Here's looking at you, Di

We are all turning into peeping Toms now, says Suzanne Moore
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Let's get back to basics. Do we want to see pictures of famous people having sex? Do we want to see them up close and personal? Do we want their privacy invaded solely to fuel our fantasy lives? If we are honest the answer is yes. We may be appalled at the pictures of Diana Princess of Wales in the "Di Spy Video Scandal" but part of us can't help feeling that what is wrong with these latest pictures shown on TV and in the newspapers is not that we can see them in the first place but that we can't see enough. The quality is low, Diana takes fewer clothes off than she does on a beach; the interest lies only in what we can read into the relationship with James Hewitt which she has already confessed to.

The Sun may pretend that the publication of these pictures is throwing some light on a constitutional crisis, and that it is doing Di a favour by vindicating her claim that she was being spied on. Such an invasion of privacy is miraculously justified because it proves that she was right all along to complain about said invasion of privacy. This is not so much a vicious circle but a vicious spiral into which we are all descending.

So where does the tape come from? The Sun comes on all investigative and out of the shadows steps a nasty network of MI5 goons, bodyguards, sergeants, American lawyers and upright old Charlie himself.

That old line - just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they are not out to get you - should be printed on the front of Diana's sweatshirt. Some of the 20 key questions that The Sun wants answered include "Was she captured during sex play with other men?" and "Where are the films hidden?" These are clearly matters of national importance because if such films exist it is crucial that someone, somewhere publishes them so that we can be once more outraged that they have. I wonder though, if invasion of privacy is the right phrase for Fergiegate, Squidgygate, Camillagate, as it is now assumed that for these people there is no such thing as privacy. They can be snapped, bugged, recorded at any time. What does all this hi-tech snooping tell us? That these people who appear to be profligate, promiscuous, stupid and human are indeed these things because we now have the technology to prove it.

The thrill of such visual information is that we can sympathise with Diana while satisfying every voyeuristic impulse in sight. This is a visual form of Di's disease, bulimia, if ever there was one, allowing us to have our cake, eat it, be disgusted at it, throw it up and then have some more. Nausea mixed with titillation - what a rush, no wonder we soon find our behaviour becomes compulsive.

In such a visually overloaded culture, we are saturated with imagery. Seeing is not only believing it is the only belief we hold dear. Nothing can be hidden, or secret, everything must be shown, the urge to see never repressed. The flimsiest of excuses are given to poke our noses and our lenses everywhere. Someone else will do the dirty for us. As The Sun says in its tricksy editorial: "But the Princess can draw one consolation from this nasty mess. At least she's well shot of the Windsors and the dirty snoopers." One might point out that she is not well shot of the dirty snoopers but shot by one of them, who has then enabled the rest of us to join in the snooping. And what do we see in the latest pictures of the most photographed woman in the world? Disappointingly we see a kind of intimacy that does not photograph so well. Love rather than sex is always a bit of a let down .

Diana's fear that she was the target of a professional surveillance operation is misplaced. She is the target of a much more amateur surveillance operation in which we are all punters. She is being stalked not by deluded individuals but by a public that feels it has a right to be on pseudo-intimate terms with her every move. In the great "Di Spy Video Scandal" the only scandal is that although we might feel that we have seen it all before, that we have seen enough already, we still want to see more. A glimpse of her undressing, however blurrily, may be a sight to behold, a sight that sells newspapers, but why kid ourselves it offers us any other insight whatsoever. Except one: while it used to be an offence to be a peeping Tom it is now a respected profession that we have all been recruited into. If you think otherwise then look away, cover your eyes, draw the curtains, pull the shutters down and pray that no one is watching you living your sheltered life.

Comments