Harry exposed: In the public interest or what interests the public?
Nothing about seeing Prince Harry naked was as shocking as the Sun’s decision to publish the photos. As the only British newspaper to do so, they claimed printing the photos of the nude royal partying in Las Vegas was done in the public interest. Indeed it was extremely interesting for the public, but it was certainly not a matter of public interest as reinforced by the ruthlessness of the tabloid’s approach.
The question of what is of public interest is not an arbitrary fancy; there are official press guidelines by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) on what publications can and cannot print. For example: “The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices.”
It is true that the Sun did not implement the filming of Harry’s excursions, but they are tunneling straight under the moral high ground by publishing material that was filmed in a private setting and sold without the subjects’ consent.
Imagine the victim had not been Harry, but a young female actress. Imagine if someone had taken photos of her in her private room drunk and naked at a party and published them. The out roar would be seismic. It would be considered grossly indecent at best, sexual harassment at worst. It is also of serious note that no photos showing the face of the naked woman Harry was hugging were published.
The only thing the public learnt from those photos was Harry’s ability to have a good time, yet his apparent inability to win at strip billiards. Being naked inside one’s private room is not illegal or obscene. Being naked in one’s room in the company of a naked woman is considered, if anything, preferable.
The PCC states that information can be published in public interest if doing so would be “Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organization”. If criticising the monarchy was part of the Sun’s Populist political agenda then only their coverage of the royal wedding is needed to showcase their hypocrisy.
The front page that day was of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge kissing with the caption: “You wait years for a royal kiss then two come along at once.” Unless the Sun had been sitting on their hands for years in giddy anticipation of a royal wedding, then it is safe to assume they are actually writing under the political view of “whatever sells at the time”.
Therefore the real reason the Sun was the only paper to publish the images is because the very act of them doing so was more incredulous then seeing Harry naked. The front page revealing Harry’s naked pictures dripped in childish bravado: “Heir it is! Pic of naked Harry you’ve already seen on the internet.” The scorn is dripping: firstly, there is an unnecessary and mocking reference to him being a bad candidate to the throne despite how unlikely it would be for him to be crowned. Secondly, there is a reminder to the PCC, to the royal family and to the public that although the pictures have been wildly “seen on the internet” and so are no longer interesting, the Sun still has the power and brashness to publish them.
The final act of blatancy was using a fully naked picture on the front page. The Sun made no attempt to use these pictures as a ploy to sell papers by casing the candid shots within the paper. Instead the principle shot is staring down from the newsstand as a statement of the Sun’s defiance.
The public had already seen the photos and were neither concerned nor angry. There is a 12,000-member strong Facebook page of military cadets posing naked in support of Harry. The Sun’s decision had no concern for public interest in terms of warning them about the perilous Prince. In the aftermath of the News of The World being shut down for invading the privacy of public figures, the Sun is rebelling by showing it will not be intimidated to blur the lines of publishing matters of public interest and what interests the public.
Yet let it be remembered that a real person is being used as a pawn here. The working Harry once said in an interview with the Washington Post about his military service: “It’s very nice to be a sort of normal person for once; I think it’s about as normal as I’m going to get.” If a man prefers the freedom of a warzone to the lifestyle imposed upon him then he clearly deserved that holiday.