I spend an inordinate amount of time listening to the radio. Talk radio. Really bad talk. The kind of talk radio that is in no way designed to open up healthy democratic dialogue with contributors but entices people to call in with reasonably unprepared opinions about subjects of the day. The kind of radio that if said opinion is in conflict with the view of the presenter and by proxy the proprietor, the hallowed volume button is moved downwards and lo a bullish onslaught is inflicted on the contributor until they are cut off without chance for reply. This is LBC works, this is how BBC London works. Admittedly Radio 4 bucks the trend. I don’t listen to Radio 4. I listen to LBC and BBC London. But a sea change has occurred in the past few days; a consensus where presenter and contributor alike are in total agreement and this is with regards to the mysterious Super-Injunction (cue music).
I’m going to say it: this is the end of the Super Injunction. There, I said it. It is a bold statement, undoubtedly. And I will not insult your intelligence by explain what a Super-Injunction is. But I will say that such a futile mechanism to keep non-libellous material out of the public sphere in order to protect the reputations of extraordinarily public figures cannot and should not continue to exist. And the operative word here is ‘libel’. That very mechanism that is designed to keep such stories out of the media is put into place because much more often than not the stories are quite simply true.
This provision of privacy can only be accessed by the super-rich; to cover up stories that are likely to conflict with a the false reputation that footballer A is a paragon of virtue or television star B’s offensive garbles are designed for all of the family. Here is the irony. It is a mark of a lack self-awareness only possessed by the super-celebrity that such a person could think that they trade on their reputation rather than the thing that they are primarily paid to do. His employer and sponsors showered Ryan Giggs with riches because he was indeed a very decent footballer; likely the most decent footballer the Premier League will ever see but not because he was a decent man. The exodus from the Premier League would be something of a European migrant crisis of its own, if moral virtue were the criteria for Premier League status.
But this debate is not only about the money. It is about the law and what will happen, legally when a Super-Injunction is broken without Parliamentary privilege. A person is in contempt of court if he/she does any of the following things. Names the person or persons in question while referring to the details of the Super-Injunction or (and here’s where it gets sinister) even reveals the existence of the Super Injunction at all. To do either of these things is a serious criminal offence. So let’s get something clear now; I could’ve faced a lengthy jail sentence for pertaining to the fact publically that Ryan Giggs had paid a serious amount of money to strangle the value of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in order to keep his shady sexual liaisons with his own Brother’s wife silent, details of which were completely and entirely true. If it wasn’t so horrendously at odds with British freedoms it would be funny
Super-Injunctions are not, for the most part, about keeping the identities of victims of crime private, as you know such a law exists. They are simply about celebrities using their considerable influence to keep the salacious private lives out of the public sphere because they fear it will damage their reputation. It is not a good enough excuse to allow such practice to carry on.
But there is more. In the introduction to this article I used the word ‘futility’. If we, as a society, are not convinced by the fact that it is wrong that Super-Injunctions can only be accessed by the super-rich. If we are not convinced by the argument that they are an unbelievable impeachment on constitutional rights. If this is not enough for you then.think about this. Everybody knows who is about to be named and this renders the practice entirely pointless. Media in the United States and in Canada have all printed the names of the couple at the heart of the current thunderstorm. Twitter and its millions of members has ripped the whole story to pieces and as I write this article, I know who it is and I know you do too.
Such a futile legal procedure only designed to help the rich stamp on constitutional freedoms must be looked at very seriously. Following on from the Ryan Giggs affair a debate began but quickly fizzled out a la Panama. I hope that the Supreme Court judges against the two people in question and the Super-Injunction is lifted so we can have a proper debate about censorship because such practices are simply not acceptable in 21st Century Britain.
Photograph by Sara Simmons Photography via Flickr