• The Publisher’s Notebook •
Starr-Struck in Malibu
BY ANNE SOBLE
The Malibu City Council is reluctant to take on rude and noisy motorcyclists but not rude and noisy paparazzi. The symbiotic relationship of those in the celebrity spotlight who want the pap-packs at their film or clothing line openings but not around them during casual hair days is a complex subject in its own right, but the council should think long and hard about tinkering with the First Amendment, especially if it is going to let the tinkering be done by someone with the Constitutional approach that made Clintwinskygate a major paparazzi event of the twenty-first century, if not the greatest political paparazzi event of all time. Ken Starr singlehandedly (no pun intended) helped create a sea change in the public discourse on human sexuality. That could have made him a liberal but for the content of that discourse. The announcement that Starr might be engaged by the city council allowed the media to link Malibu and Clintwinskygate ad nauseum. Interestingly, the possible involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union in a project to explore ways to curtail paparazzi behavior didn’t even rate major media mention. Starr’s potential engagement has created a stir among some in the journalism community because they fear that Starr not only would like to curb the paparazzi, the so-called “bad boys” of the media, but all members of the media. They think he shares the Karl Rovian approach that the media should be manipulated, if not muzzled. In addition, I’ve asked the mayor whether she should be the person negotiating a city project with the dean of the law school she teaches at. She says too little money is involved to constitute a conflict of interest, but he’s still her boss.
In a similar vein, I am puzzled that the media describes the drafting of paparazzi controls as a done deal and doesn’t even acknowledge the role of the rest of the city council in the process. Personally, I’m counting on the ACLU and other First Amendment advocates to join me in protecting the rights of all media, from the humblest blogger to the surliest paparazzo, because freedom of speech and the press is indivisible. You allow it to be taken from some, and it becomes easier to take from all. Soon politicians will start demanding that photographers only be allowed to shoot them from their “good” side. Seriously though, the media has responsibilities and guidelines. Unsafe driving, jostling passersby, harassing children, and physically or emotionally abusing anyone are wrong. But Sheriff Baca and Chief Bratton are correct that there are adequate laws on the books to address this kind of behavior. We don’t need to be Starr-struck because some people are star-struck.