Monday, 23 May 2011

Publish & Be Damned

So. A footballer, whose name absolutely everyone with an Internet connection and an interest already knows, got a super injunction which prevents any media organisation reporting the fact that he had an affair with a Big Brother 7 contestant called Imogen Thomas, who to be fair to the guy, does have nice norks.


I'm not going to name him, because I am in no mood to be the blogger out of whom the law decides to make an example, but he plays for Manchester United and Wales, wears a number 11 shirt, and he's suing Twitter, like, right now.

Now, to my legally untrained mind, the issue comes down to the competing rights of freedom of speech and the right to privacy; specifically articles 8 & 10 and possibly 12 (marriage) of the European convention on Human rights. Just because the public is interested in with whom footballers and their ilk play hide the sausage, doesn't mean the newspapers have a right to publish and thereby invade peoples' privacy. But, whatever Lord Justice Eady decides, freedom of speech is, to my mind, paramount. Without a presumption of free speech, it's the rich and powerful who have the access to super-injunctions and less blessed unfortunates who come into the view of the tabloids but don't have the resources, get monstered. In freedom of speech, truth should be the defence. Readerships should be asking "why am I interested, I really must be a nasty, stupid, prurient, fuck to be paying to read this drivel, but then I like football and big brother, so duh...".

This may be a footballer, but if it's a politician, or in America, a religious hypocrite, the right of people to know the private behaviour of public individuals is stronger. Though it still says more about the prurience of the public, "celebrities" must accept that one has to be able to defend one's actions. The day of super-injunctions is past. Information is too difficult to suppress in this online world. Perhaps this is healthy - in a global village, every action has consequences. It's as if the world knows you, just as if you lived in the 10th century. It's equalising in it's own way.

Courts can ban media organisations from divulging details, whilst the Internet is awash with the facts. An injunction probably worked until about a decade ago, when a few organisations controlled information. Now any dick-head with a key-board can find out, and spread information. There may be examples made, but you cannot prosecute every twitter user and blogger. To attempt to do so makes the law ridiculous. Sorry. EVEN MORE ridiculous. In this environment, seeking such an injunction merely renders the person seeking the injunction MORE famous than if you'd just said, "

Yes. The Gigg's Up. I shagged her."
Footballers, even Welsh ones with a yoga video to sell, shagging d-list tarts is not exactly a 'man-bites-dog' story and would be soon forgotten, but for the super injunction. The footballer, who scored a goal against in the second leg of Manchester United's Champions league semi-final, would have been better advised to accept the media nonsense for a few days than expose himself to the cost and ridicule of legal action. Furthermore, the Footballer in question may be flying Ryan Air in future, as the cost of legal action, suing twitter and obtaining a super injunction may mean, that despite a long career of 875 appearances for Manchester United, he may end up bankrupt. Bankrupt and famous mainly for shagging Imogen Thomas, not the magnificent first goal in the second leg against Shalke, which ended a long goal drought for the 37 year-old forward.

Newspapers, even Britain's notoriously prurient and intrusive press should have the right to publish the truth, even at the risk of invading the privacy of people paid £100,000 a week to kick a ball. Of course when a mere schoolmistress is "exposed" as a dominatrix, as a rather despicable second prize for the Sun in its campaign against Sir Max Mosley, the high cost of such legal action means people's lives may be destroyed utterly, to no-one's benefit. But they're not famous, so who cares about THEIR privacy? A level playing field would see the truth being a defence in publishing details.

The moral of the story as far as footballers is concerned. If you didn't shag a d-list slapper, prove it and sue the papers for libel if they print. If you did shag a d-list slapper, fess up, divorce or beg for forgiveness from your wife and accept that this will be tomorrow's chip-wrapper. The Internet has rendered super-injunctions moot. This isn't new: It was the Duke of Wellington who first said "publish & be damned".

Unless this is all a clever strategy to build a media presence at the end of a football career. In which case, well done. I am sure there will be plenty of Giggs for you.



5 comments:

David said...

Brilliant! I love it.

FrankC said...

"If you didn't shag a d-list slapper, prove it and sue the papers for libel if they print."
Surely the studded boot is on the other foot. If it didn't happen, sue the newspaper for libel and get them to produce their evidence in court.

Bill said...

I share your views, but I think the word you were looking for is "prurience".

The man may be a gullible fool (for having imagined that paying shyster lawyers to try and keep his name out of the public domain would be likely to succeed), but there is absolutely no public interest for the public knowing about whom he has sex with, other than it's what people are interested in and therefore what sells a lot of trashy newspapers.

JimmyGiro said...

Freedom of speech verses privacy, is rather like asking which is most important of the first or second laws of thermodynamics?

We all want both, but in direct conflict, we have to decide the priority. If we wander into special pleading or privilege, then we risk arbitrariness.

Freedom of speech, is a universal requirement for all to be free. And protection from unjust imposition, such as slander, is an agreed right between us all in a free society.

Hence slander is what needs to be stopped, not trying to contain smoke. Privacy is what you can steal, and should not be a right.

Lee said...

The issue of injunctions goes way beyond the sex lives of footballers. One is currently in operation which is covering up child abuse and police corruption in my home town of Doncaster.

I have been re-posting the links to sites that contain the details.

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