If you look through earlier posts a bit you'll find a thing a couple posts back. I re-wrote that with less swearing and more focus, and cleaned up the thinking a fair bit, and it appeared on PetaPixel to be admired by millions, and read by three or four of them.
I think it's a pretty solid piece of thinking, and well worth everyone's time. No surprise there. In this post which you are reading right now I want to unpack some of the consequences of my theory, and take a little time to understand what it is not.
As background, here are two posts by one Wasim Ahmad. With Trump Threatening to Track Protestors Down, Should Photojournalists Show Faces in Photos? and then, later, Yes, Photojournalists Are Allowed To Film You Being Racist.
In the first of these articles, Ahmad argues that Journalistic Standards demand certain things (he calls out getting the subject's names, as a proxy for consent). In the second of these articles, Ahmad argues that Journalistic Standards demand no such thing, and instead strongly suggest that the opposite is true (it is, mysteriously, no longer necessary to get people's names.)
Obviously what is going is that Ahmad has a political position, he feels that BLM protesters are on the side of goodness and truth, and the Proud Boys and their ilk are, well, not. He feels, explicitly, that one set of rules applies to one group and another to another. I'm sure he would argue that the BLM protesters are at risk and the Proud Boys aren't and so on, but whatever. There's a lot of half-assed logic chopping you could do, if you were devoted to the idea that you're applying objective Journalistic Standards consistently.
Anyone can see, though, that this simply isn't the case. There are two quite different readings of "the rules" being applied, and it is no accident that the readings fall along political lines.
The trouble is that, somehow, we want to pretend that there's a single, unique, coherent, standard to which we can all hew if only we try hard enough. There isn't.
As my brilliant remarks on PetaPixel make clear, if you read them thoroughly, there are no absolutes here. Ahmad absolutely should photograph BLM protesters one way and Proud Boys another. That is his political allegiance. It is perfectly human to choose sides. It happens that Ahmad and I are on the same side here.
Having chosen a side, it is absolutely moral to hew to it, and arguably immoral not to.
Ahmad, being a leftist, being a person of color, sympathizes with the BLM protesters. His duty to them, the subjects, is ascendant, his duty to his viewers, descendant. He feels that his obligation to protect his allies supersedes his duty to reveal all to the viewers of his photos. With Proud Boys and their ilk, his loyalties, and therefore the duties he feels, are reversed. The viewer's right-to-know is ascendant, and fuck the Proud Boys.
Do you get to yell at people whose loyalties differ from yours? Do you get to yell at people for revealing the faces of protesters you are trying to protect?
Sure. Why the hell not? It's a free country. But be aware that they're applying the same rules you are, but starting from a different political stance. You cannot get all Journalistic Standards with them, not honestly, because you don't actually care about them yourself.
Photoethics is a lot more like personal relationships than it is like a hard-and-fast set of rules.
There is an argument to be made here, but it is fundamentally a political one. I happen to think, and could argue, uh, somewhat cogently, that the BLM people are right, and the Proud Boys are wrong. This hasn't got anything to do with photography. Literally nothing.
But since I believe in this political stance, I would photograph the two protests differently, not because Journalistic Standards, but because this is where my allegiance lies, and because it would be immoral to set aside my allegiance.