[Update: Iggy responds to her critics. “I don’t lose any sleep.”]
Once again, those purporting to be part of the Anonymous hacktivist collective are acting more “mean girl” than white knight. Actually, mean girl, thief, child pornographer, and felon.
Their target is Australian hip hop ingénue, Iggy Azalea. And it’s a case of sextortion: they’re threatening to release images from a sex video (reportedly created while she was underage and without her knowledge), unless she apologizes to Azealia Banks and protesters in NYC.
The sextorter/s, who goes by the Twitter name, @TheAnonMessage claim Iggy is “guilty of misappropriating black culture, insulting peaceful protesters and making light of Eric Garner’s death.” [To see @TheAnonMessage’s tweets, go here.] This stems from the recent inflammation of a 2-year-old feud between Iggy Azalea and rapper Azealia Banks (combined: Iggy Azalia Banks). The beef heated up on December 3, 2014 when Banks went to Twitter to express the outrage that so many of us felt when the grand jury decided against indicting the NYPD cop who choked Eric Garner to death. Banks’ attention shifted to Azalea’s lack of twitter commentary on Garner, which Banks interpreted as indicative of Azalea’s white privilege and pattern of cherrypicking some parts of black culture while not investing in the struggles. Azalea (or whoever writes her tweets for her) shot back a few hours later condemning Banks:
“There’s more to sparking a change than trolling on social media. World issues shouldn’t be used as a poor excuse to promote fan battles. .. Make sure you do something to let YOUR government know how you feel when something is unjust., not JUST your followers on twitter… Make sure you sign petitions, hit the streets and protest or donate to groups helping to support and rebuild the community. Also try not to judge anothers support or ‘lack there of’ solely on if they have ranted on twitter about it, that’s not right or helpful. The world is too hung up on what is or isnt said on twitter… There’s an actual world out there and multiple ways you can promote change…. Be mad but be productive, please!”
I think Azalea is spot on there. But there was one dire problem with her message. In that series of tweets she linked to an article about Ferguson/Michael Brown – not Eric Garner.
Iggy has before been called out for doing and saying tone-deaf and racially ignorant things. But come on, she’s not a political commentator for god sakes. Why expect a pop star to say anything profound? Obama hasn’t said anything particularly reassuring or guiding about the police brutality, protesting, and non-indictments. But we expect the singer of “Fancy” to? Clearly, this is a symptom of social media – we expect everybody to comment on everybody. And people aren’t only attacked for what they say, but now, for what they don’t. There’s no turning this shit off. And why attack her? Why not other white pop stars who have benefited from parts of black culture and have actually committed racially-motivated crimes, like, say Mark Wahlberg? Could it be because Iggy is a woman. . . with a sex tape?
Strange to me is the assumption that Iggy does her own tweeting. Or for that matter, that she writes her own music, dresses herself, choreographs her videos or directly makes the decisions that have resulted in such disdain. Are the racial missteps hers? Or her handlers? The doctrine of Respondeat Superior would find the distinction useless, holding her responsible for the actions of her employees. It bears noting, though, that we’re fooling ourselves if we think Universal would accept the risk inherent in Iggy handling her own social media presence.
Turning back to Anonymous. As so aptly tweeted by Mary Anne Franks, “extortion is not critique.” And there are ways to critique without extortion or doxxing, as illustrated by Q-Tip’s amazing and gorgeous 40-tweet lesson to Iggy about our country’s “monster of racism and racial insensitivity breathing and ruling” and the emergence and magnetic power of hiphop: “But! You have to take into account the HISTORY as you move underneath the banner of hiphop. As I said before. . . hiphop is fun it’s vile it’s dance it’s traditional it’s light hearted but 1 thing it can never detach itself from is being a SOCIO-Political movement.”
Now, let’s look at the threats themselves. The sextorting tweets sent to Iggy from @TheAnonMessage, contain the purplest of prose. The sender discusses how he (and yes, I’m making a presumption re gender) has “values to live by” and because of those purported “values,” the full video won’t be released. Instead, distribution will be of “various snapshots of her face to confirm.” Wow! That’s so much better. Though in the next tweet t@TheAnonMessage returns to threatening release of the entire video: “There’s an X rated tape of you, we bet you’d [sic] certainly don’t want public are we right? @IGGYAZALEA……and this is nothing. Comply or else.” So that kind of sounds to me like a threat to release the whole thing. But wait, a few tweets later @TheAnonMessage says “To reiterate, no sex tape of any kind will be released. Again, we are not in the business of porn. That doesn’t mean we don’t have it.” @TheAnonMessage goes on to claim to possess enough fodder for a Cosby-scale scandal.
So, let’s get this straight, @TheAnonMessage says it isn’t in the “business of releasing porn.” And that’s because why? The business it’s in is way more honorable? In this case, that would be the business of: 1) hacking and stealing allegedly underage nonconsensually created porn (presumably from Hefe Wine (aka Maurice Williams), Iggy’s ex, who was already in the process of extorting Iggy) or Vivid Entertainment, to whom Hefe wanted to sell it, 2) terrorizing a person with the release of it if they don’t do X, Y, or Z, and 3) sexual humiliation.
There are a host of crimes that @TheAnonMessage risks being charged with if he were to be charged, say, here in NY:
- 156.05 Unauthorized use of a computer
- 156.10 Computer trespass
- 156.27 Computer tampering in the first degree
- 156.30 Unlawful duplication of computer related material in the first degree
- 156.35 Criminal possession of computer related material
- 250.60 Dissemination of unlawful surveillance image in the first degree (NOTE: NY recently expanded its definition to include sexual pictures when just the victim’s face is visible. So by only distributing face shots, @TheAnonMessage receives no leniency from the penal law)
- 263.15 Promoting a sexual performance by a child
And that doesn’t federal hacking penal laws, IP breaches, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and privacy torts.
As so gorgeously stated in yesterday’s emotional New York Times editorial about our city that’s so deeply wounded, “No one wants to fall deeper into a grotesque cycle of grievance and vengeance.” Wounding others is no way to advance the dialogue.