Diatribe: Justin Bieber Got A Ticket And Nobody Died.
On Saturday, August 30, 1997, I traveled with friends to Knoxville, Tennessee to watch a University of Tennessee Football game at Neyland Stadium. It was a great game and UT’s star quarterback, Peyton Manning, was all that anyone could talk about. It was a really hot day and, by the time the game ended we were all exhausted. One of the gang lived in an apartment nearby so we decided to relax there until traffic thinned out. That’s when I learned that Princess Diana of Wales had died in a horrible car accident while being chased by photographers. Her death instigated a string of photography-related legislation the world over.
Despite the resulting onslaught of laws intended to differentiate between legitimate news gathering and invasions of privacy, fifteen years later nothing has really changed.
Recently, pop star Justin Bieber was involved in a high-speed chase that resulting in a citation for reckless driving. While driving his highly recognizable sports car on a Los Angeles freeway, several paparazzi followed the singer who was cited for speeding when he tried to get away from them. Even after being stopped, as many as five cars continued to follow him, presumably, chasing an opportunity to snap a potentially valuable photograph of the young star. He then chose to call 911 to report the incident and ask for assistance.
“I was driving fast so that I could try to get away from them and I got pulled over myself. When I explained to the police officers, they were being, like, not nice about it. They were just like, ‘You waive your rights to privacy when you’re a celebrity.’ But that makes absolutely no sense when they’re the ones being dangerous.” – Justin Bieber
Many argue that, by becoming a “celebrity” people give up a part of their right to privacy in exchange for notoriety and they should expect to be pursued by photographers. They insist it “comes with the territory”. Paparazzi photographers, just like they were fifteen years ago, are often dangerously aggressive and competitive. Perhaps they were chasing him with the hope that there would be an accident because those pictures would be worth a fortune in the celebrity-driven magazine industry. Perhaps he should have simply pulled over and let them, safely, take pictures of him in his fancy car.
Receiving that citation may have saved his life and, possibly, the lives of others. Reckless driving is dangerous and illegal whether you’re being pursued or doing the chasing … whether you’re a celebrity or not. Photographers found breaking traffic laws or interfering with the operation of a celebrity’s car can be fined up to $5,000 or sentenced to a year in jail. Unfortunately, many appear to believe this is a small price to pay for a big payday.
Bieber has filed a harassment complaint against one of the paparazzi who chased him but it is unlikely that anything will come of it. Does the threat of harassment “come with the territory”? Have we learned nothing since August of 1997?
UPDATE 07/26/12 – Paparazzo Charged With Crime In Justin Bieber Chase.
UPDATE 11/14/12 - Charges Against Photographer Dropped.
UPDATE 01/02/13 – Paparazzo Killed While Attempting To Photograph Bieber.
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