Sunday 22 May 2011

A letter to CTB

Dear CTB

Last week, Schillings made an application on your behalf to identify those who might have broken the confidentiality order you obtained against Imogen Thomas and News Group. Such applications are commonplace where untruths have been posted or repeated.

But you know, and we know, that your case is not about the peddling of lies. It is about the power to keep a secret.

Your extra-marital affair with Imogen Thomas may, by European Law, be protected as part of your private life - tempered only by legitimate public interest - which has not yet been argued. In the meantime the allegation seems to be that Imogen wanted you to pay her to prevent her selling the story to the press.

In the hearing the Judge - although interestingly not you - suggested "blackmail", an ugly, soul destroying crime in which someone demands money to which they are not otherwise entitled by threatening to reveal ugly secrets about another. If you are a victim of blackmail, you deserve protection.

Is it really that straightforward? When you embarked upon an affair you made Imogen a part of your life story and she made you a part of hers. Absent an agreement between the two of you a reasonable man might feel that her story belongs to her, and yours to you. Why should you be able to restrain her from selling it? If you wished to conduct an affair in secret, maybe you should have signed a confidentiality agreement and paid her for the loss of her life story - as companies do with key employees?

Or maybe you should have kept your trousers on.

Has your application achieved its objectives? If the aim was to maintain what remained of your privacy you have failed utterly. You, your identity, and your affair are this morning a bigger story than ever. Your advisers, Schillings are social media specialists. They have increased their profile tremendously with this case, but they will certainly have warned you in advance of the of the situation you find yourself in this morning.

The internet has a vigourous, collective, morality. When writs against "persons unknown" are cast into a liberal, democratic community like Twitter the universal instinct is to tell the truth and shame the devil, to defend the underdog - and, right or wrong - it is an admirable instinct very much in tune with the British people - your fans.

And this is the rub. When the traditional media were the only publishers of stories to the masses, the courts could restrain by injunction, and lawyers had only to work out who to serve who to bill. This is the world view etched in the minds of the legal industry, and it is wrong. Lawyers who truly understood social media know that Twitter and others are changing publishing as fast as ITunes changed the music industry - today, the masses are the media and celebrities are the publisher.

But you already know that, because, like many celebrities today, becoming your own "publisher" has made you richer than you would ever have been in previous generations. You have profited from the attention of your public and you can hardly be surprised if they turn on you with vigour when you send lawyers against them with sinister applications.

Celebrity is your stock in trade. Nourish it, take care of it. If you dont want someone to sell their life story, dont become a part of it - take counsel from one of your more sensible colleagues, Ryan Giggs, who, in the words of his agent :

"appreciates he is doing something he enjoys, and he also enjoys what it brings, and by putting that with his family and his home, he's got the perfect life, so why bugger it up by playing away or insulting somebody?"

And if that is all too much for you, why not try, like Andrew Marr, being honest - even at this late stage. You might find your fans surprisingly sympathetic.



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