Mr. President, is it infidelity if it’s just in print?

Many years ago I was at a large society wedding in London, nothing new, the ballroom filled to the brim with glamorous sari-clad Aunties, dripping in their nuptial jewels and a lone Sheikh seated on a stage next to a nervous groom. While we waited to hear whether the bride had said “yes,” the chattering classes that make up British Pakistani society carried on dissecting the evening so far. As the volume of their murmurings rose higher and higher, the Sheikh felt that he should inject a little decorum to ensure the guests were aware of the religious solemnity they were witnessing.

“Ladeeez and Gintelmeen,” he intoned, “I would ask you to all consider the importance of the marriage that is proceeding before your eyes, and to all the married couples here tonight, for them to please consider the state of their own marriages!” Now I was a teenager at the time and I will never forget the look of horror that swept across the faces of the congregation – no one wants to think about the state of their marriage...EVER! And certainly not at a wedding.

However, we are all very interested in the state of everyone else’s marriage, no? Whether it is your neighbor, or your cousin’s best friend’s sister we love to hear about OPM – in business this means Other People’s Money but in this case it means Other People’s Marriages. When it comes to OPM then the more famous the protagonists the higher the level of interest until it borders on nuptial voyeurism as celebrated and then autopsied in the pages of Hello! and OK!

Breathless disclosures

Last month it was France’s President and First Lady who separated after allegations of Francois Hollande’s infidelity, last week there were breathless disclosures about Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Hurley and this week it was the turn of the Obamas and Beyonce and Jay Z. The Obama story followed on from another article alleging that Michelle Obama was planning to divorce her husband at the end of his Presidency.

Whether it is your neighbor, or your cousin’s best friend’s sister we love to hear about OPM – in business this means Other People’s Money but in this case it means Other People’s Marriages

Ahlya Fateh

Apart from Hollande; both the subsequent allegations have been strongly refuted by all parties involved. Furthermore, the sources of both the Clinton and the Obama stories have backtracked to say that they were either misquoted or that they were being treated for a substance abuse problem (handy) and couldn’t be trusted to be a reliable source. As I say these are all unsubstantiated stories, basically rumors with a ghost writer but thanks to our friend Mr. Internet, they are now available for us to chew over and speculate on during our morning coffee. Gossip has become fact and rumor is reality.

As we get more and more reliant on social media for our news, how difficult will it be to maintain journalistic integrity (remember that concept?) for all of us. Do you trust a Wikipedia page to be factually correct? In all my years as an editor, the chief sub editor made me very aware how important fact checking was – it is the difference between a good piece and a lawsuit. When challenging any piece, if the answer was “I found it online,” the copy would come flying back to the poor individual who had written it with a dressing down.

Libel lawyers

I personally spent hours on the phone with libel lawyers to ensure that everything that was printed was passed by them. With a magazine you have a month to edit but with an internet news page you can go to print in seconds and it can be read by the whole world. So how do Mr and Mrs Jay Z feel about the media speculating on their relationship with the Obamas? No matter how famous one gets I can’t believe it won’t be a little uncomfortable the next time they all get together for dinner in the White House.

That’s the problem with rumors, they don’t disappear into the ether, but linger like a forgotten fragrance in our memories, only to spring into relief when we least expect it. Now if only I could get a rumor going about me and George Clooney, that would make it a Valentine’s Day to remember!

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Ahlya Fateh knows all about fashion and publishing. As the former managing editor of Tatler magazine and the managing director of fashion brand, Tata Naka, she has combined a strong creative vision with an understanding of strategy and management. Ahlya lives in London and is a mother of two.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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