Reaction to Ross Hussey story sad indictment of society titillated by acts of single, consenting adults
'What Hussey does in his own time with other consenting adults is his business'
A good story is one that has the vital ingredients of engaging the public, attracting criticism or support, and that sells papers.
Step forward yesterday's Sunday newspapers, several of which ran a story on Ross Hussey MLA engaging in online sexual discussion and arranging a hotel rendezvous.
The internet exploded with both jokes and outrage, and notable support for the former RUC reservist from across the political divide.
There is no doubt the paper sold, as the curtain twitchers among us pored over adjectives like "sleaze" and "brazen", and salivated over the fine details.
Well, newsflash: politicians have sex too, you know.
What we discovered yesterday is not that an MLA has a predilection for meeting others through online sites for sex, but that they are not infallible from either taking risks or making stupid decisions.
Hussey is an adult and is entitled to do with his own body what he likes. Politicians are entitled to live their private lives in the way they choose, providing they don't try to lecture others in how to live theirs.
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There is no evidence that Ross Hussey has ever done this. And so, the story stuck in many people's throats before leaving a very bad taste.
Of course, none of the outraged brigade actually admitted to buying the papers.
We may not be a nation of prudes, but there is an unbounding hypocrisy in some who found a front page of one paper distasteful, and who then bought it to read the details in the four inside pages devoted to the story with their elevenses. That doesn't mean they shouldn't - the Sunday tabloids are successful newspapers for a reason.
Gossip titillates us, we love salaciousness, and sex sells. That's why they print the stories they do - there is clearly a market for it.
The story, even if distasteful, was a scoop - no question. Most tabloid editors would kill for one of a similar nature. Public figures taking naked pictures of themselves is a story, whether you agree with it or not.
Add a politician to the mix, and, well, you've a splash-and-a-half. A more incredible aspect is that Ross Hussey is an experienced politician, and there is something inherently frightening that he threw caution to the wind and sent online pictures of himself knowing the hazards of being caught.
Both of the main Sunday newspapers ran the detail on their front page, and clearly felt that it would attract attention.
Whether it was in the public interest or not is another matter entirely - a matter for those papers to justify.
They clearly felt that they had met the threshold required. The tide of social media opinion is against them.
Meeting public interest on a story, or indeed selling papers, should not be the only considerations when deciding to go to Press. This quote from Hussey, when he knew the story was to break, is oozing with vulnerability: "I thought my world was crashing around me… I was very upset."
A 57-year-old man was ashamed of his actions yesterday and was forced to admit this in a very public manner. Despite his assertion that he "deserved all he got", public shaming does nothing for anyone, and the papers attracted criticism as a result.
Privacy should mean privacy, no matter how well you are known.
Ross is incredibly likeable, and a single man. Both factors weighed in the abundance of goodwill sent his way in the aftermath.
People, including myself, felt terribly sorry for him. He apologised, though it's arguable that he shouldn't have felt the need to.
What Hussey does in his own time with other consenting adults is his business - and he should be allowed to move on and get on with the job of serving his constituents without being crucified with mortification as a result. But, we might as well admit it.
Some of us have an unhealthy interest in what goes on underneath other people's sheets. That is not the fault of the journalists, or the papers, but it is a grimy detail of our society that we pay more attention to stories of this nature at times than those of health, education or economy, which really do affect us.
Ross Hussey is not the one hiding anything. We are.