Public Faces

I first became aware of the Saatchi/Nigella Lawson photos at the beginning of the week via a retweet from the “fleetstreetfox” Twitter page:

A scroll down the original page revealed this:

Fleet Street Fox tries heroically to put a noble face on tabloid prurience, but it strikes me that the anonymous photographer had several options besides photographing her in distress and then selling the pictures to a tabloid newspaper. He might have intervened in her defence and discretely offered to help her access support. If he was feeling less brave, he could have called the police and left the professionals to offer whatever help they could. He, apparently, did neither of those things despite watching the scene for nearly half an hour. Not incidentally, the options that would have allowed Ms Lawson to access whatever support she needed, while allowing her to make decisions about how she wanted to pursue the matter, including whether she wanted to be publically identified as a victim of domestic violence, were rejected in favour of the option that would turn a profit.

Fleet Street Fox ends on a self pitying note:

This exemplifies the ability of tabloid journalists to clothe themselves in self righteousness while claiming entitlement to anything they can point a long lens at and monetize. What’s been lost in all of this, even as we reach the end of the week with the Lawson/Saatchi story still claiming a significant chunk of the comment pages, and eliciting comment from national politicians, is that Nigella Lawson isn’t an insentient icon, a placeholder for domestic violence victims everywhere, but a real woman who is now living out the painful decision to leave a ten year long relationship under the glare of, potentially hostile, public scrutiny.

One suspects that all this moral posturing won’t be the tipping point against the multifaceted problem of domestic abuse in this country. It’s reminiscent of the infamous Rihanna pictures that were unlawfully leaked by sources within the LAPD. In spite of Chris Brown becoming a hate figure in some circles, his career has continued largely unhindered, and the whole saga has been co-opted into the entertainment industry pantomime with him starring as the villain. And, as that case reminds us, being a public victim of domestic violence isn’t always a safe or comforting role to take. Her actions were scrutinised as much as his and she’s become the butt of the jokes, along with him.

The tabloid and broadsheet press have turned Nigella Lawson into the public face of domestic violence. That was never their decision to make.