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.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, January 11, 2007 

Scum-watch: Bring on the suicide girls!

I would have missed this one if it hadn't been for Tim over at Bloggerheads. The Scum, apparently informed of a "secret intelligence report", has this warning for our troops in Afghanistan: the suicide girls are coming for you. (Don't get too excited: they're not those suicide girls.)

FIFTEEN women suicide bombers have been sent to murder British troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban chiefs have ordered them to dress as beggars or teachers and hide devices under burkas, a secret intelligence report has warned.

It marks an alarming new tactic in the Afghan conflict, although women suicide bombers have been used in Iraq.

Army bosses say it is almost impossible to detect the killers covered from head to toe. Troops in war-torn Helmand province are also reluctant to search women as it offends local sensitivities.

The bombers are believed to be Pakistani, Arab or Chechen. Many fell under the influence of al-Qaeda after being widowed in recent conflicts.

A military source added: “We’re pretty good at detecting male suicide bombers. But women will be almost unstoppable. Because of their burkas, the first time you’ll know she’s a bomber is when she explodes.”

An MoD spokesman said last night UK troops were “the best in the world at spotting new and emerging threats”.

Firstly, the image used by the Sun of a woman in a veil isn't a burqa, it's a niqab. The burqa is a full face covering, involving a netted mesh where the holes for the eyes on niqabs are, so they've cocked that one up. Secondly, the Sun or the intelligence report is really hedging its bets on where the "bombers" are going to be from. They're either Pakistani, Chechen, or, err, Arab, so from anywhere then. The Christian Science Monitor reports that there have been five suicide bombings involving women in Iraq, and some of those were failures, or from outside the country, including the one by the Belgian convert to Islam Muriel Degauque. You also have to wonder about the one involving the two women shortly after the end of the war; trigger happy troops may well have succeeded in hitting the gas tank when the car failed to stop, rather than been killed by two women in a car bombing.

The majority of female suicide bombers have been either Chechen or Palestinian, in both cases fighting in their own internal struggles, although women have also taken part in bombings in both Sri Lanka and Lebanon, again in their own conflicts. None of them had fallen under the influence of al-Qaida, as the Sun states, although it's possible the ones from Iraq could have done, although again, there's such a disparate number of Islamist groupings there that it would be next to impossible to be certain. It seems odd that female fighters from Chechnya would go to fight with the Taliban, especially to carry out suicide bombings. Veterans of the conflict in Chechnya may have gone to fight with the Taliban, but for women to do so would be extraordinary, which is why this report is so likely rubbish. The only report I can find of any female suicide bombers from Pakistan is this one from the BBC, reporting the arrest of two sisters suspected to be in training, both the nieces of a known militant. With the madrasas and the whole situation on the border it wouldn't blow my mind (groan) if there were potentially willing female suicide bombers, but again it seems this is more based on concern rather than fact.

You also have to wonder about the potential impact such a report has back here at home. Right on queue, one of the commenters, as Bloggerheads notes, screams:


Because one minister with at least half-decent intentions questioned whether there was concern about the women wearing them were forced into doing so, and how other people then reacted. What happened was that the tabloid media then had a field day, turning it into a question about religion and security when the original comment had nothing to do with it. The report isn't suggesting that veiled women over here are going to carry out suicide attacks, but in the current climate, with police officers excusing themselves for failing to catch men like Mustaf Jamma by instead blaming it on them escaping wearing veils, whether there's any truth to the rumour or not, it would only take a major crime to be committed by someone wearing a veil now for the whole matter to explode into a frenzy of demands to ban the garment, and not just from the Express. The whole issue is incredibly sensitive, but you can trust the Scum to pounce no matter what.

Elsewhere, there's this huge piece of congratulatory back-slapping, provided by Jack Straw:

PAPARAZZI harassment of Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton was condemned as "appalling" by Commons Leader Jack Straw today.

Mr Straw praised News International - owners of the Sun - for a self-imposed ban on using paparazzi shots of Miss Middleton and urged other news groups to follow suit.

News International has confirmed it will not publish future paparazzi pictures of Miss Middleton - a decision which affects The Sun, the News of the World, The Times, The Sunday Times and free newspaper thelondonpaper.

All very noble. But what was the Scum's solution to all Ms Middleton's problems, as suggested yesterday?

Cough up Wills

KATE MIDDLETON is just another civilian who happens to be going out with a Prince.

But as a young woman who may one day become Queen, she needs protection.

Until she is engaged, the cost cannot come out of the public purse. Prince Charles got round this by paying out of his own pocket to guard Camilla Parker Bowles.

Prince William should take a leaf out of Dad’s book.

How kind! Photographers everywhere take notice: you can stand outside someone's house every morning, in effect stalking them wherever they go, and even then your newspaper will demand that their boyfriend stumps up the cash to protect them. One has to wonder how Ms Wade would respond to having the paps seated outside her door every morning, invading her privacy constantly. You'd have to think that she wouldn't much like it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 

Humbug dressed as a 25-year-old birthday girl.

Christmas may have come and gone, but there's nothing like some humbug at the start of January to fill up the papers. Yesterday the Grauniad printed a decent leader arguing that Kate Middleton, Prince William's girlfriend, was being hounded by the paparazzi, and that if the behaviour of photographers didn't improve, calls for a privacy law would naturally increase as a result. One of its best lines was the following:

A degree of self-restraint by the press, avoiding using pictures of Ms Middleton on her own in her daily life, would reduce the enthusiasm of freelance photographers for taking them.

How then does the Grauniad decide to fill up 5 pages of the following day's G2? By commissioning a piss-poor sub-Daily Mail article by Kira Cochrane about err, the differences between Ms Middleton and a certain dead woman! Not only is there over 2000 words of this guff, there's 6 photographs of Ms Middleton used, including one from her time at university where she took part in a charity fashion show, wearing only underwear and a transparent negligee.

The BBC also isn't immune from this startlingly moronic and boring hypocrisy. The front page of a couple of hours ago, now changed after one of the more eagle-eyed staff noticed the stupidity, featured the following stories at the top, followed by this at the bottom:

News International, in one of their rare as rocking horse shite sensible moves, have also decided to ban all photographs of Middleton taken by paparazzi from the pages of their newspapers, although this got off to a less than auspicious start when the TheLondonPaper (sic), apparently not informed of the decision, used one in today's editions. How long the ban, similar to ones which were imposed after Diana's death and quickly forgotten about will last is also open to question.

As is so often with the Street of Shame, it's hard to know whether anyone outside of London's media circles could care less about Ms Middleton and her relationship with Prince William. Kira Cochrane tries desperately to justify her article in G2 with the following conclusion:

It turned out in the end that Diana was a much more complicated, exciting and interesting woman than that early coverage suggested. So it will likely prove with Kate.

No she wasn't. And no it won't. They'll only turn into "complicated, exciting and interesting" women if the press continues to splash constantly about them, believing that there's some kind of interest in their mundane, ordinary existence. Since Diana's death a myth has been built, and continues to be built, thanks to the efforts of countless biographers and conspiracy theorists that she was far more extraordinary than she in fact was. At the same time, there will always be Glenda and Glen Slaggs out there who will attack purely to fill space. This is how the media works: building up and kicking down.

The best way to deal with the monarchy is to entirely ignore it. Only when they prove what reactionary idiots they are (i.e. wearing Nazi uniforms, calling mild-mannered journalists "bloody awful" for simply asking questions at press conferences) should their activities be reported. The only other justification for mentioning their existence is when writing articles calling for their abolition. Once the supposed mystique which the media builds around them has been destroyed, it will be all the more easier to end this ridiculous and laughable anachronistic institution.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates