I am really pleased to see this…
“In a ruling with potentially wide implications for press freedom in Britain, a judge ruled Thursday that a tabloid newspaper breached the privacy of Max Mosley, the overseer of grand prix motor racing, when it published an article in March claiming that he had participated in a sadomasochistic “orgy” with a Nazi theme.”
The judge also said “…Mr. Mosley had a “reasonable expectation” of privacy for sexual activities that took place on private premises and that did not involve violations of the criminal law.”
I have commented before on Mr. Mosley's sex life. And this is happening in the UK, so of course it won’t have any legal effect here in the US.
But I like that phrase, “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” I think we should all consider that. Gossip about famous people is big business, and tabloid fare is comfortably distant from our own lives. But where does that mentality stop? What about our friends and lovers? What is their reasonable expectation of privacy? Because there is such a thing as harmless gossip – but there’s also information that one simply should not disclose about other people. But sometimes it happens anyway.
I’m not saying I’ve never gossiped about anyone. Of course I have, I’m human. But I’ve seen how it hurts people - and I’ve been hurt by it myself. It may be that one has to be on the wrong end of it before one really understands the power of hurtful gossip, and the responsibility to not engage in it.
So now, before I talk about Person A to Person B, I ask myself some questions, like: Did I experience this myself, or am I just repeating what someone else told me? Do I absolutely know this to be true, or is it even partly hearsay/supposition on my part? If the person I’m talking about was in front of me, would I be willing to say this to their face?
And the other thing about malicious gossip? It’s like negative political campaigning – it reflects badly on the speaker. My grandmother used to say, “No one looks pretty saying ugly things.” It’s one thing to be a little snarky, but if you really start slinging mud, some of that mud will stick to you. If I hear somebody talking trash and spreading rumors about someone else, I assume that given the opportunity, they’d do the same to me.
So you have to think before you open your mouth, because once you speak, the words take on a life of their own. It’s nice for Mosley that the court found in his favor, but that doesn’t remove the violation of his privacy from everyone’s mind. It’s easy to see a tabloid paper’s motivations for printing embarrassing gossip – it sells papers, and that’s all they care about. It isn’t so clear for individuals. Like so many other things in life, you have to continually examine yourself. What is my motivation for this? And is it a motive I’m proud of? Think about it before you speak.