...And now we'd like to do a cultural number by Her Majesty the Queen from the UK

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Tue Jul 22 08:37:15 MDT 2003

(This article goes a bit beyond Paul McCartney's ditty at the end of the
Abbey Road album by the Beatles, we are talking skilled stuff here).

22 October 2002
Restraint or revelation?

by Tessa Mayes

At the heart of the debate on free expression and privacy are questions
concerning fundamental democratic values, and our most personal feelings.

All of us have different views about what we want kept private and what we
are prepared to share publicly. Some people want to keep their private lives
to themselves; others emote in public for fame and money. Individuals'
attitudes to privacy and publicity are bound up with notions about the kind
of life we want to lead, how we wish to present ourselves to others, and how
we make sense of our lives and the world.

Today, it is frequently observed that public discourse is becoming
increasingly reliant on private revelations - for example, discussion of the
personal lives of politicians and celebrities. As Richard Sennett, professor
of sociology at the London School of Economics, outlined in his 1986 book
The Fall of Public Man, the res publica has become burdened by the belief
that social meanings are generated by the unstable feelings of human beings,
the self-absorbed phenomenon called 'personality'.

'People are working out in terms of personal feelings public matters which
properly can be dealt with only through codes of impersonal meaning', writes
Sennett (1). This trend, he argues, corrodes the boundaries between the
public and the private - the expression of man's two-sided social existence
as stranger and friend. Sennett concludes that in public life, the
'absorption in intimate affairs is the mark of an uncivilised society' (2).

At the same time as public discourse becomes increasingly shaped around
private, personal matters, we see an increased concern with the protection
of individuals' privacy - especially from the media. Recent years have given
rise to a new, subjective approach to free speech and privacy rights that
alters their meaning.

The current interest in granting new privacy rights relies, not on the
assumption that people need protection from interference into their private
lives by the state, but that people need a state law to protect them from
public discussion of their private lives. It is not that public discussion
of private matters is viewed as a problem per se - it is seen as a problem
if the subject of this discussion feels hurt or offended.

The question of what free speech, privacy, and rights should mean today is

This trend has important implications for free speech. The arguments for new
privacy rights rest on the notion that free expression and privacy rights
need to be 'balanced' against each other. This effectively means that there
is no such thing as a right to free speech - or, indeed, a right to privacy.
The right to privacy has been redefined as a state protection from hurtful
public discussion; and the right to free speech has become qualified by
restricting speech that may cause offence. The decision about what can and
cannot be said in the public realm about people's private lives is an
arbitrary one, taken by a judge.

These two apparently conflicting rights are codified in the Human Rights Act
(1998), in the form of Article 10 on a right to free expression and Article
8 on a right to privacy. This Act, which came fully into force in October
2000, has meant that, in practice, judges are deciding what they think
counts as allowable speech, and expanding what privacy means. Armed with new
powers, and supported by politicians, media regulators and others who argue
that people need privacy protection from words and images, judges are
eroding a vital democratic freedom.

While this development is disturbing, it is far from straightforward. What
free speech, privacy, and rights should mean in today's society remains a
contentious issue. This is reflected in the attempts to create practical
resolutions to the apparently competing interests of privacy and free
speech: the Articles on privacy and free expression in the Human Rights Act
(1998), the development of the law of confidence and new media codes to do
with free speech and privacy.

Like many journalists, I have for some time been concerned by the prospect
of further laws and codes being imposed on the media. Already, official
restrictions on what you can and cannot publish or broadcast frequently
overshadow discussions about editorial matters. Yet free speech is not
valuable only for journalists. It is essential for anyone wanting to express
themselves and hear what others have to say.

This report gathers the opinions of newspaper editors, TV executives and
editors, journalists, media lawyers and photographers, in an attempt to
advance our understanding of free speech and privacy, and put the case for
free speech in a confessional age.

Whole story and report at:
http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006DAC6.htm As an encore, here's
a lyric from the British band The Fall, HE PEP !:

I don't want to go back anymore.
I don't wanna go to work in the rain.
No more toast grilled on the heater.
No more of that A&R girl.
And having to meet her.
My person is in race everywhere. [embraced?]
You Pep!
And I stick my parker pen under my ear
Beneath my own carefully scruffed hair.
What I wear
Have to check out of a boutique lair
Hang on
Hang on, [live in St. Anne's with me.]
Into the room of the bass player.
Why would you go up stairs?
You Pep!
Don't think he's going to get in slippy
North of Hamptonshire.
I believe there's a new drug out.
[It's called speed I] wrote a song about it
Conceptually a la Bowie.
But it's been lost in the vaults of the record company
By our manager
So instead our new 45 is 'Girlies'
[His eyes are brown.]
Yours, brattingly.
Everyone says "please"
Anyway it's a race in life
Wait to say it in Lancashire
You Pep!
You had the best summer
And now it's wearing off.
No more excuses
For your traitorism.

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