Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rumbled by ex-PM Paul Keating

 From a speech on the loss of privacy to be given by Paul Keating tonight at The Centre for Advanced Journalism ,University of Melbourne

"The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency. Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste, the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. To occupy the indolent, column upon column is filled with idle gossip, which can only be procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle. …In this, as in other branches of commerce, the supply creates the demand. Each crop of unseemly gossip, thus harvested, becomes the seed of more, and, in direct proportion to its circulation, results in the lowering of social standards and of morality. Even gossip apparently harmless, when widely and persistently circulated, is potent for evil. It both belittles and perverts. It belittles by inverting the relative importance of things, thus dwarfing the thoughts and aspirations of a people. When personal gossip attains the dignity of print, and crowds the space available for matters of real interest to the community, what wonder that the ignorant and thoughtless mistake its relative importance.’1

Says Keating: "Some of that language is a give away - that it wasn’t written by me, or written yesterday. But the content is highly relevant to a discussion about privacy and the media, as a trip to the local newsagent, or time spent in front of the television, or online will quickly affirm."

The quote is from The Right to Privacy by Boston lawyers Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis, published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890.

You can read all of Keating's speech on privacy here.  It would be difficult to fault his thinking. One thing he does point out that has not been spotted or discussed in the media anywhere. 2 Law Commission Reports have stated that the general public should have a formal recourse to a breach of privacy.