If you check-in to Sick Chirpse for videos of crazy russians and cats (with which I have no problem) or you’re the kind of person that types “tl;dr” in the comments section (with which I do) then I’ll politely point you in the direction of these:
If you stayed then buckle up because this is a serious one.
This article is not about politics. I’m not going to pretend to have known who Chris Huhne was before yesterday and I’m not going to pretend I’m clued up on every debate and dispute and government shortfall that makes the front pages every day. I just don’t really care that much. If there weren’t loads of people that do care about politics, I’d probably worry about caring about politics. But there are loads of people that care about politics, so I trust them to get on with arguing about political matters while I inspect this Tobacco Mosaic Virus under a microscope and assess this new Boiler Room set.
This article is about the difference between the media having the right to access information and the media having the right to publish that information.
When I arrived on The Huffington Post yesterday there was a headline plastered across the homepage that read “The Most Ghastly Man I Have Ever Known” and so I obviously clicked on it. The article was entitled “Chris Huhne’s Son Sent Furious Text Messages To Father After Attempting To Make Him Confess”.
I should point out at this point, for any readers equally indifferent to politicians as me, that Chris Huhne is a former Lib. Dem. MP who has recently pleaded guilty to ‘perverting the course of justice’. Basically, his wife took the rap for a speeding ticket that he got in like 2003 because he already had 9 points. But then in 2011, in retaliation to their recent divorce, she decided to reveal the truth and the case has been reopened and his new charges are much more severe because he could actually go to jail for 10 months, instead of getting a driving ban for a year. He’s also resigned from parliament over it.
Let me make it clear that I’m not here to defend Chris Huhne – it was a bit of a dick move to get his wife to take the points (but one which you would all try) and then he didn’t really think through the consequences of making her mad, rendering him a bit of an idiot. In summary, he’s a bit of a dick and a bit of an idiot. And despite that being a perfectly accurate description of the average human male, he should be punished for his actions.
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However, the writer of the HuffPost article, Tom Moseley, gave very little background information and context, because it’s difficult to type when you’re dancing around on the spot, such was his excitement to tell us this juicy bit of dirt he’d discovered about an MP. This is because everyone knows that a politician is just an emotionless punchbag in a suit, designed and manufactured specifically for our envious, hypocritical anger-venting, to offer us short-term relief from our own self-loathing and boredom, of course. So when any information becomes available that shows a politician to be weak or vulnerable in any way, it must be shared faster than a beastility video on Facebook, right?
This was Tom’s fourth sentence, which illustrates my point perfectly: “The foul-mouthed messages can be revealed for the first time today after they were read out in court.”
The key word in that sentence is ‘can’. Tom Moseley and The Huffington Post, and also The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Mirror, The Sun, The Times, Metro, ITV News, MSN News and countless other publications who ran near identicle articles seem to confuse the word ‘can’ with the word ‘should’.
Moseley then proceeded to plunge straight into the displaying of the dialogue, consisting of about 15 text messages, between Chris Hulne and his 18-year-old son Peter over the course of a year between June 2010 and May 2011. I’m not going to show you the texts. If you really want to see them, look them up. The texts document a heart-breaking dissolution of a relationship between a loving father who has made mistakes and a hurt and angry adolescent son.
There is nothing abnormal about that situation. It hasn’t come to light that Chris is attending KKK-themed rape orgies. It’s come to light that a man argues with his son because (SPOILER ALERT: CONTEXT!) Dad divorced Mum and remarried.
Let me tell you a little story.
My mum divorced my dad when I was 10 because they weren’t happily married. I dealt with it better than most do but it wasn’t easy and it’s definitely had effects on me mentally, and my sister had a really tough time with it. I’ve said things to my mum and dad that I regret. My sister’s said things to my mum and dad that she regrets. The arguments and disruptions to the family have cut my parents up inside and I know they’ve got lots of regrets. Throughout mine and my sisters teenage years there was all sorts of confusion and aggression and sadness around, and it almost completely destroyed our relationship. That’s what happens when families split up.
But then my sister went to university and discovered the satisfaction and pleasure she gets from teaching kids and suddenly her mind is clearer and she’s radiating the enjoyment in her life and we’re having proper conversations again. And then my mum fell in love with this sick guy from New Zealand and her life is totally sorted down to the ground. And then I came to university and discovered how freakin’ awesome I am at writing (right?) and have finally started pushing myself after years of coasting and sitting on my ass.
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But most importantly, my relationship with my dad is immeasurably stronger than it would have ever been had my parents not divorced. The holidays that I’ve been on when it’s been just me and my dad have been some of the best times of my life. I’ve never really thought about it like this before, but I started supporting Chelsea properly about 5 years ago, and I think the main reason is for the amount of time it allowed me to spend with my dad (who’s been a religious fan since the 70’s, before you call us glory supporters) because we both had to put more effort into our relationship since I stopped living with him.
My point is that divorces and family disruptions are rarely clean and peaceful, and there will inevitably be confusion and aggression and pain caused, and this may take years to overcome, but it almost always works out for the best in the long-run, because a confrontational but honest atmosphere is invariably more character-building and world-preparing than a false, deceitful one. And when the the dust does settle, words and actions will be regretted and people will be forgiven.
So with that considered, it is not the public’s right to see the private text messages between an apologetic father embarking on his journey towards saving his relationship with his son, and a teenager reacting understandably aggressively towards his parents’ recent divorce. Nor is it the media’s right to publish them in newspapers and on the internet so that anyone reading the website can forget about all their own shortcomings and problems and smirk in unison at the evil politician whose life isn’t so sweet after all.
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Fair enough, use the texts as evidence in court. I’m not going to protect Chris Huhne against his prosecution for his crimes – if he’s guilty, and they are required as necessary evidence, go ahead. But the publishing of the texts by the media has nothing to do with evidence of criminality.
The excitable coverage of the dialogue is almost indistinguishable from a Hollyoaks review column in TV Choice magazine, or a #MIC Twitter storm. These ‘respected’ publications think that they’re different to judgemental, hypocritical gossipers because the story is in the Politics section and everyone in the pictures is wearing a shit suit. It’s no different. In fact, it’s worse, because not only are these real people involved, but the news sites are actively contributing to the dispute. All of the Huhnes’ family, friends, colleagues, rivals, potential girlfriends (I’m thinking more about Peter here) are going to see those texts, and judge them for those texts. This will make the Huhnes feel ashamed, humiliated, angry and victimised over a situation that affects millions of people all over the world on a daily basis.
Let me stress that point. The court case has not made the Huhnes feel that way. The situation has not made the Huhnes feel that way.The media has. The participating media is actively contributing to the destruction of a son’s relationship with his father. For no reason other than that they “can“.
The article really disgusted me and I got pretty angry. I got to the end of it and continued scrolling down in tense anticipation to read some meaty comments from people similarly crushed by what they had just read and appalled that HuffPost thought it was acceptable. So I was pretty pissed off when I found this:
Now, I don’t know the law, so, if someone does, please tell me if this is for legal reasons. Like, if it’s because the trial is still ongoing or something then let me know. It’s the same on all the articles on all the websites so I think it must be a legal thing. But if it is, it’s pretty bloody convenient isn’t it? Not only have they used the thin veil of an intellectual, mature topic to indulge in some shameless shit-stirring, but they’ve been able to get away with it without anyone telling them off.
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So that’s the main reason I wrote this article – to give people a chance to comment on it. So please do.