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Saturday, February 02, 2008 

The legal kind of stalking.

If you thought that the paparazzi and the media that employs/supports them reached their collective nadir on the 31st of August 1997, then the latest obsession with and stalking of Britney Spears must be reaching or even surpassing that level of fixation and disgrace.

According to one of the pack that has changed sides in disgust at the current situation, there have been up to 20 or 30 cars with photographers chasing her at times across Los Angeles, with the result that when she was the equivalent of sectioned on Thursday the scrum trailing the police escort stretched longer than a football field. This was despite the police trying every tactic to throw the paparazzi off the scent, setting up roadblocks, guarding the house where she was staying from a possible invasion, and blacking out the windows of the ambulance, all at a staggering cost of an estimated £12,000. It's impossible not to be reminded of the echoes of the incident alluded to above, especially given some of the evidence given at the inquest still on-going.

The debate about celebrity, and how much those who become famous are both selling themselves and also putting the media up to some of what they do can be as complicated as the most in-depth philosophical discussion. You only have to walk into any newsagent, look at the increasingly packed shelf of magazines dedicated to the generally talentless and worthless clique to know that most of the guff included in them is with the implicit consent of the person being talked about or interviewed. It's also true that they often make chilling demands to the interviewer about what can and cannot be discussed, some even only giving their OK for the article to be run once its been given the once over by their PR consultant or themselves. Even the likes of Richard and Judy have been accused of this in the past. When Jordan's disabled son was recently mocked by Heat magazine in a sticker give-away, it was hard to feel too much sympathy when she has so assiduously courted her fame, previously referred to her other children as the "normal ones" and is so completely ghastly in almost every way. It's an argument that tabloids themselves often rely upon, but if you can give it and experience the hype, you should expect to be able to take it and weather a backlash if it comes.

We must surely however have passed that stage now in much of the behaviour exhibited by the media and paparazzi in gathering the photographs that fill the comics of a morning and the aforementioned magazines. It's blindingly obvious that some stars cannot now go anywhere without having a camera thrust into their face, whether it be by a member of the public armed with a phone or an actual person employed to do just that. While it can be questioned why some of these people actually do go outside at all when they know what's going to happen if they do, it can't be denied that the constant following and harassment which goes hand in hand with dealing with photographers is now exacerbating the apparent mental breakdowns some in the public eye are experiencing. Amy Winehouse was pictured in such apparent distress, half-naked in the street in the early morning not so long ago, but it wasn't questioned just what those who captured those moments had done in order to frame them, or indeed, what they were doing following her around in the middle of the night in the first place.

The celebrity culture has accelerated and expanded at such an extent even since the death of Diana that it now more than ever resembles a real life, pornographic, soap-opera. Will Britney get the "help" she needs? Will she get her children back? We don't know, but you can give your own unwanted opinion in our forum, and in the meantime, here's some photographs of her not wearing a bra and going about without knickers, which we only know about because the paparazzi now shoot directly at the crotch of all female celebrities getting in and out of vehicles because they get such huge amounts of money for capturing them commando. You have to keep the one-handed hordes online happy, after all. Where once this garbage would have been left in the gutter press, increasingly the broadsheets are featuring the latest updates alongside the news that one of Osama bin Laden's has been killed, along with piecemeal debate about whether they should be covering it or tut-tutting about the whole escapade. It's little wonder that the charge often directed against the West about its decadence is one of the few of the jihadists' claims that rings anywhere near true.

It does however remain the tabloids that cover ever more of this emotional trash. Despite Rebekah Wade promising the her paper would be more sensitive about mental ill-health after it splashed "BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP" on an early edition some years back, yesterday's Scum, featuring a suitably deranged picture of Britney headlined it "Britney's 60 crazy hours", having already headlined a piece where she sang at a bar "LOONEY TUNES", while it asked readers on MyScum whether "psychotic" Britney was beyond help. The Mail asked Oliver James and others, who luckily had a book to plug, to hand out advice, which amounted to "Please do not despair... with the right therapy, I am sure your life will come together again." He was hardly going to tell her to do a Budd Dwyer, was he? Perhaps more spiteful and vile has been the way they've reported the split between Cheryl and Ashley Cole (I'm not going to bother providing links to this crap). Having printed the allegations that he had an affair (followed up by the usual scavengers all claiming that they too had a piece or he wanted to), the Sun has spent the past week pretending to sympathise with her, at the same time as reporting that she supposedly hasn't eaten for a week. Then there's today's splash about Lily Allen splitting from her boyfriend. Was there seriously not any more important news yesterday than one non-entity separating from another?

I can't even begin to come up with any sort of solution to trying to bring an end to this nonsense. I'd suggest a boycott, or a letter writing campaign, but sad as it is, there's probably a million of those who buy the Scum out of the 3 million that do really want to read the latest gossip. If you could somehow fence the whole thing off, that would be pleasant enough, as one letter in the Guardian today advocates a separate section for news on the American presidential candidates so it can be dispossessed of on the way back from the newsagents. Thing is, if you tried doing that with the tabloids or, god forbid, the terrible free press, you'd have about 10 sheets, 6 of them on sport, left. Perhaps if you started fencing it in the way that you buy this shit, you're partially responsible, we might get somewhere. As misleading and plain wrong as it, the tabloids claim they're only responding to demand. You could even say it'll take a death for it to change, but we probably already had as close to that as you could get, and nothing evolved whatsoever. The sad thing is that we probably at the moment have the press we deserve.

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