terrified 9-year-old girl fleeing a napalm strike? And do you not, think, maybe the guy who posted it was offering you a subtle clue as to his intentions when he included it in an essay called ‘seven photographs that changed the history of warfare'”?
But this is not what any Facebook executive said. Instead, Facebook responded with this piece of officious corporate garbage.
“While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others,” a spokesman for Facebook said in response to queries from the Guardian.
“We try to find the right balance between enabling people to express themselves while maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community. Our solutions won’t always be perfect, but we will continue to try to improve our policies and the ways in which we apply them.”
This attitude clearly comes right from the top. You can tell from the high-handed way that Facebook has since escalated the conflict by picking a fight with the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg.
Solberg wrote on Facebook:
“I appreciate the work Facebook and other media do to stop content and pictures showing abuse and violence … But Facebook is wrong when they censor such images.”
Facebook responded by deleting her post.
This is a scarily provocative move by Zuckerberg because it suggests – not for the first time, it must be said – that here is a man, intoxicated with power and buoyed up with his sense of self-righteousness, who wants to remake the world in his own image.
If he were a libertarian like Peter Thiel, that might not be such a bad thing.
But Zuckerberg, unfortunately, instead cleaves to the bizarro, warped value system of the Social Justice Warrior.
In the SJW world view, it’s completely irrelevant that the “napalm girl” photo is a cultural icon and a valuable historical document and has been well accepted as such, almost to the point of cliché, in the four decades since it was taken in 1972.
That’s because SJWs live in a perpetual Year Zero, where old traditions and formerly accepted values are meaningless. To them, the very fact that the photo shows a nine-year-old girl who is naked automatically puts it into a category marked “potentially offensive”. Someone, somewhere might be upset by it – and if that’s the case then it is better to be safe than sorry and to airbrush it out of history.
This attitude is worrying enough when you see it demonstrated by the kind of special snowflakes you often find on university campuses these days.
When you see it being endorsed by the CEO of arguably the world’s most influential media corporation, it’s absolutely terrifying.