delve a little deeper....
In the last 15 or 20 years, I've watched the British press simply go to hell. There seems to be no limit, no depths to which the tabloids won't sink. I don't know who these people are but they're little pigs.
John le Carre
Way before Le Carre's time Marie Antoinette was the subject of a campaign of vilification that took place from the time she ascended the throne as Queen of France in 1774. This carried on throughout her reign until her death at the hands of the revolution in 1793. Much of the reason she was so unpopular was due to the tabloids of the day; crude pamphlets that were circulated at court, in Paris and then later more widely throughout France.
Marie Antoinette was painted as extravagant, frivolous, arrogant and callous to the sufferings of her people. Whilst there is evidence of her extravagance, she was hardly single handedly responsible for the decline of France's fortunes! Not only that, she was also reported to be a bi-sexual nymphomaniac, rapacious in her lusts for men and women, forever cuckolding her husband King Louis XVI.
They even had illustrations depicting her liaisons dangereuses...
But how much has changed? The power that these pamphlets had in forming the views of society has continued through to today. The pamphleteers of the 18th century could make up stories, use unsubstantiated rumours and use images drawn by someone's imagination. These days our tabloids are no less vicious, but have modern technology to help them get the dirt and to satisfy the public need for evidence so rather than drawings we get to pour over photo and film.
Last week the trial of Tulisa Contostavlos for supplying drugs collapsed when the judge threw it out based on lies that had been told by the prosecution witness Mazher Mahmood. Full BBC report here if you're not up to date.
Tulisa was set up by Mahmood a Sun on Sunday journalist who posed as a film producer who wanted her to appear in a Hollywood film starring Leonado DiCaprio. It was an elaborate scam that including flying her to Vegas, meetings in smart hotels with the lure of fame, fortune and the acting career she has dreamed of. Incidentally Mahmood is also known as the fake Sheikh who gets his headlines from sneaky manipulation, hidden filming, flattery and a lot of elaborate lies. He has set up Sophie Wessex, Sarah Ferguson, Sven Goran Ericksson, although met his match with George Galloway.
But why Tulisa and for what ends? She might not be the most famous or talented person in the world but she did OK with her band N-Dubz winning a MOBO and releasing two platinum and one gold album. Despite this Simon Cowell was critisised heavily when he gave her the role of a judge on The X Factor. Tulisa baiting continued and reached a peak when a tape of her giving an ex boyfriend a blow job was leaked. The tabloids and internet gossip sites had a field day and the nation could unite in believing this was the proof she was just a common chav and a slut. Because of course only a certain sort of woman gives blow jobs, let alone lets her boyfriend film it...
Tabloids survive by feeding the masses salacious stories centred on young women and their sex lives. It's no difference to how the young, naive Marie Antoinette was viciously and continuously critisied, lied about and mocked, much of it based on her sexuality and sexual behaviour both real and made up. The printed press still continue to act as our moral guardians and perpetually prod the fires of outrage and shock. You'd think 200 odd years on from Marie Antoinette's death society would be a little less taken in by sex scandals and that we might have grown up enough to accept people have sex. Haven't we realised that sometimes people have lots of sex with lots of different people and sometimes they even have sex with more than one person at a time or have weird sex you can't even read about in Cosmopolitan magazine? No.
Tulisa isn't the only one by a long shot. Abi Titmuss was shot into the spotlight when her then boyfriend John Leslie was accused of raping Ulrika Jonsson a TV weather girl and presenter who incidentally received much critisism for daring to be married three times and having four children by four different men (the slut) as well as having an affair with Sven Goran Eriksson (double slut!)
Titmuss was forced to leave her nursing job because of tabloid attention and ended up making a career of being a glamour girl. She has since said she regretted it but felt at the time she couldn't continue as a nurse and needed to make a living somehow. She was subjected to the humiliation of the release of a sex tape showing her having a threesome with John Leslie and another woman. in 2012 she said I was devastated by the violation. It affected me very badly. I guess there was something accessible about me.”
Both Abi Titmuss and Ulrika Jonsson appeared at the Leveson Inquiry with regards to their phones being hacked. Actress Sienna Miller and singer Charlotte Church also appeared. Miller had her phone hacked in relation to her affair with Daniel Craig.
At the Inquiry Church said her overnight success as the ‘Voice of an Angel’ when she was just 11 had warped her childhood and meant she was hunted by paparazzi for years, with newspapers determined to portray her as a ‘fallen angel’.
It's easy enough to conclude that sex sells and that if society wasn't so obsessed with the miniature details of the rich and famous and with even the less rich and not quite famous then the papers would cease to exist. It is easy for a journalist (I use that term loosely) to maintain that the public should be told when a whiter than white celebrity is indulging in an extramarital affair or dabbling in class A's.
But what of Tulisa? Her case clearly showed that she was manipulated and lied to and was lead by a shiny Oscar shaped carrot to agree to supply drugs to the fake film producer. She was daft to arrange it but if you watch the recent documentary Tulisa: The Price of Fame you'll see how she fell for it, how she bigged herself up and acted in a way she thought they wanted to see to secure the pretend film role. But why? Why on earth would anyone sit down and plan a ludicrously expensive operation purely to bring someone down? To potentially get them sent to prison. Whatever you think of her she didn't deserve that and was it just to sell papers or just so the media hacks can wield their puppet strings to dictate who the public should love or hate?
I never managed to comprehend why I was outed back in 2011. I'm not famous, not on anyone's radar nor particularly interesting or glamorous. I actually don't know why I was chosen to be picked upon other than a bloke I had a brief fling with and didn't like it when I ended it apparently told his hack mate about me. At the time when he texted me to tell me this (among a myriad of other threats) I laughed because it seemed so ludicrous.
As it happened they waited a couple of months and after firstly telling my employer about by dalliance on adultwork (Written about here if you're interested) I had a visit from a journo who had heard I had resigned from my job. This was a couple of hours after I had resigned. I hadn't told anyone, all I had done was call HR and then write an email confirming my resignation. I also blogged a one liner stating I had resigned from my job. The blog was friends only. I am in no doubt that noone who followed me gave the journalist access. The bitter ex fling didn't know any passwords and never could have guessed. I never knew how they got their information. One can only assume something was hacked. And even now, I find that notion ridiculous.
Anyway, to cut a long story short (and I'm not sure I can even write about that period in detail without getting upset) I was outed in The Sun. I don't want to reveal too much about the article, but it wasn't very complimentary. It wasn't filled with much actual truth and it was incredibly damaging to my career and personal relationships.
I kind of related to Abi Titmuss (yes, I am slightly ashamed of writing that) when I read her book because I felt that same sense of shame, despite being quite happy with my own body and sexuality, it's horrible to have intimate images spread across the paper without your consent. It's horrible to read in print someone calling you a tart or a slapper and know your family, friends, colleagues and potential future employers or partners could read this about you.
The irony being it forced me into sex work full time, not dissimilar to Abi going down the glamour model route I suppose because at the end of the day we all have to eat and once that slut mark has been stamped on you it's not easy to go back.
What was the point in what that journalist did to me? I definitely was not news or public interest and only served to damage my life and upset plenty of other people in the process. What was the point in what Mahmood did to Tulisa other than just to be really fucking nasty and fill a few column inches.
I've written before about sex workers and the tabloids, but by the same token the outing of sex workers and the revelations about the private lives of women all comes down to 'slut shaming' and a total disregard for someone's privacy. These articles perpetuate the ideology that women should be chaste, monogamous and traditional in their sex lives. If we haven't reached the 21st century without this changing what chance is there of it ever changing?
The Leveson Inquiry has changed nothing.
We started with one royal woman so we shall end with another more modern one.
"....This is not a time for recriminations but for sadness. However I would say that I always believed the press would kill her in the end. But not even I could imagine that they would take such a direct hand in her death as seems to be the case.
It would appear that every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy, ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana's image has blood on his hands today."
Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer