Brian Boyd: Celebrities cannot have it both ways when it comes to privacy

Latest superinjunction in the UK highlights double standards when it comes to keeping private lives private

 

The press agent for a well-known singer used to be in the habit of ringing around the picture desks of national newspapers giving details of what time her charge would be arriving and leaving a certain restaurant that night. When the photos were duly displayed all over the papers the next day, the agent would ring back saying the singing star would co-operate with a reporter on a story about “intrusion into her privacy”. As in not being able to go out to a restaurant without banks of paparazzi harassing her.

It’s the oldest trick in the showbiz book and is invariably used when a star has something to sell.

There’s no people like showpeople. They’re utterly shameless. The sort of folk who will sell the “happiest day of my life” by auction to the highest cash bidder.

They will allow a magazine to dictate that their own family are body-searched on the way into the church (in case of hidden photos ruining the exclusive deal); they will consent to people they’ve never met before (C-list soap actors there to bump up the sleb quotient) to be included on the guest list and they’ll agree that their frumpy aunt with the moustache be seated behind a pillar so she won’t appear in any of the photos.

Some months later, with the bride now close to her personal trainer and the groom spotted falling out of a nightclub with a Hollyoaks actress, they reach for the super-injunctions, citing “privacy” and expect the public’s pity for the sort of media attention on which they happily signed off previously.

Schadenfreude

On Monday a celebrity who wants details of his alleged extramarital affair kept out of the media by way of an injunction was told by the presiding judge that “knowledge of the relevant matters is now so widespread that confidentiality has probably been lost” and that “most of the harm which the injunction was intended to prevent has already occurred”.

But the celebrity (which is a bit of a stretch of the term) still cannot be named pending an immediate appeal to the supreme court.

That the celebrity has already been named by newspapers outside the jurisdiction of the injunction – and all across social media – led the judge to say that asking a court to ban people from saying that which is common knowledge is “inappropriate – and some may use a stronger term”.

The celebrity is arguing that disclosure of identity and of alleged salacious details about his alleged extramarital affair would be “devastating” for him personally and for his children.

You could argue that it was devastating for the public to be fed his wedding photos by the celebrity himself along with a series of nauseatingly uxorious statements so we might as well hang around for the “what happened next” part.

As for the celebrity bringing his children into something they never asked to be involved in, if they have smartphones they probably know as much as the rest of the world does.

The fact that the celebrity is part of a “committed couple” whereby “occasional sexual encounters with others do not detract from that commitment” – as the court heard from lawyers defending him is really no else’s business – except for the fact that the celebrity is making it other people’s business.

By volunteering to share pictures of your wedding and talking to the media about your life-long loving bond (whether for cash or not) you are making your love life public property. The fact that the public are now asking how it has worked out for them is a legitimate question given the public circumstances.

If only someone in the celebrity’s team of press agents/media handlers/voodoo doctors had the good sense to explain the “Streisand effect” all of this could have been averted. As it could have had with Ryan Giggs and other “super-injuncties”.

In 2003 Barbra Streisand obtained an injunction against the display of photographs by an aerial archivist seeking to highlight coastal erosion in Malibu, California. One of the 12,700 photographs contained a not very clear view of the singer’s Malibu mansion. Streisand argued that the photograph “violated her right to be free from offensive intrusion and constituted the publication of private facts”.

Prior to Streisand’s injunction, the erosion photos has been viewed only a handful of times. After the news report of an injunction being sought they were viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Tsunami of coverage

What would have come and gone in a matter of days in the news cycle will (if the appeal fails) become a tsunami of coverage – and there’s nothing like the ferocity of a tabloid press after a gagging order has been lifted.

The irresistible force of a public being denied a celebrity’s “secret” will always trump the immovable object of a court injunction. If you share your wedding photos with the world you might as well throw in those of your affair also. Not that we’re interested – but only because you don’t want us to see them.

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