Monday, 4 July 2011

Mothers-in-law


So, I avoided the “future mother-in-law sends rude email” story. It looked very funny and juicy, but it seemed not nice of the email recipient to forward it to all his friends. Now it turns out that maybe the whole thing was a publicity stunt for the groom's wedding business.

There's a fine line here between funny and shameful. Firmly on the shameful side are all the tweeters spreading gossip about footballer's private lives. Some parts of the press were trying to make them into heroes of free speech. Not really. Worse still is the self-publicizing Lib Dem MP who raised the footballer's name in the House, using parliamentary privilege to get round the privacy injunction. Anyone should think very hard before using that privilege. It may be very important in remedying injustices. It is not for retweeting prurient gossip which a judge has decided ought to be private.

Wanting to know about other people's private lives is dirty. Of course we all want to do it. But it is dirty, the industry that exists around it is dirty too, and if you do it, then worthless people will use it against you.

There's a relevance to the DSK affair. This is more complex. The French public has an interest in knowing the character of candidates for high office; a lot of evidence came out suggesting Strauss-Kahn did not have a respectful attitude to women. But he did not deserve to be tried by the media, and found guilty of rape by public opinion because he “seemed like the type”. That kind of logic is strictly banned from the courtroom, for the good reason that it would expose defendants to the sort of exploitation that may have been planned here. Banning it from our thoughts would also be good. Partly because we would be less vulnerable to spin, manipulation and free PR for wedding catering businesses, but mostly because it is bad in itself.