Tom Sutcliffe: It's fine to keep some things in the closet

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It was a good weekend for the morality of openness and candour. First of all the fearsomely masculine Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas revealed he was gay. Then Gerry Adams ... well, what exactly? ... "revealed", "acknowledged", "formally announced"? ... that his father, a prominent and admired Republican, had subjected some family members to emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Both of these stories neatly fit the template of our secular media confessional – offering a form of shriving that was seen to be good for the soul, not only of the confessor but of others in similar circumstances.

Neither, of course, were confessing to a sin of their own – except by implication the modern sin of keeping a family secret, which used to be a high moral virtue but has now become much more questionable. This was revelation as a ceremony of disinfection – ceasing to "live a lie" in the case of Thomas, and "going public ... to try and help other families who are in the same predicament" in the case of Adams. The rhetoric, of weights removed from shoulders, of taboos broken, of vital steps in the healing process, will have been familiar to anyone who has been sentient over the past decades of social change.

These are contemporary clichés of social duty. They represent the broad consensus – utterly different to that which would have prevailed 100 years ago – that out is better than in in these matters. It isn't just that homosexuality has ceased to be a scandal (except, perhaps, in the sweatier confines of a rugby scrum) or that abuse has become mentionable after decades of not even registering as credible. It is that openness about the self and, in particular, about things one finds problematic has become a positive virtue.

We are less inclined to accept (particularly of those in the public eye) that privacy might be a kind of decorum rather than a form of hypocrisy. Had Tiger Woods gone public a year ago about his "compulsive behaviour problems", I'm willing to bet public comment would have been a good deal more sympathetic, and he might even have earned some Brownie points for his commitment to the truth and to helping others seek professional help.

I do not underestimate the courage required to do what Thomas has just done, even if, as some have suggested, he may have been the last person to find out what everybody knew already. And I don't question Adams's suggestion that in talking about his father he is acting against a "culture of concealment" (even as I wonder what part a justifiable anger played in the revelation). But I did find myself thinking there might be gay rugby players and children of abusive fathers who believe such matters are their own business and nobody else's, not because they're dishonest, or prefer living a lie to living the truth, but because they want to live as inconspicuously as 99 per cent of people do.

The feeling that some things are best kept quiet (however much it raises our suspicions of furtive concealment) is surely one of the choices people should continue to have, unless their concealment aids abusers or bullies or the prejudiced. Heterosexuals, and people whose parents have done nothing worse than embarrass them at a wedding disco, don't have to tick the no-publicity box; they get their privacy for free.

Those less fortunate shouldn't have to feel it is a civic duty to give up theirs for the greater good, unless they actually want to. A closed door isn't always the outside of a closet. It can simply be a sign that someone doesn't want to be disturbed.

Lennon biopic keeps its art up its sleeve

It Is A slightly curious experience watching Sam Taylor-Wood's debut feature film Nowhere Boy, your viewing twisted out of shape by the knowledge that her apprenticeship for the film was served in contemporary art galleries rather than directing BBC soaps.

You sit waiting for frameable pictures to arrive, as if the art will be layered on top of the narrative, and you may initially feel it is almost self-consciously steering clear of the gnomic or ambiguous (John Lennon is shown cycling to school past a gatepost marked Strawberry Field). A couple of moments have the enigma of the video installation about them – a seaside donkey surreally wandering down a terraced street, a lovely inverted shot of the sea at Blackpool – but mostly it is sturdily straightforward biopic business.

And then the performances, by Aaron Johnson and Anne Marie-Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas, begin to bite and you drop the I-Spy obsession with catching self-consciously arty bits and just begin following the story, in particular the flint and steel relationship between Lennon and his Aunt Mimi. And then, right at the end you may (if you're like me) find yourself choking up completely when Lennon and Mimi are working out how to fill in his passport application form and you realise the art was there all along, going to some pains to make sure it didn't crowd out other stuff that mattered.

Online activists can be a force for good

It was an equivocal few days for internet activism. On the one hand, Jon Morter's campaign to deny the X Factor winner Joe McElderry the Christmas No 1 was a triumph. On the other, a much less publicised act of online insurgency proved something of a damp squib.

Operation Chokehold was a proposal, originally a joke but then eagerly taken up by "twitterati" as a genuine plan, to crash AT&T's US data network last Friday in protest at its perceived shortcomings. The idea was that, at a given time, everyone with a smartphone on an AT&T account would activate a data- hungry application and expose the fragility of an under-resourced network. Some AT&T users thought this was irresponsible vandalism, others believed it was the only way to hit back at what they felt was a defaulting supplier.

In the event, the sensible party seemed to win, with few glitches reported, although AT&T has not exactly enjoyed the publicity and may have to spend more upgrading its system than it planned to.

What was intriguing about both campaigns is that they relied on a spoiling strategy. Clearly this kind of demonstration, where you don't even have to put your shoes on to "reclaim the streets", is not going to go away. It will be interesting to see if ingenuity makes positive things happen with a mouse click as well.

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