French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. [Photo by Jean-Paul Pelissier/AFP/Guardian.com]
After a week-long media feeding frenzy reiterating rumors that CARLA Bruni and Nicholas Sarkozy are splitting up, Times Online parses every jot of evidence pointing blame at Twitter – and a deeply held French cultural tradition respecting the peccadilloes of power:
In the grand old days of Versailles, it would take weeks for gossip to filter through the ramparts to the hungry masses outside. Today the internet is being used like a battering ram against the high palace walls.
In the age of Twitter, rumours flash around the world in a second and can end up in newspapers, regardless of whether they are true. It has prompted debate among lawyers about whether victims can pursue Twitterers, and if simply relaying a defamatory tweet should also be punishable under the law.
… The silence of the other newspapers was not surprising. “It’s a cultural thing,” said Gilles Delafon, a political commentator. “We inherited it from the monarchy. The kings were always having affairs, and their mistresses participated in political life. But people did not comment on it because of deference to the monarchy. It’s still a lot like that today.”
Because the public cannot trust newspapers to tell them what is going on, they have turned to the internet to bring down the ramparts. To an extent, it has worked.
Stories that previously might never have appeared in the press, out of reverence for power, are now emerging into the mainstream after turning up first on the internet, as happened when Cécilia failed to turn up to vote for her husband.
Yet there still has to be some political dimension to stories about the private sphere, said Delafon, for a French editor to go into print. “If Sarkozy is seen crying, then it is a matter of legitimate interest, because if he is upset it could affect his performance in office,” he said. “If Carla is having an affair, though, the response is still: so what?” Read more.