The media and lawyers specialising in media law are showing great ingenuity in trying to present their reporting of sex gossip stories as issues of high principle. First there was ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of the press’, now a lawyer writing in the Sunday Herald claims it’s a feminist fight against misogynist judges.
You may think that women being raped and murdered at the rate of one a day in Honduras, while the police refuse to do anything about it, is a more serious issue and that the papers should campaign against that instead. You might have thought that 420,000 women a year being raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a civil war that the big powers allow to continue because big firms based in their countries profit from it would be bigger news, if women’s rights were the issue. Unarmed women, men and children are all being shot down by tanks and snipers in Syria and Yemen (over 1,100 killed in Syria so far and over 150 in Yemen, thousands wounded).
The real outrage though, the most terrible oppression of all, is apparently that oppressive misogynist judges in the UK have tried to prevent newspapers and TV stations reporting on who a bank manager who is unpopular for completely unconnected reasons slept with. Even worse, these monsters went on to try to prevent them reporting a second earth shattering atrocity – footballer Ryan Giggs had consensual sex with reality TV star Imogen Thomas. Worst of all, as lawyer Paul March points out, is that Thomas was initially prevented from ‘commoditising’ the affair.
This is an interesting word to use though because it gets down to the real issue. These evil, evil judges were trying to stop newspapers, television stations and lawyers from making money by revealing the details of other peoples’ private lives –and that’s what it’s all about – money, profits, not principles. Rupert Murdoch and other newspaper owners having the right to spy on other peoples’ private lives (e.g by phone hacking and paying people ridiculous amounts of money for sordid details) in order to make himself wealthier and more politically influential is not freedom of speech. It’s not standing up to the powerful and wealthy either – it’s them throwing their weight around to send the message that no courts, laws or legal systems are going to stand in the way of them getting even richer by any means they feel like.
Now to be fair the Sunday Herald is way above the Murdoch press. In fact the Sunday Herald is mostly an excellent paper that doesn’t get involved in the fear and hate mongering, but it and the rest of the broadsheets and TV news stations seem to be moving towards the tabloids reporting priorities because they want a share of the sex gossip market.
The Sunday Herald even ‘commoditised’ the thing further (in a very minor way) by selling limited edition t-shirts of their ground breaking front cover that broke the startling news that some people have affairs with celebrities and sell their stories to newspapers.
Look at the damage it does to peoples’ families when they have affairs, most of the media say, as if plastering it all over the headlines of every newspaper and TV news bulletin for a week will make it so much better for them. Ryan Giggs’ wife has asked the reporters to f*** right off and doesn’t want the media to cover it, but the papers’ attitude seems to be - never mind her, there are bigger principles involved.