Jeremy Paxman spent a whole career interrogating and humiliating politicians over mistakes they made and very definitely over supposed transgressions in their private lives (eh). The BBC – that’s us, in other words – paid him a prince’s ransom for it. The TV programmes he worked on reported in detail on the phone-hacking scandal and, time and again, on incidents where the police or the intelligence services overstepped their authority. There’s a decent chance he was personally targeted by one or other of the tabloids at some point in his career – he was a celebrity in London and therefore by definition a target. He told the Leveson inquiry that Piers Morgan personally told him how to hack voicemail accounts.
Yet, here he is denying that anyone needs privacy.
“Personally I am prejudiced on this question on security and privacy, what is it you are all doing that you are so concerned about? Do you think anyone is really interested in your sex lives? They are not! I can’t understand this.”
This is pukey enough. Morgan wanted to intercept Sven-Goran Eriksson’s phone calls, illegally, precisely in order to spy on his sex life. And it’s not as if he, Paxman, hasn’t had plenty to hide himself (one, two). But it gets worse. Paxman’s talk at InfoSec Europe was titled Governments, Businesses & Other Scoundrels: Why Trust Anyone?, a title that projects the I’m-tough-and-cynical-a-proper-grownup act we paid him so much for. But here’s what he had to say:
“I am prepared to trust the security forces. I think they by and large do a brilliant job. And I think they are kept under reasonable supervision. And I think when people who know about these things tell us, suppliers of communication mechanisms ought to be more responsible, I am rather inclined to take their side.”
Trust no-one, then, except spies. Question the powerful, unless they actually are. That’s some cask-strength establishment cynicism right there. You might consider voting against this today.