The Lives of Others

Posted by in May's Magazine

News stories in varying media have been littered with not so revelatory revelations regarding the secret lives of those in the public sphere. For some, namely those teetering on the periphery of celebrity, it’s jumpstarted their careers; thrust them unwittingly back into the limelight marking their queue to defame the actions of the very news medium that’s given them what they’re thirsty for. While tabloid journalists continue their feverish pursuit of the next scandal many are left grappling with a moral issue.

Hacks stand tall on amoral high ground built from a belief that those in the public sphere abandon their right to privacy. If those in the public eye feed off their status, use it as a marketing tool, hacks, in many cases, see it as fair game to perpetuate their celebrity image by tarnishing it. A lazy way to justify their actions that has resulted in a zealous trend in acquiring the increasingly fashionable super-injunction. The very thing that has ignited a blaze in the stomach of the Commons, something David Cameron described as the spread of ‘unease’. At the basis of the argument is whether wrongdoing should be protected by law and, if it is, is it right?



The word ‘unease’ is a precise way to describe the very nature of a secret and all that surrounds it. Why are so many people investing serious money in our blissfully ignorant perceptions of them? Who does this extend to? What are they hiding? And away it goes. A furiously curious frenzy of speculation. Speculations do more damage than good and one might find, like poor Obama, that they are ceaseless. With, in all likelihood, nothing to neither hide nor fear about his place of birth, Obama should be defiant; yet instead he is forced to quell the issue by way of press conference. Why did he take that length of time to address the issue? What does it mean that he did? Etc, etc. Speculation drives the uneasiness around the subject and supposed secret.

Fall from grace
The very power of a secret and its negative connotations sheds light on the recent ban on the niqab in France. It too has negative connotations and serves a physical purpose of hiding a woman’s face with its own connotations of oppression and terrorism. So morally correct of France to dispel such a headdress? At once, all 1,900 niqab wearing women are reborn into a free society. The same free society that forcibly instigated an exodus of Roma gypsies. Why should law, and particularly French law, decide what women are allowed to wear on the basis of what it connotes while its very government is associated with brutal measures and violence itself? It brings into question who has control over a basic human right and how they exercise such control.

Though the super-injunction in most cases has protected rich men from their adulterous pasts, gagging orders have on record, hidden serious facts about Trafigura – an oil trading company, accused of dumping toxic waste, facts that are in the publics’ best interest to know. They serve a serious purpose in restricting what can be, at times, valuable information – not just for the tabloids. Even though the likes of Tiger Woods could have done with a super-injunction to hide one of the century’s most spectacular falls from grace, in some instances it is important for the public to know of such misdemeanours. He simply cannot be idolised for his sporting achievements while frequently indulging in acts of sordid betrayal, despite how separate they may be.

Hugh Grant pointed out to Paul McMullan, a whistle blower in the phone hacking scandal, that celebrity comes with the territory of acting. Where the job comes first and celebrity second. Despite what might be earnest intentions, actors and other celebrities cannot really enter a world where parading oneself in a very public arena is done with anonymous intent. Is the status that fuels their career unwanted?

The answer, of course, is no. It is the very basis of their career, the crux of the argument. While they endeavour to protect their image it is with a degree of responsibility. They are responsible for protecting their careers and for some, maintaining a decent public image. Could, as Andrew Marr maintains, a super-injunction be a regrettable decision causing more damage than it’s worth? While in his own words his actions were ‘nobody else’s business’ it begs the question – particularly given his media role – what if they actually are?


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