Press scandal and the Streisand effect

The Streisand effect: when the efforts of the rich and famous to keep their shenanigans out of the public gaze backfire.


Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson: celebrity scandal is nothing new

Thanks to the efforts of Lord Leveson and the rise of the "super-injunction", it's never been easier for the rich and famous to keep their shenanigans out of the public gaze. Such heavy-handed legal action has a habit of backfiring, however, by drawing attention to something that would in the course of things be forgotten within a few days. It is known as the "Streisand effect" after singer Barbra Streisand. In 2013, she attempted to ban the media from reproducing little-viewed photos of her house. The result was that they became front-page news around the world.

The Streisand effect was certainly in force when a certain celebrity couple recently attempted to suppress allegations about their extramarital activities, even preventing the matter being raised in parliament. However, their expensive lawyers were unable to prevent the story being widely covered in countries with a more robust approach to freedom of the press.

What's more, thanks to the internet, even those of us in England and Wales (there are no restrictions in Scotland) can quickly learn the couple's identity, should we be so inclined. A poll by YouGov showed that 55% of the population were.

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In the end, the couple couldn't convince the Court of Appeal to keep the injunction in place. On Monday, the court decided that the widespread publicity generated "reduced the likelihood of the claimant obtaining a permanent injunction when the case comes to trial". This meant that there was no point in the court continuing to enforce an injunction. The couple have appealed to the Supreme Court. But it looks like they have wasted a sum that legal expert Mike Gardner, partner at Wedlake Bell LLP, believes could "hit well over six figures" for nothing.

Perhaps the couple would have had better luck in the 1930s. Jennifer Selway of the Daily Express points out that, during the abdication crisis, the Royal Family went to extreme lengths to hide the dalliance between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. European and American magazines containing stories about the couple "were physically censored, with text and pictures snipped out".

Meanwhile, "there was a gentlemen's agreement that the British press said nothing". As a result, although "the upper echelons of London society knew exactly what was going on, the average man and woman in the street was entirely in the dark".

However, I wouldn't feel too sorry for the tabloids. They were still able last weekend to pore over the ongoing saga of Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and the claim that he was "unaware" of the profession of the call girl he'd been seeing. The Mail on Sunday ran a long interview with a married "actress" and "model' whom he allegedly had an affair with. She claims that he showed her confidential Cabinet papers and sent her photos from Chequers, the PM's official residence.

For me, the most telling detail was the fact that when they met on a dating website, Whittingdale said that he was "a Russian arms dealer, recently returned from Ukraine". I guess the reputation of both the government, and politicians in general, is so low that working for Vladimir Putin is now considered less sordid than working for David Cameron.

Tabloid money... Your tax bill? Well, what do you fancy paying?

"We've just had a week in which being the best you can be and pushing yourself to create wealth for you and your family were described as dirty words'," says Karen Brady in The Sun on Sunday. David Cameron came under fire just because his father worked hard to save for his family. But so what? That's human nature, isn't it?

The biggest attack came from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Yet his own tax return showed that he banked £500 from filling in surveys. "What kind of grown man gets paid to fill in surveys? Isn't that the kind of thing a student does to earn a bit of extra cash?" I can't understand why when we hear of people's success we feel envious rather than inspired.Let's celebrate everyone who is doing something with their life. "And yes, who is making money."

The wealthy have a different tax system to the rest of us. It's much better than the old-fashioned, complicated one, says Mark Steel in the Daily Mirror. They just decide whatthey fancy paying, and that's their tax bill. But as one of Prime Minister David Cameron's friends notes, we should "thank the super-rich for their charity".

You can see what he means. We'd all be better off waiting for them to pay a bit into a charity if they felt like it. Don't rely on the inefficient NHS to have your manky appendix out. Instead, wait for the owner of Top Shop to have a generous day. Sadly, instead of thanking these rich people, "many people have been rude about the tax avoiders and the sacrifices they make".

Britain is pouring millions down the drain in treating people who are frankly far too fat. It is crippling the NHS, says Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. It's time for local councils to discourage us from "guzzling deep-fried lard" and "do a bit of exercise". Sadly, "the buffoons" who run Stoke Gifford Parish Council, Gloucestershire, want to charge joggers in a public park for wear and tear. It's "the kind of wheeze that makes you want to stab yourself in the eyes with a fork".

Instead of charging these "hardy souls" for going for a run, maybe we should think about paying them. It would be a good incentive to keep fit, saving us all a fortune in the end.