Friday, April 14, 2017


One of the problems with freedom is that at some point one must draw a line between what is right and what is wrong. One always hopes the individual would care about the distinction and self-regulation would be adequate. As a culture becomes less sure of this division--and as commercial efforts care less-- the question arises as to who should intervene and when. The Melania Trump lawsuit in Britain is instructive.

Melania Trump recently has accepted damages and an apology over allegations about her work as a professional model. The action was against Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, after it ran an article headlined "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump". The article published in the Daily Mail and on Mail Online last August "included false and defamatory claims" about the First Lady "which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modeling", the court heard. That is, the  piece referred to rumors that a modeling agency Mrs. Trump worked for in Milan was "something of a gentleman's club" and another in New York "operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients."
Apparently being a "sex worker" is a fine and noble profession unless you don't like her.
The story included statements that Mrs. Trump denied the allegations and that Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modeling agency, also denied the claims. (This is of the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" variety.) Then the kicker: The article also said there was no evidence to support the allegations. The paper was simply republishing negative talk about the woman. There were other allegations: The article also claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Trump may have met three years before they actually met, and 'staged' their actual meeting as a 'ruse'."(This is remarkably similar to the Press' handling of Romney: All allegations and rumors were given equal weight; it is up to the salacious public to work it out.)

Her lawyer said the allegations about Mrs. Trump were not true - and "strike at the heart of the claimant's personal integrity and dignity".
Catrin Evans QC, for the publishers, told the judge: "The defendant acknowledges that these claims about the claimant are untrue, and we retract and withdraw them. The defendant is here today publicly to set the record straight, and to apologize to the claimant for any distress and embarrassment that the articles may have caused her."

Essential to this story is how the press sees itself. There was clearly no interest in the truth of the story; this was a simple effort to attract readers, with all the high-mindedness of a serial flasher. And there will never be resolution of the damage and the mendacity of the Press until the disguise is exposed.

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