Photo: AP Image
When motorsports president Max Mosley was caught in a sadomasochistic orgy by a British tabloid, we assumed it was his end. Far from it. Riding high on a court victory he’s pushing reforms in Europe that will restrict press freedoms.The Max Mosley saga brims with contradictions, deep moral questions, and disturbing realities.
The son of England’s most famous Nazi, Sir Oswald Mosley, Max had to endure a past marked by the fact his parents were married at Joseph Goebbels’ house.
Considering this upbringing, Mosley did alright. He left the world of his dad’s politics and attempted a life in Britain’s Conservative party, but quickly abandoned aspirations for public office after realising carrying his father’s name would make his chances at being elected small.
In the insular world of motor racing, strangely enough, he found a bit of peace.
All the competitors in that class of racing looking at the list and they came to my name and I heard somebody say, ‘Mosley, Max Mosley, he must be some relation of Alf Mosley, the coachbuilder.’ And I thought to myself, ‘I’ve found a world where they don’t know about Oswald Mosley.’ And it has always been a bit like that in motor racing: nobody gives a darn.”
He had some success as a racer in small events around England and eventually worked his way up to Formula Two, but eventually dropped out after a string of accidents and moved into car construction, eventually making his way up the ladder in Formula One to become president of its various governing bodies.
While he was distancing himself from his past he was carrying a secret from his friends and family: his love of occasionally sadomasochistic group sex. Mosley recently said in an interview he’d been indulging in these activities for almost 45 years.
Someone tipped off British tabloid News Of The World, who put into motion an investigation that captured video of Mosley and five prostitutes in a five-hour sex romp that included submission, domination, whipping, and individuals who appear to be dressed as prisoners.
It was alleged at the time that this was a “Nazi themed” party, a nod in the direction of Mosley’s past. This was based on the costumes and on the start of the orgy, which apparently had Mosley’s body inspected for lice.
The racing world was shocked and most people expected Mosley to shrink into a shamed obscurity. Quite the opposite; the former lawyer sprung into action and sued NOTW and sent cease-and-desist letters to every publication that touched the story (including Jalopnik). He successfully fought to keep his job and won $120,000 in damages against the tabloid.
Interestingly, Mosley did not sue for libel. He sued for invasion of privacy, arguing his personal life was no one’s business and that NOTW had no proof (other than the uniforms and Mosley’s weird German accent) that the orgy was Nazi-related.
NOTW Editor Colin Myler said of the decision “It is not for the rich and the famous, the powerful and the influential, to dictate the news agenda, just because they have the money and the means to gag a free press.”
Recently, Mosley asked the European Court of Human Rights to force newspapers to warn individuals they’re the target of press stories up to three days before a story appears.
Mosley claims such rules would allow people to challenge the veracity of a statement before it’s published. He points out that people accused of these things, even if the accusations are false, sometimes endure financial ruin and even suicide.
Whether Nazi-themed or not, the revelation of Mosley’s affairs had a negative effect on his family life. His 39-year-old son died shortly after the incident from a heroin overdose after complaining of the difficulty of living with the Mosley name.
But allowing for prior restraint of the media would mean anyone could challenge any story, tie it up in the courts and delay it from being published. There are plenty of legal protections, as Mosley knows, for those who have false stories run about them.
To quote journalism professor Roy Greenslade from a debate with Mosley:
This immediately turns press freedom on its head. We will have our papers edited by judges, not editors. It would also cripple newspapers, especially local papers, having to go to court week after week.
You are withholding from editors the rights to make those decisions, and giving that to judges, at a cost.
The case is currently being fast tracked in the European Court, over the protests of numerous press organisations.
As awful as a ruling in favour of Mosley would be, how do you argue with the son of an infamous fascist trying to get the European Court of Human Rights to limit press freedom after being outed as a lover of submissive group sex?
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