What's the best way to keep a secret? Tell the world the details on your website
Gossip is really only interesting if it looks as though you're trying to hide something
Sunday 20 July 2008
Finally, confirmation of what bloggers have always feared: that the best way to keep something completely secret is to write about it on the internet.
This sad fact has been exposed by Gary Dean, a millionaire from Lancashire who has resorted to shock tactics to try to keep his private life quiet. Mr Dean has been the subject of gossip from Preston to Blackpool, he says. Chinese whispers are flying up and down the Fylde coast. People are calling him a greedy, tight and ruthless bastard. It's not surprising that he wants them to stop banging on about it.
So Mr Dean, sick of being talked about, has published the full story on the internet. "I have created this stand-alone website for one reason and one reason alone," he writes at dean divorce.com. "So that the TRUTH about my divorce settlement is available to anyone who wants to know about it."
He has agreed to pay his ex-wife a lump sum of £3,719,000, he reveals. Plus £15,000 per child per annum. Plus all school fees, jewellery, diamonds, watches, a Mercedes E500, an Audi Convertible 3.0, "cherished number plates", yeah, right, whatever.
He may be several million quid out of pocket, but Gary Dean has gained a rare piece of wisdom: if it isn't a secret, people don't really want to know. If only he could have shared this knowledge with Max Mosley, who has been trying to protect his privacy by going on relentlessly about how private it is for what seems like weeks. The more he demands that nobody should talk about his £75,000-a-year spanking habit, ooh look, the more we seem to be talking about it.
As a reformed gossip columnist, I have studied the paradox of the closely guarded secret: the value of a fact is in inverse proportion to the number of press releases a person sends about it. The exception is when someone sends out information that is "embargoed", which means that they are pretending it is secret to make it sound exciting. It only means that you must wait until tomorrow to ignore it.
I once approached Michael Portillo at the opening of the new Saatchi Gallery, as he was contemplating a photo of Tracey Emin shovelling money into her knickers. His thoughts must have been a very big secret, because when I asked how he was enjoying the exhibition he tutted, growled, rolled his eyes and stomped away. Had he treated me to his views on the influence of YBAs on the contemporary art scene, I would have committed none of his response to print. Instead, his furtive silence makes it all the more amusing for me to repeat this anecdote ad nauseam.
It is wiser to follow Gary Dean than Michael Portillo if you have a secret worth keeping. Unclean thoughts about a contemporary artist? Embarrassing divorce? Put it in a blog. Preface it with "in my humble opinion" and, trust me, nobody will want to know. Samuel Johnson said: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." This could be rewritten for the internet age. No man but a blogger ever wrote about his private life online. I'm going to start. The first instalment on my website is all about the dream I had last night.
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