When It Comes to Hacking, What's the Line Between Heroic and Criminal?

The Rude Pundit gave up cocaine a few years ago for one simple reason: he could no longer abide the violence and exploitation that was part and parcel of the drug trade when it came to blow. He couldn't tell himself that he wasn't in some way giving others license to commit acts of brutality so he could get his buzz on. So he quit and never looked back.

Now, of course, he didn't give up the pot or one or two other substances. But he can do the hypocrite's dance of justification all day long. "Hey, marijuana ain't bad for you," one, two, "Hey, it should be legal," three, four, "Hey, the guy who I buy from is cool." It's a lovely box-step, one that he's happy to do, and the Rude Pundit will tell you endlessly that he's not hurting anyone by his purchase of an illegal substance from someone who claims he gets it from local, non-drug-lord sources.

But, shit and c'mon, the Rude Pundit knows, he knows damn well that his harmless high comes at the price of enabling the whole drug industry. He can pretend to have some moral high ground, but his weed is part of an economy that allows cartels and gangs to exist. It's best not to think about it and just get stoned.

The outrage over the theft of nudie pics of female celebrities is obviously justified. Obviously, it's a violation of privacy. Obviously, it's a crime. Obviously, the women are not to blame for taking photos for people they love or for themselves. And, obviously, it's wrong to hack into someone's account and steal something and disseminate.

But something about the outrage is irksome as hell to him, as if it's the first steps of the justification dance.

See, back a couple of years, when Wikileaks first started releasing the secret and classified documents it received from hacking into government and corporate computers, there was a debate over whether or not the hackers were heroes or criminals. Many of us saw (and still see) them as whistleblowers, revealing the things that have been hidden from us about what our government has done in our name.

In the case of Steubenville, Ohio, hackers from Anonymous were able to steal photos, video, and identity information on the high school football players who raped and abused a teenage girl and the people who helped cover up the crime. The information revealed an abominable culture of sexual assault, leading to protests, online activism, and, ultimately, arrests and convictions (even if the sentences were ludicrously light).

While on the left, we might have felt queasy about how the information was discovered (and how much of it was wrong), the revelations brought out into the open a conversation about the degradation of teen girls by teen boys and those who enable it. On the right, Anonymous was a "lynch mob" that "terrorized" a town.

Let's not even get into what the conservatives (and some on the putative left) think about Wikileaks (the word "execution" comes up often).

In all of these cases, from Wikileaks to credit card numbers to Jennifer Lawrence's photos, the hackers are criminals. It's not that stealing personal naked photos is the same as revealing U.S. troops cold murdered citizens. And it is possible to condemn the one thing while glorifying (or looking the other way on) the other.

But where is the line? If you support the hacking that led to Wikileaks and led to convictions in Steubenville, you've got to accept that there's a hypocrisy you can live with. The same illegal activity that led to those things also led to Arianna Grande's ass becoming currency on Reddit. If you live in a place where the drugs are illegal, then you get your shit by supporting criminals, many of whom happen to do other criminal acts.

The Rude Pundit will be honest: He thinks, "Hell, yeah, you go, hackers" when it comes to Wikileaks and the Steubenville case (errors and all). But like his beloved dope, he recognizes that his support ensures that others use the same tools to steal your tit pics. He tolerates his hypocrisy, and the dope makes that a lot easier.