A minister of the Crown resigned last week after sending a ‘selfie’ of his penis to an attractive young woman who, posing as a worker for the Conservative Party, had sent flirtatious texts to him.
In fact, the woman doesn’t exist. The ‘she’ in question turned out to be a freelance reporter for the Sunday Mirror. The whole exercise was a sting. Even the visual image ‘she’ posted wasn’t genuine. It was a composite of two real women – the head of one, the torso of the other, in case you are wondering – neither of whom had given their permission to be used in this way. One of them is rather angry about it, although she admits that she often poses for ‘selfies’, presumably of a saucy nature, and transmits them to friends.
Here we go again, some people have been muttering. Here is the press, the ink barely dry on the Levesen Report, already up to its usual dirty tricks, entrapping celebrities, intruding on private lives, persuading its readers to giggle at the peccadilloes of the rich and famous.
The Sunday Mirror has duly been reported to the newly-formed Independent Press Standards Organisation (or perhaps that should be Organ) for stepping over a line. The problem here is that nobody seems to know exactly where that line has been drawn, but that is a separate topic for discussion. Presumably the complaint to IPSO relates to the unauthorised use of the images of the two affronted ladies rather than an invasion of the privacy of the minister.
But if it is about entrapment, all I can say is that it is humbug and balderdash.
The minister in question, Brooks Newmark, a Conservative Member of Parliament and the minister responsible for – don’t laugh – ‘civil society’, was not coerced into posting a picture of his no doubt splendidly proportioned todger on the Internet. Nor was he entrapped, as far as I understand the legal meaning of the term.
He exposed himself on line because he fancied his chances of making out with the evidently pretty young thing whose name he thought was Sophie Wittams, a person whom he had never met, and one assumes only wished to in order to engage in a bit of illicit slap and tickle. (Illicit insofar as Mr. Newmark is a married man with three children.)
So explain why it is the newspapers that are in the dock once again. Why is the moral outrage over the behaviour of the reporter rather than the adulterous impulses of a minister whose actions were not only inappropriate to his position, but to many just plain inappropriate?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not in favour of an absolutely free reign for the press in exposing the indiscretions of celebrities. And I loathe the newspapers that boast vast circulations only because they are good at peddling the stuff. But why are we always outraged by the intrusion into the private lives of celebrities who post naked and compromising pictures of themselves on the Internet, knowing that there is a very good chance these will show up on websites in the public domain, and in many cases surely hope that they do just that?
The proliferation of social media, and all its wondrous applications, is producing a generation of public figures from all walks of life whose pathetic narcissism in pursuit of fame, or passing infamy, degrades them and taints the rest of us. Why are they not legitimate prey to the ungentlemanly gentlemen of the press?
The Sunday Mirror man may not be the kind of person you would want to sit next to at dinner, but Mr. Newmark is a certifiable idiot and probably, in the vernacular, a nasty little sleazebag. So which one of them is the villain here, and which the victim? The puerile minister of civil society – supposedly a man of education, intelligence and, one can only assume, common sense – or the reporter from the Sunday Mirror, who makes a living peddling the stuff to a tawdry newspaper that feeds off an insatiable public demand for the stuff?
Journalism, as one of its practitioners once said, is a predatory profession, but only because there are always enough villains and fools around to feed the appetite.
I don’t give a fig about Mr. Newmark’s sexual tastes or mores, but if the man is doltish enough to advertise them on the Internet, he deserves whatever the consequences may be. In this case, the exposure of his member has led to his exposure to public ridicule.
Meanwhile, Google, the most popular search engine, is preparing to defend itself against charges that the company has allowed ‘selfies’ of naked celebrities to leak out of its security firewalls. Well, maybe Google should be more careful about such things, but this scandal, like the hacking imbroglio last year, only goes to show that the Internet is nothing if not vulnerable to electronic burglary. As is widely acknowledged by everyone except apparently exhibitionist celebrities, the hackers are every bit as inventive as the inventors.
The message to them, whether they are politicians, actors, disc jockeys or just plain high street hairdressers, is clear and a matter of common sense.
Keep your genitalia to yourself or your partners. You can start by leaving your camera-phones out of the bedroom.