They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But poor little royal rich kid Prince Harry is realizing otherwise what with pictures of him cavorting butt naked with a similarly undressed woman in a Vegas hotel room have made it to the front page of Britain’s most circulated tabloid, The Sun, before already going viral on the Internet.
Requests from his royal representatives to can the pictures and spare Prince Harry the embarrassment were honored by many of the other publications, but fell on deaf ears at The Sun, which cited ‘Freedom of the Press’ to print them. Editors at The Sun said their readers had a right to see the pictures. Right to see, maybe yes, but do they really want to? Or do they really need to?
Ah, ok, I’m not going to waste my breath sermonizing to a successful tabloid like the Sun on voyeuristic journalism. Its readership should shut me up, if nothing else.
In the other instance, a more serious one, the Indian government is trying to get Facebook and Twitter to ban some of its users who have been identified as being responsible for spreading hate filled messages that incited violence in Mumbai two weeks ago as also caused panic among North-East origin students in other parts of the country.
A totally legitimate move. However, it is being debated by the Indian intelligentsia, and criticized by Western media, especially the US, as a move to curb freedom of expression.
The all pervasiveness of mass media and increasing popularity of social media is making the discussion and debate on freedom of expression and freedom of the Press commonplace and clichéd with hardly any voices trying to analyze the causes and implications of such access and freedoms, on society.
Such discussion is not new since historically news media and writers in general considered their largely anti-establishment views to be sacrosanct and above reproach so long as they served the public good and hence fiercely defended their freedom of expression.
Changing times notwithstanding, such freedoms should ideally remain etched in stone. But technology, easy access and indiscriminate proliferation of mass media has given rise to new dilemmas for governments and other regulators as they struggle to keep up with mass aspirations while safeguarding their wellbeing from those misusing their freedoms.
I would say we might as well brace ourselves to a future where the very concept of privacy will die, primarily because of communications technology that will leave mass media consumers overwhelmed by that they see, hear, feel of others and also are compelled to share of themselves as they face issues of privacy, decency, criminality and crucial necessity. We may also very well be prepared to face outright curbs of certain freedoms as issues of defense and national security assume prominence.
Of course it is not enough to say that with constitutionally granted freedoms come morally imposed responsibilities. So I would say we simply bide this tide of technology-driven information tsunami by making sane choices. Like all things considered, this phase too will correct itself and fade. Until the dawn of a new era that is!