Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A victory for irony

In The Guardian on Saturday, Duncan Campbell reported on a libel case victory against Elton John that, though concerning a journalist, could have important implications for all writers.
In a groundbreaking libel decision, the judge said that "irony" and "teasing" do not amount to defamation. The ruling offers protection to writers of satirical articles clearly not meant to be taken seriously and was welcomed last night by media lawyers and journalists.
Marina Hyde, the journalist whose article had been the subject of the case, also gave her response.
We British have a rich tradition of irony and satire but there is very little case law protecting what may well turn out to be one of the few comforts left to us in these darkening times.

Clearly, there is something absurd about a silly little piece of fluff about Elton John's annual White Tie and Tiara ball being used to enshrine such important principles. But as the Guardian's head of legal informed me yesterday, "we made good law," and it certainly felt good to defend our timeworn right to be satirical, our right to be a tiny bit ironic about a diamond-encrusted celebrity Aids fundraiser.

Like so many sweet moments, however, it was tinged with agony. That the victory came at the expense of Elton John - who is widely recognised as one of the loveliest guys in showbusiness - was tough to take. But I got on with my day as best I could.

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