One of the things about being around the internet for a very long time has done for me is that it’s given me a big appreciation for the power of so many people reading and seeing the same thing. The whole concept of memes comes from that power, as does the horrid parts like 4chan and Anonymous.
One area that has really become intense is celebrity news / reporting sites, such as TMZ, Perez Hilton, and even People magazine online. They keep their readers (and building their readership) with titilation, scandal, and outrageous things that happen with celebs. They can pump almost anything up and immediately it’s trending on twitter and getting yabbered about in Facebook and instagram.
This last week has been a Justin Beiber extraveganza, as the Canadian born brat singer has been really slowly going off the mental cliff. His UK tour has been a bit of a personal disaster, turning up one night 2 hours late for the show (where most of his younger fans have to bust curfew to stay on) and then passing out and ending up is hospital at another one. When it comes to being big news, that is barely up there with me stubbing my toe in the washroom last night, but the TMZ style sites of the world make a killing on this stuff.
However, the topper on all of this was a scuffle between Beibs and a paparazzi photographer as he was entering a van, a moment of contact that left Beiber cursing and threating the attack the photographer and using the F-word to full effect. This might be an amusing aside, except that it is starting to show a real problem with the celebrity reporting world, where once again the actions of the reporters in trying to close cover celebs is turning out to be bigger news that anything else. Without the scuffle, this would have been a non-event Beiber to a car movement, and nothing much more. Instead, it’s front page news and has people questioning if he can take the pressure.
Yet, it’s only been a couple of weeks since a photographer was killed crossing a busy road attempting to film one of Beiber’s cars (without Beiber in it), and there have been numerous situations where celebs and photographers have come to blows and violence has erupted. In all of these cases, what should have been non-events turned violent, tragic, or some combination of bother. TMZ in particular seems to be making a real living on this stuff, with plenty of stories about who is driving Beiber’s cars while he is away, about Chris Brown and Rihanna and a whole “war” between Brown and singer Drake. It’s mindless stuff, except that it’s intent appears to be to create news where none exists.
With the internet being so powerful, stories like TMZ’s “CHRIS BROWN Did He Really Say ‘F**k Drake’?” end up fueling the fire rather than reporting on it, turning these people’s silly, excessive lives into a running real time soap opera, with the inevitable bad results. Is it really needed, does it really add anything?
At this point, TMZ reminds me more and more of the exploitative and silly Morton Downey Jr show of the 80s, which made more news about the antics of it’s own star, and his ability to egg his guests into full on battle mode. TMZ seems content to follow around the more aggressive paps and wait for something to happen, and gleefully report it. That reporting of course gives those paps their 15 minutes of fame, which in turns eggs others on into doing the same sorts of things. That creates a feedback loop that has ended up with at least one dead pap, and many celebrities living their lives out as hidden, hounded people who cannot have a moment of peace. Is that sad or what?