The FT on Friday carried an interview with the former head of the FIA, Max Mosley, ostensibly to discuss his case in the European Court of Human Rights regarding the right to privacy – a follow up to his victory in the High Court against News Group Newspapers Limited.
As I’m sure most of us remember the case made headlines thanks to the ‘unconventional’ nature of the sexual acts that were going on and the Nazi imagery which the News of the World falsely claimed was present – imagery which of course had added spice given who Mosley’s father was.
Although I personally couldn’t care less what Mosley – or anyone else for that matter – does for pleasure so long as all of the parties involved are willing participants it would seem that I am in the minority. The old adage that ‘sex sells’ is still a true one as, for a country with a supposedly liberal attitude to sex, there is indeed a good deal of school yard tittering that goes on whenever someone is revealed to have tastes that extend beyond the missionary position with the curtains closed and the lights out. The only weird thing to me is the prurient fascination with what other human beings do for pleasure – though I suppose it can probably be considered second- or third-hand voyeurism.
Our interviewer here seems to be of the majority persuasion however as she candidly admits that one of the questions she wanted to ask was ‘Why was MM drawn to S&M?’ Is the question even relevant given the matter at hand? No but it doesn’t stop her asking it or indeed trying to draw a link between his BDSM activities and his slightly odd childhood. Kudos to Mosley though for managing to respond to the attempts to define his activities as strange in a matter of fact way
I think it’s like being homosexual. It’s a quirk in your character. People have to be adult and simply say, well it’s sex and sex is very strange. Even ordinary sex is either very funny or disgusting, or both. That’s how it is, we’re animals in the end.
even though he says later on that
It’s embarrassing to talk about. I feel that sex should always be private. If people hear that so-and-so does such and such, the reaction shouldn’t be: Oooooh! It should be: Oh, for God’s sake that’s sex, don’t even discuss it.
Although not agreeing with Mosley that sex should be a taboo subject I am, as I have said, in agreement with him when it comes to not being interested in what strangers do for fun. The only time it is relevant is when they are guilt of hypocrisy by saying one thing and doing the opposite.
Not though content with letting sleeping dogs lie Mosley has filed an application with the ECHR claiming that his rights where violated because the News of the Screws did not have a legal duty “to notify him in advance in order to allow him the opportunity to seek an interim injunction and thus prevent publication”.
This is where I have a problem.
I can see why, given the media in the UK, people would want a strong privacy law. But does the problem entirely lie with the media? There is apparently no shortage of prominent or ‘famous’ people who are willing to invite the press into almost every aspect of their lives (often in return for money) because they want the resulting publicity that it brings. Can we therefore fault journalists for taking the logic step of digging into the lives those in similar positions who aren’t media hungry because they believe – rightly it seems – that such stories are wanted by the section of the populous what care X, Y or Z get up to in their private lives?
Does then an individual have a right to privacy, to not have salacious details of their lives that they did not themselves reveal spread across various newspapers and magazines? No, I do not think that they do. A privacy law means that state force is being used to suppress information – however irrelevant it may be – and that goes against Libertarianism as I see it.
If a publication however prints false or malicious allegations then the subject of their hatchet job has every right to sue. The only shame is that it is can be expensive and time consuming to do so as a recent piece over on Anna’s and some of the comments it generated showed.
In the long run the only way I see things changing is when people finally grow up and stop encouraging such behaviour by not purchasing the papers and magazines involved.
Given the falling circulation figures for the dead tree press it seems we are, perhaps, heading in the right direction.