BBC political journalist and broadcaster, Andrew Marr, has admitted today that he took out a so-called “super-injunction” to stop the press from reporting his extra-marital affair several years ago. In his statement, he apparently said he was ashamed of having taken it out in the first place, as he didn’t become a journalist to gag other journalists.
On BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme this morning, I heard a commentator on the story say that Mr Marr should feel ashamed, as the press should have the freedom to expose his affair because he questions the moral behaviour of MPs and other political people in the public eye, being particularly hard on those accused of “sleaze”. Don’t give it out if you can’t take it. Fair enough, you might think.
Ever since the first stories started to emerge last week about these “super-injunctions” and their implications for privacy legislation, various media commentators have been bleating self-righteously about what they call “freedom of speech for the press” and “the public interest”. To them, this seems to mean that the press can print or broadcast anything they choose, as long as it’s not libellous. It seems that, as soon as you become someone in the public eye, no matter what that may be for, then you become prey for these sleaze-hounds.
I have often wondered why on earth we are so obsessed with the private lives of famous people. When did we start expecting anyone in the public eye to be morally superior to us? The fact that Andrew Marr had an affair has, as far as I can see, absolutely no bearing on whether he can be a good journalist. The same goes for any MP he might question about the same thing, unless he/she used tax-payers money to fund his/her affair in some way, that is.
Adultery is, sadly, very common, and always has been. To try to claim that it is “in the public interest” for us to know whenever a famous person’s marriage is on the rocks is absurd, and we should not be fooled. When it comes down to it, all these people are really interested in is money. The failure of Andrew Marr’s marriage would have sold papers, plain and simple. It seems we love nothing more than to see someone we regard as privileged brought down a peg or two, and so we like to read a story like this and feel smug that our lives aren’t as much of a mess as his. This prurient desire should not be confused with “public interest”, or fuelled in any way by the media.
With the possible exception of religious leaders, I am not aware that any famous person has ever claimed to be morally superior to the rest of us. Andrew Marr certainly hasn’t, and I don’t blame him for deciding to protect himself and the people he loves by taking out this super-injunction.
But hang on a minute, I hear you say, what about the bad people who will try to take out super-injunctions to protect their shady business dealings or dodgy political partnerships? There is a simple answer here – each case has to be approved by a judge. Of course, it’s theoretically possible that the bad people could pay a bad judge to get what they want, but I suspect that, if they want to do that, then they already are.
Given the choice between not protecting the bad people and protecting basically good ones who have made terrible mistakes, I know which I would choose.