Monday, 17 September 2012

Naked Royals here!

What do London buses and nude Royals have in common? You get none for ages and then two come along at once. Less than a month after Prince Harry was caught letting his hair and his pants down in Las Vegas, Kate Middleton is now the talk of the internet simply for daring to sunbathe topless, and for not realising someone might take photos of it. Fortunes are being made in legal fees, and outrage at this gross invasion of privacy is helping our newspapers get over the disappointment of not being able to print the photos.

It's worth looking back at The Sun's justification for publishing the Harry photos, both to see whether it would justify publishing the Kate photos and also because it said so much about the Sun and its readers. They claimed there was a "clear public interest in publication" and it was important its readers were fully informed about a "legitimate public debate about a man who is third in line to the throne." Do you need to show the photos in order to do this? Maybe this proves that 'Sun readers' is an oxymoron, and all they can actually do is look at pictures? A legitimate public debate is an exchange of words, theories and arguments, not pictures. If you need to see the picture to help you understand the debate, the chances are your contribution to it is not going to be defining.

Also, when did the Sun keep its readers fully informed about anything? This is the paper that ran the headline 'Gotcha' during the Falklands War. It's the paper that employed Richard Littlejohn without a right of reply from a sensible person. And, as we were reminded last week, it's the paper that ran the headlines about Liverpool supporters after Hillsborough.  To now claim it believes its important to keep its readers fully informed is to reject almost its entire history and ethos, but then double standards have always been a key part of these.

Joining the Sun in claiming that there was "clear public interest in publication" was Louise Mensch, who claimed the interest was "demonstrable" as well as clear, as if to suggest she had some empirical research to prove the claim. What Mensch and the Sun failed to realise was that 'what the public are interested in' and 'what is in the interests of the public' are not one and the same thing. I'm not saying this as some high-minded statement, I'm simply making the point that most of the things that interest us are not things that will protect us from tyrannical abuse, dictatorship, and the erosion of fundamental human rights - things that are in the public interest. The things the public are interested in include football, reality shows, and famous people in embarrassing situations preferably involving sex or at least some form of public nudity.

On that basis, there is a clear and demonstrable interest in pictures of Kate Middleton Windsor, or whatever she's called, without her top on, and its probably at least as strong as the interest in the Harry pics. Because I'm not aware of any poll asking 'which member of the Royal Family would you most like to see without any clothes on' I can't definitively say that the interest in naked Kate is higher than the interest in naked Harry, but I'm guessing that it would be. So, are there double standards if no-one is calling for publication of the Kate photos? The counter argument may be that there is not a legitimate debate about her behaviour, let alone a debate that Sun readers have to be informed about, but that only works if you buy into the theory that this was the reason Sun readers wanted to see the Harry pictures, rather than because they were pictures of a Royal with his clothes off.

Taking away the legitimate debate argument, what are we left with? The answer is the difference in public perception. Kate is seen as a sensible young woman on holiday doing what a lot of other women on holiday do. Prince Harry is seen as a Royal 'comedy-turn', the role that Prince Andrew used to hold, and Princess Margaret held before him. The difference in the nature of the photos is a by-product of this. Harry was acting like other incredibly rich people his age do, and how not so rich people his age would if only they could afford it. This makes him fair game to the press, and Kate is  is not really comprable to him, even if Princess Eugenie sounds as if she might be. Does that mean it isn't double standards, or that it is but with justifiable reasons? Maybe we just can't compare the two, and instead should look beyond the immediate Royal Family, although not all that far beyond them, to see whether Kate is being given preferential treatment. 

Here's the decider - Any newspaper or other media organisation criticising the taking and publication of the photos should ask themselves what would they have done if the photo was of Pippa Middleton? My guess is most of them would have published it, and they are giving Kate Middleton a protection and status they would not give anyone else. The well established principles of the nude photos and sex tapes industry appear to be that the more famous or wealthy you are, and the more embarrasing or intimate the evidence is, the more interest the public will have in seeing it. There should not be a Royal exclusion clause from this, and there should be no difference between these photos and any other sneakily taken topless photo of a famous woman. Whether that means they should be published or they should be banned and the photographer charged with a criminal offence is a different issue, but common standards should apply.  Meanwhile to anyone who was stumbled on this page while google searching for nude royal pictures, all I can say is if you have made it this far down, well done, but please note that just because Kate might now be a member of the royal family, it doesn't mean to say she's going to look any better than a lot of the other nude pictures you can find just as easily without ending up clicking on blogs like this by mistake.