Paparazzo quits job over treatment of Britney

Photo from May, 2007 of paparazzi shooting Britney pulled over on the side of a busy road to change Sean Preston’s diaper
The mood is definitely somber this Friday after the untimely death of Heath Ledger last week and the mental health hospitalization of Britney early Wednesday morning. I know I’m feeling guilty about our incessant focus on celebrities’ lives, and there has been more of philosophical debate in the wake of all these stories about whether we should work to give them peace and privacy when they’re facing all-too-human difficulties. Many people say that the trade off for fame and fortune is the freedom and anonymity that most of us take for granted. There is also the argument that celebrities like Britney court the paparazzi and strive for any kind of publicity so they have to suffer the consequences that go along with that. Britney is having a severe mental health crisis, something they used to call a “nervous breakdown” when I was younger, and whether she wants to have her photograph taken or not doesn’t seem relevant now that she’s not making sound decisions. The issue is that she’s going crazy and we’re all watching her and indirectly paying people to help us.

A photographer for Splash News has quit over the media circus that surrounds Britney. He says that it’s dangerous to Britney and to other people and that he’s no longer going to be a part of it:

Nick Stern has resigned from Splash, a Los Angeles-based, British-owned celebrity picture agency, in protest at the “aggressive” tactics employed in pursuing Spears, and predicted tragedy.

“Directly or indirectly, Britney is going to come to some horrific end, or a member of the public will,” he said. “It’s not what’s being done, it’s the way it’s being done. As she continues to deteriorate psychologically, I just can’t see a positive way out.”

The biggest threat, Stern said, came from the high-speed convoy of photographers’ cars and motorcycles that follow Spears’ every move through Los Angeles. The pursuit reached a new frenzy in the early hours of yesterday when the paparazzi tailed an ambulance and police escort taking the 26-year-old singer to hospital for the second time this month.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the trail of emergency vehicles that took Spears to the UCLA Medical Centre stretched longer than a football field. In an operation conducted with military precision, police and medical crews spoke secretively of “delivering the package”, in a failed attempt to throw photographers off the scent.

“The paps are completely out of control,” said Stern, 43. “It’s not unusual to have 20 or 30 cars pursuing her at any one time. It’s become acceptable to drive at 80mph down the wrong side of the street into oncoming traffic. I was horrified at what goes on. It’s so aggressive, there are fights and crashes and slashed tyres. I felt I needed to say something.”

[From The Guardian via We Smirch]

Before Britney had her first hospitalization, Perez Hilton answered a question on The View over whether he felt guilty for tearing celebrities down by saying “If Britney committed suicide tomorrow and died, she would be the only one to blame I think.” He wasn’t even asked about Britney and it’s like he was salivating over her possible death. Maybe he was nervous and had some answers prepared ahead of time and it didn’t come out like he wanted it to, but to me he was saying he refused to take any responsibility for the way he was tearing her down.

We talk a lot of smack here too, and I ripped on Heath Ledger about a year and half ago for what I perceived as an inability to play nice with the paparazzi. About a month later, I tried to cover the other side of the story and said I may have misjudged the situation, but maybe the damage was done already. I’m not saying Heath or anyone close to him would bother reading our crap, but maybe the rude way we covered it influenced other people to think he was a whiner too when that wasn’t the case. I often said he was fug and ugly, and that was mean. His death looks like an accident, but if you look at how a few celebrities are affected by the bullshit you can sling without thinking you can feel incredibly guilty.

Now Britney has really lost it, and good for someone to refuse to be a part of that circus. This is dominating the news, there’s almost nothing else going on today, and I feel like we can’t just ignore it. People want to talk about it, and we’ll do our best to cover it tactfully. Please be considerate in the comments and don’t just yell at us to ignore it. I’m thinking about it, and thoughtful comments will be more effective.

One more thing – DListed had this video of Britney getting scared while she was driving earlier this week. She gets out of her car in traffic and talks to the paparazzi in her British accent, asking to turn around. It’s amazing how many photographers swarm around her constantly, but what really struck me, and I mentioned this yesterday, is how many of them are British. It’s like she completely identifies with them and is trying to fit in by speaking in their accent. She’s even dating one of them.

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