In 2003, as part of a project to document coastal erosion in California, the following photo was posted on the californiacoastline.org website. It is a picture of a beach, some cliffs, lots of trees, and a rather nice house complete with swimming pool, that turns out to be the home of one Barbara Streisand.
For those not in the know, Barbara Streisand, is, in the words of her lawyer, a ‘renowned singer, actress, movie director, composer, and producer’.
Now, it turns out that Barbara Streisand values her privacy. To be specific, she puts a value of at least $10,000,000 on it. When the claim was filed, six people had downloaded the image. However, when Barbara Streisand issues a claim in the LA courts (in her own name) confirming that she lives in the nice house with the swimming pool, court reporters start twitching their notebooks. And so, it came to pass that once the lawsuit was publicised, everyone wants to know what Barbara Streisand’s house looks like. Nearly half a million in the first month.
The Streisand Effect, as it has been dubbed, is an example of unintended consequences. By planning to do one thing (suppress an image), you do the exact opposite.
The addendum to the story is that Barbara Streisand had a resurgence in popularity, culminating in the nearly 100-million downloaded song Barbara Streisand by the popular beat combo Duck Sauce.
Maybe this was, after all, a masterplan to take advantage of the unintended consequences of unintended consequences.
Or maybe not.