The following blog post is written in light of recent events reported in the media. It is also a reflection of a more general trend towards publicising every last detail of other’s personal lives – whether they like it or not. It may come across as slightly too opinionated, but that is how it is intended. Unlike my other blog posts, this is written on a more personal level about a subject close to my heart. Privacy.
The Pope’s letters have recently been published. His private correspondence with a friend from years ago. The pope died in 2005, his correspondences are no longer timely or pertinent yet they are being published for all to see. The question is, is it right to divulge the contents of them?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about take a look at this link from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072jknz
On the 15th February the BBC reported on some newly discovered letters between the pope and an unnamed married woman. Juicy gossip for sure but is this really news? It is now 11 years since Pope John Paul II’s death. His consent has not been given. His privacy completely disregarded.
We all communicate. In this, the digital age, it is easier than ever to track people’s interaction especially those done through an online medium such as Facebook or Twitter. For the most part, it isn’t crucial that those correspondences remain private, but we trust that they are. And it is on that trust that friendships are founded.
The ease of access to an individuals personal correspondences does not automatically translate into a right. The phone hacking scandal highlighted that the media needs to adhere to boundaries which any decent man would respect. In death, as well as in life, this basic respect should remain. The BBC reports that the Pope had a 34 year friendship with the person he was communicating with. There is little doubt that a friendship lasting so long would be built on the foundations of trust and confidentiality. Reporting on these letters does not change what Pope John Paul II did in his reign as Pope of the Catholic church so why should it matter what they contain?
The desire of the modern day media, to expose every detail about every event which they believe they have a right to report on, is bizarre. There is no need for everyone to know everything. Reporting on somebody’s private life is not a right, it is a privilege, the media’s blatant disregard for privacy has been highlighted by its attempts to embarrass public figures in recent weeks. Jose Mourinho has not yet been announced as Manchester United’s new manager, yet according to many media outlets, he has signed a pre-contract agreement (Manchester Evening News), has even started planning his living arrangements (Metro) and speculation over how Manchester United would look under Mourinho has even started to appear (Mirror).
There is a difference between taking an interest in somebody or some event and exploiting them. An unhealthy obsession with needing to know every single detail leads to a lack of respect and it’s becoming an epidemic.
The ‘news’ regarding Manchester United is that they beat Shrewsbury Town on Monday night. It happened, it is fact. It is not news that Jose Mourinho has signed for Manchester United or that Louis Van Gaal has been sacked by Manchester United – it’s not news because it hasn’t happened. Whether Jose Mourinho has or hasn’t bought himself a house or apartment in Manchester is insignificant. He is a multimillionaire with money to burn. Whilst it may be indicative of an impending move to Manchester United, it may also just be a show of wealth, another investment.
Speculation will always happen, in everyday life and in the public domain. Who will win the general election? Will the United Kingdom stay in the EU or opt to leave? Who will be the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea?
But when it comes to personal matters or more broadly, matters impacting somebody’s personal life, shouldn’t they be, personal? Isn’t it the right of an individual to remain with dignity intact, their privacy respected? It is not a question of whether the media can report on something, rather whether they should report on it.
It should not be the case that privacy is blatantly disregarded so that gossip can spread. It’s not fun, nor clever or even remotely helpful to speculate about other people’s lives. It’s damaging and disrespectful.
Unfortunately, it is becoming crystal clear that we live in a world where, to answer the question posed in Meatloaf’s song, nothing is sacred anymore.