Law in Contemporary Society
Morality, Media, and Max Mosley

On March 30th, the British tabloid newspaper News of the World reported that Max Mosley, president of the FIA, the governing body for Formula One racing, engaged in an orgy with five prostitutes that involved Nazi role-playing. Several pictures were offered up as proof. This article led many members of the auto-racing community to call for Mosley’s resignation. Mosley admitted that he had hired the prostitutes but denied the unsupported allegations that he had participated in Nazi role-playing. Despite his denials, the pressure directed against Mosley increases with every passing day.

I find the entire situation deplorable, but not for the reasons offered up by the auto-racing community. What I find most disturbing is the manner in which this incident has come to affect his career. Mosley broke no law and did not shirk his duties as president. Yet, it is more likely than not that he will be forced to resign. This resignation will come not as a result of incompetency or any job-related failing. Rather, it will come as the result of private actions that have no bearing on his ability to fulfill the requirements of his position. Mosley’s performance as president of the FIA has been nothing short of stellar since his election in 1993. The safety initiatives he implemented led the French government to make him a Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur. In 2004 Mosley offered to resign his position as president but the FIA senate asked him to stay on due to his excellent performance.

The public has no grounds to ask for his removal. His ability is the only basis on which he should be subjected to scrutiny in his professional capacity. The media and public criticize him in his role as president of the FIA for actions taken while in the role of a private citizen conducting legal activities. They claim that his actions have tarnished the reputation of the FIA. They imply that one man’s personal character has the ability to drag the entire reputation of the FIA into the gutter. I’d like to believe that one man’s personal tastes and sexual proclivities could never come to embody the moral and professional character of an entire organization. Sadly, this is not the case. Mosley has been forced to endure fierce criticism by a public that seems to conflate perceived personal morality with professional competency and the individual character of one man with the moral and professional reputation of an entire organization. This entire situation points to a greater problem in the relationship between global media and the public.

The public believes almost everything that the media offers it. By public I refer to the average reader of newspapers, magazines, and tabloids as well as the average radio listener and news watcher. In most cases this not a problem. Journalists and news reporters seem to provide the unadulterated truth for the most part.

  • This is a sentence of such staggering naivete that one hardly knows what to make of it.

It is not a problem when media resources are employed to advance political aims or are used to embellish the facts of a story in order to make a more commercially viable product. In many nations, free speech laws enable one to write and say most anything they desire. The problem arises when the public fails to recognize(or ignores) the fact that the media often relates facts in a manner intended to channel one’s thoughts/emotions down a certain path or to appeal to one’s desire for a spectacle. In Mosley’s case in particular, it disturbs me that an article published in a newspaper widely recognized as being designed to attract readers with sensational headline stories can have such an effect. I’d like to think that the majority of people take into consideration the commercial strategies and purposes of tabloid publishers when reading an article from the News of the World. I’d like to think that, recognizing these aims, they take each story with a grain of salt and avoid coming to conclusions that would precipitate hasty action. This does not seem to be the case. Mosley’s story led to immediate action on the part of the public. People from all over the auto racing community called for Mosley’s resignation, based on the unsubstantiated claims that Mosley was involved in Nazi role-playing. Before Moseley had a chance to defend himself he was chastised by BMW and Toyota. On the same day, he was barred from attending a F1 race. None of the organizations bothered to contact Mosley about the truth of the allegations. Their actions were a response to the public outrage displayed after the printing of the original article.

The continuing success and influence of tabloid media seems to point to the persistence of mankind’s desire for spectacle. The public revels in the sex lives of celebrities and politicians. I myself am not immune to the latest gossip regarding Brangelina or some politician’s private sex life. I don’t know why people are attracted to these tabloids or why they allow them to influence their opinions to the extent that they would act so radically upon them. In Max’s case, maybe critics gained a sense of moral superiority in witnessing/enabling the fall of an important public figure. Maybe it was, as Max suggests, a conspiracy devised by his opponents to get him out of office. Overall, the blatant injustice of the situation and the swiftness with which a mere tabloid article roused the masses into a moral frenzy potent enough for global corporations like BMW to speak out against a respected leader in the racing industry caused me examine the manner in which the media influences my opinions and actions. I decided that while I can’t know for sure to what extent my opinions on politics, people, law, and current events are being controlled by biased sources or partial truths, I can approach each story I hear with a healthy skepticism and attempt to combat stories aimed to procure an emotional response by forcing myself to rationally analyze the facts available.

-- JonathanBoustani - 07 Apr 2008

  • What use would a society without an idiotic fixation on spectacle and wasteful glamor have for formula one car racing? If Mr Mosley had been under contract with a morals clause, which is not an unusual provision for people who represent a brand, his dismissal would have been perfectly swift and there would be no basis whatever for outrage on your part: he made trouble for the brand and there he goes. Whether such a provision should be implied, I agree, is a legitimate issue of legal policy, but it is not obvious to me why your position is right, and instead of providing an analytic explanation you offered only rhetoric. You didn't mention the obvious reason why Mr Mosley's association with the symbology of facism would be especially fatal to him in any representative capacity, but no one who has a distaste for the fascist regimes could possibly be unaware of Mr Mosley's ancestry. This does not, of course, make him guilty of anything, but it does give perfectly legitimate reason for anyone associating their brand with him to drop him like a hot potato at the first sign of a swastika or a pair of lightning bolts.

  • You have, apparently, some personal sympathy for Mr Mosley, in addition to a perfectly laudable absence of concern with what people do with the whores they hire, which no doubt does you credit in a sophisticated circle, but which is not necessarily everybody's view of the issue, and is not exactly a sound basis on which to argue unless you know for sure that your premises happen to be accepted. It had never occurred to me personally to inquire whatever had happened to Oswald's son Max, and as I do not follow your ponies he had not been thrust on my attention. But the discovery that he had done good work recognized by the French government in saving the necks of chaps who used to lose them in crashes on the Riviera didn't much move me, while the spectacle of his supposed sexual neuroses was diverting in a schadenfreudian sort of way. We can therefore take me as a reasonable example of the sort of person about whom the companies that pay for this circus are concerned: I see the brand on my only recent acquaintance with it being tarnished by the ludicrous satyrizing of the absurd son of an ineffable lout. They do not wish me or those similarly situated to think of them in that bony light, so they tell Swidforth the Magnificent or whatever he considers himself to go take a hike, and they try to turn the page to the premier of the Speed Racer movie or whatever the next piece of bilge is they're going to foist on humanity. Have you no dawning sense that its "plague on all your houses" time?



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r3 - 22 Jan 2009 - 01:23:29 - IanSullivan
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