…..Several weeks ago a controversy was raised by the posting of a Lexington Steele portrait in repose on Facebook by this studio. It was brought to our attention from a reader of our blog that posting the nude photo was a violation of Facebook policy. The posting was removed from Facebook immediately. It is not the intention of this studio to challenge the rules and regulations of Facebook. However it is important to note that we have witnessed countless violations of Facebook policy floating around on various user accounts, not the least of which was a recent poll being taken on Facebook as to whether or not President Obama should be assassinated. The controversial poll reached a fever pitch and landed on the news desk of national media at which time the secret service rightly so asked Facebook executives to shut the poll down.
The language that was used by the reader of our blog, the subsequent posting of the image on Facebook and the way that he described his reasoning for the removal of the image, raised questions about the use of language as it applies to issues of sex, gender and race in our society. We asked several guest bloggers to respond to the comments that were made. Here is the statement that raised the controversy; “I’m sure no one has had occasion to find fault with any of the intriguing photos you post on Facebook, including those that violate the Facebook policy of No Nudity. When my wife and I look at our Facebook pages at home, our daughter is often nearby, I had a bit of trouble explaining to a 5 year old why there was a picture of a dark man with no clothes on. When it comes to full frontal shots, please dial it back a bit.”
The response from the guest bloggers were published in an earlier post and were not colored by a studio mandate or objective. The person who wrote the statement took offense to the response from our guest’s and sent the following rebuttal which we agreed to publish unedited and has chosen to remain anonymous.
“This is a follow up to a recent post on your blog regarding a photo that you put on your Facebook page. The event deserves a bit of analysis. First, you posted a full frontal shot of a naked man on a family-friendly webpage (and it’s a major challenge to my powers of belief to think that someone with your intelligence was unaware of the Facebook policy against nude photos, but right now I don’t want to pile additional allegations on top of the ones I’m about to discuss). After the photo was posted, as you note on your blog, “…the studio received a number of email comments in reference to the post,” and I’m willing to bet that most of them were negative and made you feel uncomfortable. At that point, the ethical and responsible thing to do would have been to acknowledge that your action offended some people, and the appropriate response would have been to apologize to the people who you made uncomfortable. Instead, you decided to see if you could get around it, possibly by recontextualizing your action as artistically or culturally justifiable.
You sent me an email saying that “Your recent comments about the Lex posting created an opportunity to get reactions from guest bloggers that review the site daily.” The accurate, scientific, and ethical approach in researching people’s reactions to your posting of the photo on Facebook would have been to survey several dozen randomly selected Facebook users (including professional artists), and to post their thoughts. But instead, you hand-picked some friends who you knew would agree with your perspective. Referring to yourself in the royal editorial first person plural, you said, “We asked guest bloggers, Mikel Elam, Yoko Grosshans and Atomic Bombshell to read the email and offer comments in response…” You posted my objection and then printed the disparaging comments written by your associates, all of which belittled my opinion and created the impression of substantiating your position. In doing so, you seemed to want to imply that any objections to what you did, as exemplified in my original quoted statement, were erroneous, provincial, reflective of outmoded values, and not worth taking seriously. So in your blog, using my words as a general target and your friends’ opinions as ammunition, you dissed the values and perspectives of the people like me who complained.
Note that I did not fault your use of the Steele photo by commenting on it in a public arena such as Facebook; as I recall, no one else did either. Yet you arranged for the faulting of my opinion in the very public arena of your blog. Instead of responding to me in private, one on one and man to man, you chose to set up my opinion so that it would be publicly insulted. The fact that the maligning of my words did not involve the mention of my name, and that the derogatory statements were written by “guest bloggers” rather than by you, makes no difference. My words are an extension of myself just as the photos you create are an expression of you. When you cause my words to be defamed in order to disdain my perspective, that’s a personal affront. You could have prevented the entire incident from becoming a public display if you wanted to. But again, I believe you wanted to vindicate yourself on a larger scale, whether you were consciously aware of it or not.
The crux of the problem as it affected me stems from the fact that you quoted colleagues who clumsily used several misleading and flawed argumentation formats known as the Straw Man Fallacy and the Ad Hominem Error. Each of these deflects attention away from the main issue—in this case, violating website regulations that reflect cultural norms—by instead casting aspersions on the character of the person expressing the opposing view. Thus, at this point, the “guest comments” turned into personal attacks. Although you presented me as an anonymous commentator, that doesn’t matter. You and I know that I was the one whose character you allowed to be vilified with slanderous terms such as hypocrisy and racism—and in regard to the latter, permit me to quote and respond to the colorful language used by one of my detractors: “Mandingo Syndrome” my ass.
In doing all this, you attempted to make yourself look good to a larger audience. On a personal level, you did this at my expense. That was an unethical act, and a betrayal of trust. Had I printed out some of your photos and hung them on dartboards, it would have been an act of derision equivalent to what you did to me. But as your friend of three decades, I have more respect for you than to libel the artistic messages you create. I wish you had shown the same level of tact.
To sum up: you wanted (a) to dismiss and/or circumvent the opinion and values of those who took offense at your posting of the Steele photo in a public forum, and (b) to exonerate yourself in the process. You chose to do this rather than address the original issue of showing full frontal male nudity on a family friendly website in violation of website rules and public mores, for which an appropriate response would have been to extend an apology to those who were bothered by it.”