the problem with privacy

i know that the privacy thang has dropped out of the news somewhat – the visit of Obama, the capture of ratko mladic, the G8 and for some unknown reason, Cheryl Cole pushing it off the headlines, but i tweeted a while ago saying that i thought there were a number of conflicting issues there and i wanted to outline and expand slightly (only slightly – it is Friday afternoon) on those issues.

firstly, i’ll lay my cards on the table – i think people have a right to privacy. i wholeheartedly support the UN convention on human rights – i think it is a good thing.

i also believe in the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. there is an oft overused quote about defending to the death my right to say what i want to say and i agree with that. i do think that Britain’s lack of a codified constitution is problematic and contributes to all of the horrendous mess that our legal system currently finds itself in – if we had for example a similar set up to that of the US things might have been clearer.

i also believe that we can exist in a society where there is freedom of speech – the only way i can ensure that i can say what i want here is to allow certain publications and organisations to say what they want to say – and where is a right to privacy. the problem is not with a right to privacy or with freedom of speech, the problem is a cultural obsession with celebrity.

and it is the obsession with celebrity that has warped the media output and conflated the two issues and in my opinion could be said to have led to an abuse of the right to freedom of speech that our media enjoys. i can already see the inherent contradiction in my argument – that because there is freedom of speech, papers / the media should be allowed to print what they want – however, i choose to ignore it. are the private lives of celebrity really matters of public interest in the traditional sense? what do they add to our nation as a whole? do the sordid details that many of the tabloids obsess over really help us grow and mature as a nation or as a people – no. therefore, why do they get published? because of the oldest rule in marketing and literature – sex sells. and in a dying newspaper age, sex helps to keep the numbers looking good. and because we have freedom of the press (which i support) it gets published and broadcast.

the question then comes – how does one define the public interest? in my opinion there should be some time given to this question – it is not, i think, what the public is interested in, but is instead – what is in the interest of the public?

so – what is in the interest of the public?

  • insightful comment
  • investigative journalism
  • quality reporting
  • experts discussing the issues of the day and informing the public of those issues

for the moment – nuff said.