In defence of privacy

Most superinjunctions suppress money-making stories about celebrity sex, rather than a real public i

Someone once had sex with someone else. Can you imagine? An adult . . . having sex with another adult. It's a startling revelation, and we need to know. We have a right to know. We must know, because two people once rubbed smelly bits for an hour or two, and that's the most important story in the world. We must know – we have a right to know – because these people have decided they have a sinister right to privacy about what goes on behind closed doors; that they are in some way allowed to have a life that we can't inspect and turn upside down for the benefit of brightly coloured headlines in dentists' waiting rooms. We must stop this so-called "privacy" right now.

You may not be surprised by the idea that two adults had sex with each other. You may not be stunned to find it out. You may not care, as long as they were consenting adults. But the whole superinjunction debate, still plodding along through our printed press, assumes that you really are surprised, you really are stunned by these "revelations", you really do care. More than that, though: it assumes that it's in our interest – to our benefit – to know these things.

Imagine you watched a teatime drama series on television, but one of the actors playing a character in it had once had sex with someone else, to whom they weren't married. Don't you have a right to know these things? How on earth can you judge these people, unless you know every single heave and squirt of their personal lives, every cough and spit, every fart and belch? How can you judge them otherwise – on the content of their professional work? Please. We need to know more. We have a right to know more.

The same old excuses keep dribbling back. We need to know because these professional people base their reputations on a family-friendly image. We have to know about these matters because they exist in the public eye, and make their fortunes from it.

Sporting people, for example, make millions out of endorsements, some of which we can tenuously pretend came about because of their "family man" image rather than because of their sporting prowess – so we have a right to know, to stop them from pulling the wool over our innocent eyes, to enable us to make informed choices about which brand of whatever it is we like to buy . . . or else we'd be unfairly swayed by the celebrity endorsement of someone who has actually had sex with someone else, and doesn't want us to know about it. Imagine that!

By now, of course, we've heard of most of the names involved – the correct ones and the incorrect ones. If you venture into the Wild West of Twitter, it only takes a couple of searches to work out who has allegedly done what with whom and when, though there's no guarantee that it's true. Perhaps this is another argument in favour of scrapping superinjunctions. The tedious guessing game that gets wheeled out whenever there is news of another case means that, inevitably, people who haven't done anything at all, let alone the sexual acts that so cause the tabloids to clutch at their collective pearls, will get smeared. If only we could know the truth, this wouldn't happen!

If only there were another Trafigura, another case where a real public interest was being suppressed rather than the money-making desire to splash a few stories about celebrity sex. But it hasn't happened, and there isn't a noble cause here to be fought in the name of freedom of speech and justice. It's just a few celebrities who've had sex with other people, occasionally other celebrities, and that's all there is.

If it could be shown that the superinjunctions were geniunely clamping down on the freedom of the press to report real news, that would be a different matter. But despite all the huffing and puffing from the tabloids – and their bigger brothers and sisters – there's been no such thing. It boils down to whether you think it's important to know about one person's private sexual life, at the expense of the privacy of their family (especially important when children are involved) and that's all it is. If you think that's important, and we have a right to know, that's fine. I don't think I do.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism