Friday, 24 August 2012

Publish and be damned

It had to happen, of course: the only question is what took them so long.  But today, the Sun (who else!) have broken ranks in time-honoured style to become the first British national daily to publish the now-notorious photos of a naked Prince Harry romping in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Were it almost anyone else, it wouldn't even be news.  I've never been to Las Vegas (and have no desire to do so in the future) but I've no doubt people do that in hotel rooms there every day of the week, and probably every hour of the day.  The fact of a possible heir to the throne doing it isn't in itself particularly shocking: he's 27, single and passably eligible.  To allow himself, albeit unwittingly, to be photographed doing it and the results plastered all over the internet is at best an error of judgement and may perhaps encourage him to choose his girlfriends a little more circumspectly in future.

The Palace have reportedly done their best "We are not amused" act from which we're given to understand that any British newspaper publishing the photos would do so at their peril.  Publish and be damned, then!  Long gone are the days when journalists could be clapped in the Tower for displeasing the monarch, and the plain fact is that since the photos are effectively in the public domain, albeit having been put there (presumably) without the subject's consent, any "invasion of privacy" issue is already a done deed.  We're not told what the royal bodyguards were doing while all this was going on - perhaps having a strip party of their own?  But their role is primarily to stop undesirables getting anywhere near, not to act as 24/7 party poopers.

The "public interest" argument for publication is a little less cut-and-dried.  My guess is that most people who want to see the photo have by now already seen it - and it doesn't really raise any important questions of uncovering hidden secrets that the public have a right to know.  The Prince comes of course from a long line of rakes, whose exploits through the ages make this little indiscretion pale into insignificance.  But then of course his grandmother, who epitomises responsible majesty and utmost respectability, would probably prefer us not to be reminded of that - or at least not so publicly. 

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