It’s not my natural inclination to defend the rich and famous, as I think society is generally weighted in favour of the well off and our media especially seems designed to demonise the most disadvantaged whilst eulogising the privileged and vacuous.
I also have absolutely no interest in football – though as a Doctor Who fan I’d be culpable of wanging whacking great rocks about in a greenhouse were I to poke fun at people who glean enjoyment from it. If it makes your day go better to enjoy a match then by all means go ahead and have fun, just please don’t sing on my bus about it, thanks. I’m no wilful ignoramus though: I know, for example, that Wayne Rooney is a very talented striker if a little bit of a grumpy one who has freckles, I’m aware that Arsene Wenger is manager of Chelsea (or is it Arsenal? One of the London clubs no-one really likes anyway), and I know Peter Crouch, despite having the gait of a giraffe played by a Weeble, somehow manages to be a “genius” or a “muppet” depending on whose side you are on (i.e. the same as any other footballer). And I know who Ryan Giggs is and that he’s a veteran Manchester United player who turned down the chance to play for England to instead have a far less glory-filled international career representing Wales.
I also know that he should be despised for being rich off the back of football as it’s such an easy sport to excel at, and a profession that requires no skill or hard work, and certainly isn’t one of the few opportunities for social mobility offered to young working class lads. Like the arts, anyone who flourishes in sport deserves at best our disdain and at worst our absolute contempt. Much as we consume both in vast quantities to provide us with entertainment, we are totally entitled to despise anyone who seeks to earn a living from them, the hate-filled, narcissistic bastards. It’s not as if the huge financial rewards the small, elite percentage of highest achievers get are in some way to make up for the fact that living in the public eye leads certain sections of the media to believe you are fair game. I know that any resentment I harbour for their success and lifestyle has nothing to do with my envy or frustration.
I also know that who such people choose to have sex is entirely my business.
After all, as a public figure who has the audacity to earn his living in the public eye, any usual reticence about nosiness should absolutely not be afforded to him. Why should he have access to riches and fame that I don’t have if I’m not allowed to take moral umbrage at the perfidiousness of his personal affairs? After all, when he scores a goal, doesn’t he celebrate by doing a cartwheel, raising his shirt, and mouthing the words “Anyone who is unfaithful to their wife is a beastly swine”? Doesn’t he chair the cross party committee on marriage fidelity in between training sessions? And doesn’t his pre-match warm up involve walking around punching the face of anyone who has had carnal liaisons behind their partner’s back?
Now listen, I think he was a fool to take out a super injunction, but don’t tell me those paragons of virtue The Sun and Max Clifford have been championing this case out of some virtuous appetite for moral crusades. It’s quite right that the rich shouldn’t have more rights than us due to the power of their wallets: in that case I assume The Sun going to campaign to outlaw private education and instead call for redistribution of the money individuals spend on that to invest in education that will benefit everyone? No? Why not? Because this isn’t about rich man’s privilege, this is about freedom of the press. We currently have a press that is free to quote “a close friend” of a star that it’s doing a hatchet job on. A close friend who manages to pour scorn on said individual and do so whilst speaking entirely in puns. Journos of my acquaintance have been quite open about just making quotes up to back a story. Yes, we have a press so free they can choose to ruin someone’s life as only the most rigorous purveyors of information and guardians of our national standards can be. It’s a freedom to cherish. And our free press has whipped the public into a frenzy, so much so that with a Guervarian zeal for revolution, the empowered British nation revealed, en masse, this duplicitous man’s shame, all the while intellectualising their rubbernecking by portraying it as some kind of triumph for humanity. Absolutely. Giggs had sex with Imogen Thomas, and a man having sex with a woman to whom he isn’t married is such a rare event it is worth the investment of our time – it’s like Halley’s Comet, but with fluids.
Now of course, should Imogen Thomas wish to talk about it to the press she should have every right to, just has she has every right to flash her vulva in a gentleman’s quarterly for a shilling if that’s her ambition – if people want this stuff there is nothing especially awful about her exploiting that to earn a living (though she denies that she wanted to do this, and I’m not going to doubt her as I don’t know her and that’s hardly the point in all of this). If a man is allowed to gag a woman after sleeping with her that suggests an uncomfortable dominance of the masculine perspective in the way we view such liaisons and suggests we need to grow up a bit (especially those of you expecting me to capitalise on the word gag to facilitate a cheap joke within these parentheses).
At the end of the day, it’s not Thomas, or Giggs, or even the papers that come out of this the worst. It’s us. We allow ourselves to be diverted by this stuff, dehumanise the real people whose lives are manipulated for our vicarious pleasure, and cry foul because a silly man’s reaction to something that’s none of our business has dared to stick two fingers up to the muck-raking denizens of Grub Street. It’s alright though, because thanks to people power the truth will out and we can count ourselves truly free. Tomorrow I hope we’ll be Tweeting that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia and that Emmanuel Goldstein is a love rat, just to show what a truly liberated people who won’t tolerate a decency vacuum we are.
In the end, and on balance, I think super injunctions are not a good thing, but I also don’t think the stories the press have been trying to break, in these cases, are what a responsible media and evolved society should be proud of breaking. What really takes the biscuit though, is that the self-cast arbiters of standards in this have been tabloid newspapers. So the moral yardstick is now being measured and dictated to us by people who root through celebrities’ bins for a living.
It’s like being drilled in likeability by Piers Morgan.