Sunday, 1 October 2017

When private lives become public.

I don't suppose many of you have been that bothered about Ben Stokes being involved in a brawl in Bristol last week. Young men having a bit more to drink than is sensible and then throwing their fists around is hardly original. And, given the nuclear stand-off between America and North Korea, or the plight of the Rohinja Muslims, it hardly warrants any attention at all.

Maybe that's why the newspapers have been full of it - something insignificant to get agitated about to divert attention away from what really matters.

For those who don't know, or don't care, who Ben Stokes is - he's a member of the English cricket team. And the timing of his misadventure is critical as they will shortly be touring Australia and playing for the Ashes. Which (and I say this as a cricket obsessive) is just one of many entertainments around this winter but will not make a dent on world progress.

Yet that hasn't stopped the papers and cricket pundits from throwing opinions around. Even though all they have to go on is grainy CCTV footage and a brief police report, that has been enough to demand retribution that extends far beyond anything the court may or may not impose.

For - to be clear - this is in the hands of the police. Is it their job (not the press or social media) to establish the facts and to decide, with the CPS, whether to press charges. If they do, it is for the courts to impose a sanction. That is their job. 

And once that is all done and dusted, then the matter, surely, is closed. 

But we live in an age when everyone, it seems, is entitled not only to have an opinion but also to throw it around to make sure everyone hears. That CCTV footage is all over the Internet - without any evidence of what preceded it, or what came next. But that hasn't stopped demands for the most punitive measures to be taken against Stokes’s career as a cricketer. Anything the legal system may or may not ask of him is nothing compared with the humiliation insisted on by some the papers and cricketing bigwigs.

Ben Stokes is not alone. He is just one of hundreds of public figures who do foolish things when they are young. And the newspapers exploit them all to sell thousands of copies. Misinformation breeds online. The result of all that is private lives becoming public property. 

I can't begin to imagine where I'd be now if all the stupid things I did when I was young became public property. And you? Or maybe you were saintly.


  1. Quite right! I'd hate some of my misdemeanours to be all over Twitter! It is no wonder that people employ minders/agents/publicity people. That's why scum like Wayne Rooney, who cheat on their wives, get very little MSM coverage, whereas others are attacked. x

    1. Agreed, Carol - why can't people be celebrated for what they're good at and not off-field shenanigans.

  2. Jo, there are definitely some things I wouldn't want the public at large to know about, not that they'd be interested in anything I did, so I feel sorry for these youngsters who aren't allowed to step out of line an inch simply because they've become well known for one or other skill. I don't know who Ben Stokes is (he hasn't come onto my radar despite my love of cricket), but I hope this doesn't ruin his life.

    1. Oh Val - if you're into cricket. find him on YouTube - he's hugely talented. Flintoff reckons he's one of the best ever to come from England! (And what does an accolade like that do to a young man?)

  3. Well, I heard of it and read about it. Not being keen on cricket, I filed it under "not very important news" but your comment is spot on. Private life has become almost meaningless.

    Greetings from London.

  4. There is a different atmosphere - I find myself turning into a different sort of person on Twitter, and I'm still trying to figure out what to do about it.