The irony of the celebrity super injunction – a personal reflection on PJS and YMA

The Supreme Court heard the case of PJS vs News Group Papers Ltd on Thursday. The video is available on demand on their website: https://www.supremecourt.uk/watch/uksc-2016-0080/210416-am.html – it’s dry viewing for a layperson, but it’s making good background noise.

I’m listening to Mr Desmond Browne QC (at least I think that’s his name?) saying how the press created a frenzy that caused people to want to find out who PJS and YMA are.

Nah mate. That’s not how it happened. Not for me anyway.

A friend of mine, who’s a bit of a law buff, posted on Facebook around the end of March about how there was an injunction preventing people from discussing something in England and Wales that could freely be discussed anywhere else in the world.

I took objection to that, and read up on it (edited to note: I maintain there was enough information online by March 30th 2016 for any reasonable person with interest to discover the identity of PJS). Trust me, at no point did the press ‘stir me up’ to do it – it was the injustice I felt at being restricted in what I could and couldn’t say because of my geographic location at the time that stirred me up to do it. Being born and raised in England, I was under the impression that I had freedom of expression, and I was somewhat outraged to learn otherwise. Forgive me.

And oddly, PJS & representatives, I’d have been on your side if this were a damages claim and not an injunction. It’s fair to say that, unless your aim was to get as much publicity as possible, I believe this injunction has caused you a lot more harm than it has good.

Without the injunction, I would not have looked the couple up on Google. I would not have read about their previous antics, nor had any reason to get angry. Aside from being yet another stain on The Sun’s reputation, it would have been a non-story to me. That would have been the end of it.

The biggest irony of all, though, is that the injunction tarnished the reputation of YMA & PJS more than any news article ever could because the details leaked in a Chinese Whispers fashion across England, and caused confusion.

A number of people got PJS mixed up with YMA. A large majority seemed to believe both PJS and YMA participated. All of which could have been avoided if the people of England hadn’t been kept in the dark and had the facts. Every time someone named YMA as PJS I wanted to correct them, but guess what – I couldn’t. Well, I suppose I could have, being out of the country, but how deep did I want to get into the whole thing, and how much time did I want to spend on it all?

I’m still beyond incensed that someone in Scotland or Ireland could tweet or write about this case, whereas someone in England or Wales could get into trouble for it. It all seems rather 1984. If I were younger, I’d totally go and stand on the border and make a cool viral video on how a few footsteps can make all the difference. Indeed, if I had the cash to spare, I’d look at my own options for taking it court – but I’m the sole carer for my elderly mother, and my money is better spent elsewhere.

Caring for your mother should always comes first, ya know. It’s a point of principle.

YMA & PJS – why I outed the celebrity threesome super injunction couple on Twitter

It started when the Guardian changed the wording of their article. They’d said that YMA was the ‘wife’ of PJS, but then YMA had become the ‘partner’. Suddenly, everything about the injunction pointed towards a gay couple – and furthermore, a married gay couple. The judge had overruled the original decision to allow publication of a story regarding PJS’s sex life because this married gay couple had children.

Name one married gay couple, in the entertainment business, with strong British links, who have children. Now take those names, plug them into Google, and see if there are any reports of the marriage being in difficulty.

That’s literally all I did. And a week before the US got their hands on the story, I tweeted it, because it was all so bloody obvious.

I’ve always despised celebrity culture. I couldn’t recognise a Kardashian on the street. I’m the last person you want on your quiz team for a movie round, because I have no idea or any interest in who the actors are. Turns out, I’d heard of YMA and actually knew quite a few things about him, even respected him: but I’d never heard of PJS before. Other than being aware that YMA had gotten married, I couldn’t have named PJS or picked him out of a line-up – he was effectively as much as a nobody to me as I was to him.

I couldn’t have cared less about the olive oil, or the threesome, or the paddling pool. But when I read that YMA hadn’t spoken to his 90 year old mother for a number of years, because she didn’t approve of his relationship with PJS, it made me angry. My mother is approaching that age, and I can’t even imagine the hurt it would cause her if I were to disappear from her life at such a vulnerable time. And, let’s face it, his mother had every right to disapprove of a pairing where the partner needed to seek his sexual gratification elsewhere. It may be pretty acceptable by today’s standards, but it’s not the old-fashioned way.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. How dare this PJS have any control over me, an equal human being, in a country that’s not even his own? I wanted to scream his name from the top of every building! However, I waited until I was out of England before I named him outright . Not as if it was that much of a secret by then, but I tweeted his name loud and proud the very second my plane touched down.

Of course, a few Google searches later that night revealed that YMA had started to talk to his mother again, just a few months ago. Oops. It didn’t change how I felt though. I’d felt enormously liberated outside of England to be able to say what had been on my mind outright, instead of having to hide it with sly jokes and coded tweets.

My view is this. The premise of the judge who threw the case out to protect the children was fundamentally flawed. Are this celebrity couple going to restrict their children’s movements to England and Wales, or would the children be spending time in countries where the story was allowed to circulate? Would they rather their children found out about it on the playground, through the gossip of others, or directly from themselves? How much would they understand anyway? And how hard could it be?

“Daddy and Daddy love each other very much: and we love you too. But sometimes Daddy wants to play with other men. It’s like you and your best friend, sometimes you want to play with other kids. We’re not breaking up, no matter what you hear from other people & we love you.” – put your own words in as necessary, but kids are surprisingly resilient and accepting, and they tend to love their parents no matter what.

I have fought tooth and nail against the publications who’ve been gagged from reporting the names of the celebrity injunction when they’ve published mistruths. I vehemently despise The Sun. In my ideal world, if a newspaper prints a fabricated story without thoroughly checking their sources, in a non-satirical way, they shouldn’t just be fined, they should be shut the heck down.

However, I will also fight tooth and nail for these publications to have the right to publish a factually accurate story, regardless of how damaging that story may be to those named within it. It’s not up to some judge to decide if something is in the public’s interest or not – if it happened, we should have the right to talk about it, and we can decide if it’s in our interests. If it isn’t in our interests, we won’t buy the newspaper – it’s that simple.

That’s not to undermine the right to privacy, but everyone has a right to privacy, not just the super-rich. I guess the rule of thumb is, if you want something kept private, then make sure everyone involved understands you want it to be kept private. Stories should be sourced ethically (hacking to get information is a strict no-no, for example), victims should never be named unless they have specifically given their consent, but if someone wants to talk about something that happened to them, they should have every right to do so, even if it makes the other people involved uncomfortable. If you don’t want your kids to find out about your threesomes, either don’t have kids, or don’t have threesomes. (I chose the former)

I hope this injunction will see the UK throw out the draconian and farcical laws that restrict people from talking about whatever it is they want to talk about. Censorship is the first act of a totalitarian state, and this last couple of weeks, I’ve felt restricted in what I could and couldn’t say just because I lived in England. I don’t believe my grandfathers fought in two World Wars so I could tweet from Germany what I wasn’t allowed tweet from England – and the sooner the high court deliver their judgement on the injunction appeal, the better.