Monday, 23 May 2011

An open letter to CTB

What the fuck are you playing at? Can't you see that it's all getting a little bit out of hand?

I know you've never courted celebrity and so this must be a pisser for you, but that's the world we live in now - you want to taste the honey, be prepared to get stung by the bees. Did you really think that the Press wouldn't be interested in this story?

You're the victim of, what's that phrase the Government uses when Our Boys kill innocent civilians? Terrorism? No... collateral damage, that's it. You're collateral damage in the circulation war.

We've always had a taste for gossip in this country. The News of The World was launched in the 1800s as "a mixture of information, scandal and radical comment". The other two bits might have been washed down the gutter, but the scandal's still there.

Then when mass telly ownership came along in the 1950s, human interest stories became even more prevalent and so the private lives of stars - people like you - came to be considered 'fair game'. What can I say?

Obligatory gratuitous totty shot
Of course this has been cranked up to a whole new level since reality TV crashed onto the scene like a drunk stumbling into the Diary Room and of course (ironically for you) Big Brother led the way. Who knew we'd end up living in a world where everyone's actions would be so closely scrutinised? Actually, thinking about it, have you read 1984?

The other problem you're up against is globalization and the increasingly fast pace that modern technology is giving it, although really t'was ever thus.

Thatcher couldn't stop Peter Wright's Spycatcher being published in Australia and customs couldn't stop people bringing it back when they'd been there on holiday. All she did was give him a massive publicity boost. In fact you have to wonder whether she was getting a cut of the royalties because, let me tell you, that is one dull, pointless read.

Then there's The Royals by Kitty Kelley published in 1997. Now that is a tasty book, couldn't find it in British shops though (still can't). No matter, by then we could just buy stuff from Amazon. You do see what I'm getting at here, don't you?

Fast forward to today and you've got WikiLeaks; millions of pages of leaked government and corporate documentation available to download at the push of a button. Hell, I've even got an app for that on my phone.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge might think modern technology is 'out of control' but he's wrong; it's just out of his control and The Establishment isn't too happy when they haven't got their hands firmly on the tiller.

Without WikiLeaks we wouldn't know about the killing in 2007 of several innocent civilians in Baghdad by a US helicopter gunship. The victims included two Reuters journalists and a good Samaritan who stopped to help them.

Most shockingly his two young children were seriously injured. One of the soldiers can be heard saying "he shouldn't have brought them into a war zone" but you have to wonder exactly what he was meant to do seeing as we've turned the whole country into a monumentally violent cluster fuck.

Initially the American military wouldn't reveal how the Reuters staff were killed and refused the company's repeated Freedom of Information requests for the video. They also claimed they didn't know how the children were injured. Eventually they claimed the soldiers' actions were covered by the Rules of Engagement. WikiLeaks then released those too, just so there could be no doubt the military was playing fast and loose with the truth.

You might think this is all totally unconnected but you're wrong. If we're prevented from knowing about something as inconsequential as your extra-marital dalliance then how are we supposed to find out when soldiers prosecuting a war in our name commit such atrocities?  Or maybe you think we should just shut down these pesky social networking sites altogether? I bet Hosni Mubarack would agree - it would certainly prevent all those inconvenient uprisings.

The fact is, my friend, just like the global economy the market in information has been deregulated - Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Tumblr (the list goes on) all make the, smooth, cheap and fast transaction of information easier than every before. It doesn't matter whether it's an invite to a house party while your parents are away or the name of a footballer caught with his shorts round his ankles - the genie's out of the bottle. Build a bridge. Not a Wayne Bridge - I'm not suggesting you're him. (You see the trouble you've caused?)

If you don't believe me, Google yourself (go on, we've all done it - there's no shame). All anyone has to do is type in your first name and Google Instant will offer them the choice of your full name and the words 'suing twitter'. Busted...

Or, you could check out your Wikipedia page - there's a section entitled 'Gagging Order' which makes interesting and revealing reading. It mentions the Streisand Effect. No, I hadn't heard of it either so I followed the link to the Wikipedia page on that. You're on there too.

Let's get old school for a minute - did you see the Sunday Herald? They printed a thinly disguised but clearly recognisable picture of you yesterday revealing you to be the footballer concerned. Maybe they're making a fight for free speech or maybe it's the desperate bid for sales from a paper that's seen a big fall in circulation since a recent relaunch.

Either way, your super-injunction doesn't extend north of the border. Of course, you could have gone to The Court of Session to get a separate injunction to cover Scotland. That you didn't begs another question: What the hell are you paying your legal team for?

To put it in football terms for you, take the Bosman Ruling. That was, partly at least about players' rights to have freedom of employment within the European Union. That's had a massive inflationary effect on player wages over the last decade and a half (something you'll have benefited from). Think about that for a moment. Are you seriously suggesting that it's OK for footballers to move easily across international boundaries, but not information?

And another thing; I don't understand why you've sought this disclosure order asking Twitter for the identity of 'persons unknown' (I know you're not actually suing them, but you can't rely on the media in this country to get their facts right).

Firstly, the company has no physical presence in the UK. It's based in California, so you want the information you'll have to go to court over there. You go to court over there and you'll be legally obliged to reveal your identity. Which one are you going for; the rock or the hard place?

Secondly, all this has done is whip up a monumental shit storm - precisely what you didn't want. Tony Blair's mate Alistair Campbell supposedly had a seven-day rule; if a scandal dogged a minister for more than a week they'd have to 'resign'. You're the one who's kept this in the public eye. Bad move.

I can save you the trouble mind. If you're after the people behind @InjunctionSuper then look no further than Apparently they're ready to see you in court but again they're based in America, so good luck with that. 

If you really have had an affair - and surely you wouldn't have gone to all this hassle if you hadn't, would you? - the best thing you could have done is face the music. There'd have been another footballer along to take your place soon enough.

In fact there already is. Hilariously, he was totally off the radar until he decided to make a song and dance about a few tweets from a high-profile writer and TV personality. Now the footballer's trending on Twitter. Who'd have thought it, mate? You're already yesterday's news.

And there's the thing, no one really cared that much until you started pissing and moaning and that's because this isn't really about a footballer who (surprise, surprise) is actually a bit of a shag-about. No, it's about censorship and democracy.

It's not up to rich people like you and handsomely paid lawyers and the judges and the Government to decide what information gets into the public domain - to pat us on the heads and tell us to move along because there's nothing to see. Nor is it right that there's a two-tier legal system based on the plaintiff's ability to pay. What do they teach you a journalism school again? Oh, yes - the only people who can't sue for slander are the dead and the poor. So that's most of us. But not you, eh?

You should have just made as little fuss as possible - smooth it over with the Missus the best you can, maybe spend some of that money you're currently burning at the High Court with Max Clifford to try and put a positive spin on things.

That way this whole thing would have been a minor blemish on an otherwise glorious career; you would have been remembered even by opposition fans (albeit perhaps grudgingly) as one of the best players to grace the English game. Now, however, you may as well chuck all your medals and all your caps and all your pots and all your pans into the biggest fucking dustbin you can find because you've just made yourself look like a massive dickhead.



Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff.

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head - no one cares that he "played away from home", nor would we have begrudged an injunction for a few days for him to 'fess up to the missus and smooth things over before it hit the papers. We do begrudge the insistence that the injunction stands when everyone now knows who he is. Times have changed, information is free. Deal with it.

Gareth said...

Once again, really enjoyed this post.

I think your blog is fast becoming my favourite.

I write something about the above subject too.