Perhaps it’s just me and the odd way my mind works, but the dichotomy in both legal and societal reaction to blackmail and “investigative journalism” seems quite odd to me. The difference between how we as a society view the two enterprises doesn’t seem to have any real, fact-based reasoning.

Why is Blackmail a crime, a felony in most or all cases, and “investigative journalism,” which is often better described as “muckraking” and does greater perceived harm to the victim an oft-lauded and protected activity?

The Face of Shame - It looks the Same on Everyone
The Shamed – Might They Have Preferred Blackmail?

Both blackmail and “investigative journalism” are based upon finding damaging and/or embarrassing details about a victim. The only difference is that a blackmailer gives the victim an alternative to being exposed.

So why is the blackmailer vilified and the reporter oft-times lauded?

It can’t be because blackmail causes greater harm to the victim than the muckraker does. Simple economics require that the price asked of the the victim by the blackmailer be less painful than exposure would be. Blackmail, after all, is a consumer driven industry where the victim sets the price based upon his or perceived pain points.

It can’t be because the blackmailer profits from his activities. Journalists, paparazzi, and random individuals with access to “sensitive” information regularly profit from exposing influential or famous people’s various faults, flaws, failings, and peccadilloes.

Nor can I see where or how it could be that blackmail is a crime against the People or State as opposed to being a crime against a Person. Not all, or even most cases of blackmail have involved politicians or businessmen in the context of their jobs and few of those that we know of have involved extorting them to act in certain manners. In point of fact, the exposées much touted by the media have seemingly had far more impact upon corporations and politics, yet they are legal and societally approved of.

It just doesn’t some to make any logical sense, yet I and all who I know are firm in our convictions that blackmail is wrong and must be a crime, whereas “investigative journalism” – or even “tell all,” unapproved biographies – are to be protected as basic rights necessary to our society.

Reflections From a Murky Pond

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