Friday, 14 September 2012

Free Speech and Kate Middleton's Baps

The Duchess of Cambridge
The news that some French paparazzi has taken some photos of Kate Middleton in the buff has raised the thorny issue of free speech once again. The magazine in question is testing the boundaries of the free press. Should a free press be held accountable for invading someone's privacy? Where do you draw the line? Taking pictures of someone in the nude? Or hacking into a dead girl's phone?

My position on this is a very difficult one to explain, so I'll do my best. First off, a few fundamental declarations:
  • I think free speech and press freedom are central tenets of a healthy democracy;
  • They are principles which should be upheld without condition;
  • I am fundamentally opposed to any form of State censorship.
So my position on the pictures of Kate Middleton's baps is clear in that regard: their publication should definitely be legal. There's an argument that as she didn't give her active consent in the making of the pictures, then she's potentially the copyright holder, and therefore any royalties from their publication are due to her, not the magazine or the photographer, but that's a separate issue.

And here comes the big qualifying but...

Is the publication moral? In other words, is any great public good served by this disclosure?

There are a few instances when a publication of such material could be deemed in the public interest. If - totally hypothetically - an heir to the Crown was caught knobbing someone other than his wife, for example, such a disclosure would be in the public interest. This would be on account of it reflecting on the behaviour and character of a future Head of State.

But as far as I can see, pictures of the knockers of a British Princess who isn't of Royal Blood whilst she is on holiday with her husband have absolutely no bearing on anyone's behaviour, and therefore their disclosure has no public interest whatsoever. The only purpose they serve is to titillate the masses, and allow the editor and the photographer to make a bit of money off the back of exploiting her.

So, no, the publication is not moral. Legal, yes, and it certainly should remain that way. Notwithstanding any debate about the ownership of the photos. Moral? Unquestionably not.

Is this grounds to censor the photos? Definitely not. Last time I checked, we live in a society based on the Rule of Law, not the Rule of Morals.

Censorship is always shit.
So how do we respond to this? Banning their publication would be wrong, yet their publication in itself is also wrong. The answer is pretty simple: we make our own individual choice. We can do that, as we're all moral agents in our own right. Therefore, I choose not to buy these pictures or seek them out. I refuse to condone the behaviour of the photographer and the editor. In fact, I condemn their willing exploitation of a young woman simply to make a fast buck. I will not call for them to lose their jobs, but I will make my own conscious choice not to support their actions.

It makes me wonder how many other people will make the same choice. It bothers me that searches for the pictures on the Internet have already risen considerably. But it also makes me realise that, in a democracy, we get the press we deserve. We get the politicians we deserve as well. I look at the grasping, amoral scum that run our newspapers. I look at the mindless filth they churn out on a daily basis. I look at the sycophantic lickspittles that walk the corridors of power in Westminster.

There is something very wrong with this country. And you know what? We have only ourselves to blame.