FLC208, A Common Sense, and Therefore a Libertarian, View of Super Injunctions, Sean Gabb, 234rd May 2011

Though everyone else has been discussing the matter for weeks, I feel obliged, as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, to make some comment, however brief, on the universal injunctions that the English courts have recently taken to granting. Since the Libertarian Alliance is a corporate body, I am obliged to respect court orders. I will, therefore, not name the prominent footballer who is at the centre of the current scandal. But I am allowed to give my opinion of the nature of these orders.

via FLC208, A Commn Sense, and Therefore a Libertarian, View of Super Injunctions, Sean Gabb, 234rd May 2011.


  1. Sean,

    Here is my hardcore view.

    Yesterday the Sunday Herald’s website was “unobtainable”, not that I didn’t know about he who must not be mentioned. When I went for my lunchtime beverage I was given a free copy of the Herald when an acquaintance left the premises. Just as well that the bar is in Scotland!

  2. Well of course there is not and cannot be such a thing as a right to privacy, in the manner meant here. Everyone has a natural right to take whatever measures are appropriate to guard their privacy as best they can, but there cannot be a right to it. It would mean that gossip would be illegal, and thus all speech regarding other persons.

    You could say, “the State may ban the discussion of some particular private matter”, but then the absurdity becomes complete; because to do so the State would have to notify every citizen as to what the private matter is, thus creating 100% awareness of the very matter it is trying to suppress. It would have to say, “you may not tell anyone that Ian B stole the tuck shop money”, thus ensuring that everybody would know that Ian B stole the tuck shop money. FAIL.

  3. David, I am inclined to agree with you. I don’t like any libel laws, but am willing in practice to put up with certain kinds of libel law.

    As for the footaballer, I’ve probably never heard his name in any event. I only hope that his name now becomes a term of infamy, and that whatever he was trying to cover up is more widely discussed than if he’d never opened his chequebook. None of the English newspapers has so far discovered a spine, but I may have a look later on at the American or French papers. Or I may not.

    Ian, I think we do broadly agree – though I suspect you are also against any libel laws whatever.

  4. I’ve just looked his name up. As I expected, I’d never heard of him. Serves him right that I now have. I hope he gets a good roasting from the crowd next time he steps out to play football.

  5. On libel laws, hmm. I dunno. I think there’s a decent argument that some kind of legal action ought to be possible if you are spreading malicious lies about me stealing the tuck shop money, but I’ve not got a settled opinion on what sort of framework is best for that.

  6. The chap who gave me the Herald yesterday told me that he’d once been a security guard at the Court of Session. His job training consisted of being given this instruction:

    “If you see a bloke in a red cloak you run out and stop the traffic.”

  7. All these superinjunctions seem to be about sex. Specifically, that which is had between individuals that are, by broad agreement, not supposed to have it with each other but with somebody else.

    Perhaps the problem is that socialism has deliberately so degraded Public Taste and morals that masses of people are orgasmically interested in who is (not supposed to be) having sex with whom?

    If this topic did not matter at all to normal people, and if all lives were a priori regarded as private, including “celebrities” and even foot-ballists, and if PROs did not always try to set up celebes and foot ballists as “role models” (whyever are they so anyway?) then all this need not have happened in the first place?

  8. The floodgates may have been opened once super injunctions were used to smother comments about who was having sex with whom. But I’ll bet any number of the things have been used to protect the rich and powerful from the contempt they deserve for robbing and enslaving the rest of us. Once we’ve had enough of the froth, I look forward to a close inspection of the dregs!

  9. I also seem to remember, looking back a bit, that in 1381 it was the heads of the lawyers that rolled first into the gutters of London. Would a libertarian society need as many lawyers as are being trained now?

  10. These ‘superinjunctions’ do seem to be a tool of the rich and powerful to help maintian their privileged position over the rest of us.

    They are an insult to the principle of equality before the law as well as being a higly dubious restriction on freedom of speech.

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  12. My own thoughts are in a facebook note, at http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=10150190265239389, wherein I wrote:

    Here are some thoughts on this whole super-injunction, free speech vs. privacy thing, now that I can say Ryan Giggs did it with that Imogen bint off Big Brother: What bewilders me is that various “defenders of privacy” ask questions like “well, is this or that story ‘in the public interest’,” the presumption being that a newspaper story should only be published once it has been demonstrated that doing so is “in the public interest.”

    But, what seems a better question to me is whether the adoption of a particular principle or policy best promotes the public interest, not whether each story does. So, for me, it is better to ask which is more in the public interest, Speech Policy A, or Speech Policy B.

    Under Speech Policy A, anybody can use their person and property, or that of consenting others, to publish whatever they like (maybe not including lible or slander, since this is not what the issue is about, though I would want to legalise those, too!) about whomever they choose, whether or not doing so is deemed by others to be “in the public interest.”

    Under Speech Policy B, nobody can use their person or property, or that of consenting others, to publish anything about anybody, unless they have first proved to a body of people, which body has assumed a monopoly on discerning whether a news story is “in the public interest,” that their news story is in the public interest.

    Somebody may suggest that this is a false dichotomy, that a middle ground is available, wherein, perhaps a person may be found guilty of publishing a story that is not “in the public interest,” but is considered innocent first, and so a complainant may sue to have the story suppressed or his name removed, etc, after the story has been published. The trouble with this scenario is that the story is already out there, in the public domain, privacy is already breached, before the complainant can take action, thus rendering that action useless.

    So, the only alternatives seem, to me, to be either Speech Policy A or Speech Policy B. And it seems blatantly obvious to me that Speech Policy A would best promote the public interest, even though it allows the publication of stories that in no way serve the public interest. A rule that says “you may never publish a story that does not serve the public interest” would damage the public interest

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