Saturday, June 11, 2011


"Injunctivitis? What kind of a title is that?" I hear you ask. You may be thinking that it isn't even a word.  However, you'd be wrong... you see, I just invented it:

Injunctivitis - [in-juhngk-tuh-vahy-tis]
Noun - An immensely painful swelling caused when a desire for privacy results in an economically charged flood of litigation into the areas of the law and public conscience where common sense and responsibility usually reside.

In recent weeks we've seen names exposed on Twitter, in Parliament and eventually in the mainstream media as the fractious and bitter debate between freedom of speech and privacy hots up.

Proponents of injunctions and super-injunctions will tell you that those who take them out have a right to absolute privacy and that personal quarrels and disputes should be kept out of the public gaze. On the other hand supporters of the media will tell you that a country that supposedly espouses the idea of a free press (the UK is currently rated 19th in the World Press Freedom index), should not hinder journalistic investigations into the lives of people already in the public eye.  It is a picture made even more obscure when you consider that to a certain extent, a lot of the big names who fall prey to press intrusion owe a portion of their success and good PR to the press in the first place. 

We have a multi faceted problem, a savage beast with many heads. In the modern world, media outlets set themselves up in godlike fashion... they meddle in the affairs of "mere mortals", improving their fortunes by raising their profiles and giving them a national/international audience. However they are not benevolent beings... like the gods of the Classical Age, they are petty and utterly self-interested... having no concern for the lives of those whose lives they raise up. So, when it suits them and they find a skeleton or steaming pile of excrement (newsworthy or not), stowed away in one of their beneficiaries closets... they plaster it all over the front pages and bring the celebrity glass house crashing down. This isn't helped by the celebrities themselves... who are all too willing to subscribe to the good PR and lay the foundations for their own public downfall. Furthermore, the richer you become in material wealth... it appears that the number of people around you who have the power or the will to tell you "NO!" decreases and the slavering, gaping maw of temptation opens gaping wide to swallow whole and consume the unwise and unfortunate.  When it comes to celebrity adultery stories there are also some people who have cottoned on to the fact that such stories are lucrative... and who therefore seek to become the stories (not in every single case, mind... but the culture exists nonetheless).

However it is perhaps worth taking note of the fact that there is one more head on the beast... ours. If the public took little interest in sensationalism, then the papers simply wouldn't sell. It is our insatiable desire to know about the lives of the rich and famous that is the catalyst for a lot of the other difficulties. We cannot point out the flaws in the system if we are not first ready to put our hands in the air and admit we are culpable.

Many would argue that sex is at the heart of the super injunction debate... but not me.

No. I would argue that the reason that so many people in the general public committed civil disobedience and joined in the exposition of the Ryan Giggs super injunction on Twitter had nothing to do with the act itself... but everything to do with equality.
How can it be right that any individual or group in this country should have the power to buy themselves a higher level of privacy than any other citizen?  If the average person on the street commits an indecent, immoral or illegal act... they have no means to protect themselves in similar fashion.

It is grossly unfair.

It became even more unfair when lawyers acting on behalf of Ryan Giggs decided to take Twitter itself on. It is worth noting that this act was the tipping point. This was the moment when Twitter exploded the Giggs story... and this is why I argue the protest was about the injustice of privacy for the wealthy.  

Twitter users shared the same notion as the Liberal Democrat MP "John Hemming (although it should be noted he has previous form as a serial injunction buster and was probably equally motivated by ego); they interpreted the legal action against Twitter as an attack on the common man. and assumed that Giggs was attempting to hold ALL Twitter users accountable. It was this very suggestion that led to the mass protest.

After all, if this were true... the question has to be asked: Is the dirty little secret of a single man worth taking the liberty of many?

The answer to this question is of course no, not at all. Although the legal action was perceived in this way... it is far more probable that the lawyers were hoping to put pressure on Twitter to gain access to the few individuals who instigated the leak. This was an incredibly naive strategy because Twitter has become a home for "Spartacus" movements.  The evolution of hashtags and associated API has enabled its users to mobilise very easily over single issues... one only has to look back at the "Robin Hood Airport" incident to see this.

I do not believe injunctions and super injunctions should have any basis in law. They create a divisive two tier system... I have nothing but contempt for a court that values the keeping of a dark secret over the liberty of its ordinary citizens.

Silence will fall... or will it?
The harshest yet obvious truth to accept is that actually the role of protecting the children is primarily the role of the parent... not the Courts and not the State.  Consequences alone should be enough to deter anyone from committing an act that will harm the lives of their own spouses and children. That is the responsibility that all parents are faced with. Even I know that... and I have not  even been blessed with the responsibility of having either.

I firmly believe this country needs to relearn the importance of consequence. We all need to remember that a man stands and fall based on his actions... and we should be responsible with every gift we've been given and every burden we carry. Individuals need to accept that you can't have your cake and eat it... if you are committed, then you can't go running after other partners... or one night stands. News agencies need to take responsibility for the kind of stories they publish and be exceptional... not resorting to questionable methods to attain results and being sure of the facts before plastering  suspects faces in every television/radio station, newspaper or website accessible in people's  homes.  Finally we all need to take responsibility for the kind of stories we want to hear about or read ourselves.

None of these things can really be legislated all of them require us to choose to act responsibility.

Ultimately in a democracy, our actions and choices define the zeitgeist of what is deemed acceptable or tolerable and perhaps as a society... that is the greatest responsibility we share.

1 comment:

  1. The only use of an injunction or superinjunction that should remain in my view is to protect the victim of a crime, for example rape, from identification and sunsequent attention. Anonymity laws exist in this case separate to injunctions, but the option of a victim to protect themselves should remain.
    In all other cases I disapprove of injunctions and superinjunctions, because I can't think of any reason why one would be needed, except to cover up something bad. Why take out an injunction when you've done something praiseworthy, or just normal? People and businesses should not have the ability to buy privacy when they've done something wrong. They should behave themselves in the first place and not be so naughty!


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