Bottom-feeders do their sums and rise to the top(less)

SO, WHICH aspect of the royal nipples scandal is the most eye-rolling? That depends, it seems, on which part of the press is pontificating.

The lefties point out the naivety of an heir to the throne who has not yet twigged to the potential of the telephoto lens – after Fergie’s topless toe-sucking pics? – and wonder also about the possibility of confected outrage.

The Observer’s Catherine Bennett filleted the royal response, saying the reports of the BBC’s Peter Hunt developed ”in the manner of a grief counsellor illustrating the seven stages of bereavement”.

She wrote: ”At first, he said, the couple were ‘annoyed’. Also ‘saddened’ and ‘disappointed’. But they were also ‘philosophical’. Then, just when you might have expected them to enter ‘acceptance’ followed with luck by ‘hope’, the labile pair became ‘hugely saddened’, then ‘furious, upset’ over this ‘grotesque’ event, passing through ‘disbelief’ to become ‘angry’ and next ‘incandescent’ to the point of consulting lawyers. By teatime on Friday, legal proceedings had been launched and for William there had to be real concerns about spontaneous combustion.”

All a bit much from a pair who needed to understand that they were ”contracted national pets”.

But the part-owner of an Irish tabloid is not nearly so sanguine. A furious Richard Desmond has promised to shut down the Irish Daily Star for publishing 13 of the paparazzi shots of a topless Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing while holidaying in France.

Mr Desmond’s company, Northern and Shell, co-owns the Star and insiders say he has told lawyers to start the necessary legal action to close the tabloid. He said: ”The decision to publish  has no justification whatsoever and Northern and Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”

The paper’s website has been taken down.

St James Palace has said the publication of the pictures by the French magazine Closer was ”totally unjustifiable”: ”There can be no motivation for this action other than greed.”

Well, yes. Closer, the French magazine that published the pictures originally, has long been a bottom-feeder, as has its Italian stablemate Chi, which has also run with the topless pictures and was previously best known for having published photographs of Princess Diana immediately after her fatal car crash. Both magazines are part of publishing group Mondadori, which is controlled by sleazy former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

France has supposedly strict privacy laws but the fines are not high – a maximum of €45,000 ($A56,000). The royals are also suing in the French courts but that might not net them more than €100,000.

So Closer and its colleagues just do the sums. Potential millions in earnings from resale of naughty pix, versus up to €150,000 in slaps on the wrist? No contest. Publish and be damned.

The damnations are coming fast and furious; it is, after all, the only way the British press can get its hooks into a story that must be making its own bottom-feeders salivate. Renaud Revel, media commentator with L’Express magazine, has pointed out that it is hypocritical of British media outlets to denounce the pictures: ”The world’s gone upside down. English paparazzi are totally lawless.”

The Sunday Mirror reports that William wants someone jailed over the photos, and French law does allow for a criminal sentence over breach of privacy. But that won’t stop the photos going viral.

In the absence of international privacy legislation, the internet remains a wild and lawless realm, and royal breasts are safe only in captivity.

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