This video of Steve Coogan slamming Paul McMullen on Newsnight has been doing the rounds for a bit.
Apart from the fact that I don’t think Steve Coogan did as well as he is generally credited I think this is worthy of comment.
Mr McMullen seems to think it is acceptable to illegally violate people’s privacy to sell newspapers if either
1) They are well paid celebrities who earn a lot of money, or
2) They have “used” the tabloids to publicise or promote their work.
Now it strikes me that both of these are clearly irrelevant.
If people have a public life then that is public. As a (say) taxi driver how I behave when driving a taxi is relevant, how I behave in my bed room is not. As a shelf stacker at Tesco you have no right to know that I am having marital difficulties or not.
If we accept the right to a private life then neither 1 nor 2 are relevant.
The argument of 2 is especially nasty and hasn’t been challenged widely. If I write a book that doesn’t mean I have no right to privacy. If I stand for public office that doesn’t mean you have any right to explore my sex life.
If I give an interview to try and promote a film or book I can not see why that allows the interviewer to invade my privacy. The interview is a two way process: a benefit to both the paper and the person plugging. To pretend that papers are in some way exploited, and that gives them the right to make a claim back by phone hacking is garbage.
The exception is when I make a claim for moral virtue, and especially make claims that are untrue: at that point it would be legitimate to check.
As for number 1: I despair.
Can anyone construct a valid argument that might defend this line of enquiry? The best I can come up with is to say that by agreeing to the interview you know the result, but this is to blame people for being burgled (“by having a home and stuff you knew the risk!”)