To journalists who have risked their own safety and life exercising the First Amendment and witnessed American military members putting themselves in even greater danger protecting it, there is little more annoying than watching a bunch of perverts and greed-heads piously invoking freedom of the press to justify their disgusting and pathetic behavior.
Oh, parts of the European press are doing just that. A French publication published photos of the Duchess of Cambridge (otherwise known as Princess Catherine Middleton) sunbathing topless in the royal couple's private villa. The magazine was followed by an Irish publication, and an Italian publication owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose bribery conviction (overturned after the statute of limitations had run out) seems positively quaint compared to the allegations he had sex with an underage prostitute.
The British press—perhaps a bit more timid amid disclosures that some of its brethren had intercepted phone messages of politicians, celebrities, and a child kidnapping victim—has been a bit more restrained. The palace has filed a lawsuit, which decency dictates it wins. But the attitude of the scummy elements of the British media is still appallingly evident.
The Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn tops the list of bottom-feeders, penning a column that initially sympathizes with Prince William over the outrageous invasion of the couple's privacy. Littlejohn doesn't seem concerned about Princess Catherine, apparently seeing this as some sort of property dispute in which Prince William, like "any man," might be uncomfortable with someone publishing photos of his woman in a state of half-undress. It's as if Princess Kate herself is merely an object here, to the toad who penned the offensive column. Only the prince, it seems, has the right to complain.
And Littlejohn makes it crystal-clear in his summation of the lovely and charming new member of the royal family, noting:
The truth is she's public property. She has to assume she's on offer at all times, even when lounging by a swimming pool at a private villa.
Does Littlejohn believe the princess is under the employ of Berlusconi? That's the implication.
Photographing someone with a telephoto lens from the street is not taking vacation photos. It is the photographic equivalent of breaking and entering. There will always be perverts who want to see photos of a half-dressed woman in her private space. There will always be greedy newspaper and magazine publishers who cater to the perverts. And there will always be misogynists like Littlejohn who don't think women have rights at all and are only minimally protected as the property of men. But don't use the profound principle of freedom of the press to defend such boorish behavior and invasions of privacy. The best testament to genuine First Amendment freedoms (and their equivalent in European courts) would be to punish those who use the camera as a weapon—as well as those who profit from it.