Death by Paparazzi- by Thomas Donald Clarke

     The paparazzi have good reason to be blamed for Princess
Diana's death. While the paparazzi didn't give Diana's driver
a bottle of 180 proof liquor or drive the white Fiat alleged
to have crashed into her Mercedes, they did harass her as she
left her hotel and pursued her in motorcycles.
     Charges will be filed against the paparazzi who opted to
film Diana in her dying moments instead of helping to get her
to a hospital. But the paparazzi aren't the only ones to
blame- they wouldn't be in business if they didn't have
     Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Ellen Degeneres, John
Travolta, and George Clooney have complained about the
paparazzi to news shows such as Nightline. In referring to
the role of the paparazzi on bikes that followed Diana to her
death, Clooney called the paparazzi "accomplices to murder."
He also remarked that the paparazzi should boycott him. After
that statement, some did. In response to Clooney's comments,
several celebrity photographers refused to photograph him
during the September premiere of his movie The Peacemaker.
     Thanks to the paparazzi, Princess Diana was the $200,000
meal ticket for the most dedicated celebrity photographers,
according to ABC's Nightline. Diana was a woman who never
starred in a movie or sang a song. Her only claim to fame was
marrying into and being divorced from the powerless,
ceremonial British royal family. She became "the most
photographed woman in the world" long before her 1997 death.
     At least the most photographed man in the world, Michael
Jackson, recorded the biggest selling album of all time,
1982's Thriller. But as he claimed in a 1997 20/20 interview,
the paparazzi were just as vicious in pursuing him as they
were in pursuing Diana. Jackson's most graphic claim was that
the paparazzi strategically placed a camera on his toilet.
     Montel Williams has claimed on his talk show that the
paparazzi have lured him to their cameras and to their set
poses by using racial slurs. The paparazzi got the angry
photos they wanted by opening their mouths and firing verbal
shots. Paparazzi pursuits can be downright obscene, as in a
news clip in which Princess Diana pleaded with the paparazzi
to leave her and her children alone. They ignored her. During
the Michael Jackson interview on 20/20, the paparazzi somehow
found out that Jackson would be in a French hotel and waited
for him to come out.
     The paparazzi has paved the way for the mainstream media
to lavish coverage over undeserving celebrities. Covering
politicians and legitimate newsmakers is one thing, but
Princess Diana's marital woes have no business being covered
by the US media. A simple murder trial became a tabloid-
fueled circus when the defendant was O.J. Simpson.
     According to ABC's Nightline, paparazzi are being paid
as much as $200,000 for unauthorized pictures of celebrities
such as Princess Diana. A German tabloid paid Over $400,000
for the photos of Diana's car crash. Somebody has money to
pay them- most notably, the tabloid press. And lots of people
are buying those tabloids if they can afford to pay the
paparazzi so much.
     It appears there is a rabid audience for lurid celebrity
news. This audience has as much responsibility as the
paparazzi in their misdoings. Does the public really need to
know about Diana's social life or what she did when she spent
time with her children? Does the public need to know how
Michael Jackson goes to the toilet? Does the public need to
know what Montel Williams looks like when someone addresses
him with the n-word? Or in the case of paparazzi disguised as
entertainment reporters for the Village Voice, does the
public need to know about the private parts and sexual
practices of movie actors?
     The readers of this bovine excrement keep the paparazzi
Frankensteins in business. While censoring the obnoxious and
the obscene would protect the celebrities, it would violate
certain free speech liberties and turn the paparazzi into
martyrs. This is what happened during an obscenity trial
against the publisher of Hustler magazine. Because of the
trial and a paparazzi glorified movie on the trial, Hustler
publisher Larry Flynt is considered a hero.
     The only way to stop the paparazzi is to cut off their
income. Ma and Pa Gossip need to be weaned off the Globe and
Enquirer. Ma and Pa Gossip need to lose their fascination
with Michael Jackson's private life and toilet habits, the
rumors about Tom Cruise and his wife, the antics of a
powerless royal family, and the original sex of Diana's
friend Lady Colin Campbell. But then, it may take something
like Michael Jackson being electrocuted on his toilet by that
hidden camera to wake up Ma and Pa Gossip.

     Since this was written in the Fall of 1997, the
paparazzi controversy has been overshadowed by the ultimate
obtrusive journalism story: the Lewinsky sex scandal. Do we
need to know that some of their sex aids included breath
mints and cigars? No. It is sad that Ken Starr thought that
featuring the most graphic sexual detail ever contained in a
federal criminal report would bolster his impeachment case
against Clinton.
    Should Clinton be impeached? Yes. None of his sexual
activity was illegal, but perjury and obstruction of justice
(lying under oath and covering up the fact that he had sex
with Lewinsky) are criminal and impeachable offenses.  This
whole mess could have been avoided if he had not exposed
himself to Paula Jones back in 1991. With the way our tabloid
media is, Clinton would have best served the country by not
becoming President. His student activities back in the late
1960's (which barred him from even stepping foot inside the
Pentagon until his election), his inability to tell the
truth, his constant and reckless adultery, and his tendancy
to destroy the lives of his opponents (Billy Dale, Gennifer
Flowers, Paula Jones, and a few hundred Whitewater investors,
among others) demonstrate a low moral character that in
normal times would have disgusted voters. His character and
his constant support for all forms of abortion (including
partial birth abortion) are a threat to the nation's moral
fiber.  Sure he lucked out on the economy (thanks to his
retention of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the
election of a Republican Congress to force him to the right
on taxes and other economic issues), but almost anyone with a
brain and to the right of Cuomo could have taken credit for
the high economic times of the mid 1990s.
    Clinton's foreign policy (especially on Iraq and Somalia)
and his social positions (complete government control of the
health care system, abortion encouragement, phony concern
about the drug problem while he lies about his past drug use)
are wrong. Clinton must leave, the sooner the better. But it
would be the ultimate triumph of the tabloid press if he
resigned- because most of what the public remembers is the
Altoids, the Tripp tapes, and the cigar, not the threats
against any White House staff who testified against him or
his anti-US activities in 1969 Russia or the FBI files in his
basement or his constant vetoes of the partial birth abortion
ban or Kathryn Willey or Elizabeth Ward Gracen or Vince
Foster or Billy Dale or any of the numerous, lesser known
crimes that should have driven him from office.

October 1997/BC Excelsior; updated 1998