Hogan's Alley

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Those Who Live By Publicity Die By Publicity

The spectacle of the teary Paris Hilton being hauled back to jail in the back of a police car has prompted many to suggest that she has now received a negative kind of special treatment. The argument of Sheriff Boca and others is that whereas, under a Federal Court order to reduce overcrowding in its jails, LA County routinely requires inmates to serve only 10% of their sentences, Hilton has been singled out to serve her full 45 days.

That is certainly true now, in no small way thanks to Sheriff Boca and Hilton's lawyers' manipulation of the system to assure that the heiress served even less that the four and a half days that would have been her 10% debt. It must also be said that the brave front she displayed before her initial entry into jail is at sharp contrast to the latest spectacle of tears and cries for her mommy. One can only assume that the former bravery and civic responsibility was a well-rehearsed farce, played out in full prior knowledge of the extended weekend she would actually spend in the slammer.

What finally condemned Hilton to serve the longer term was her fame, which she has cultured and fertilized with great gusto. After all, she does nothing. She is the epitome of a person who is famous purely for being famous. She is the poster child for our celebrity obsessed culture. When she came before a judge, having flaunted his prior orders, it was totally predictable that he would throw the book at her. To do less would be to kowtow to her status as a celebrity in a town full of such vermin. So in a real way her fame forced the judge to specifically order no early release, no house arrest, etc. Why Sheriff Boca thought he could ignore that order in the glare of publicity is a mystery.

The problem with such intense publicity is that it is an uncontrollable beast. As a prime example, see the front page review of Tina Brown's new book on the former queen of the paparazzi, Princess Diana:

Yet Diana’s savvy had its limits. For although her public-relations wizardry enabled her repeatedly to upstage and — with the tell-all interviews she did in 1992 and 1995 — humiliate the Windsors, it did more than just give the monarchy an appealing, “human” face. By inviting the press to share in her most intimate experiences, the princess abolished every last vestige of celebrity privacy. And by providing the press with picture after dazzling, salable picture, she stoked “the media’s inexhaustible appetite for celebrity images.” In an extended meteorological conceit, Brown observes: “The sunshine of publicity in which Diana would at first be happy to bask, posing and smiling for the cameras, grew steadily hotter and harsher. As the superheated imperatives of an invasive press bumped up increasingly against the milder human necessity of privacy, scattered rains gave way to drenching gales and then to spectacular and finally lethal hurricanes. ... Diana herself had accelerated the climate change that ended up making her life literally impossible.” Mistakenly, she thought she could “control the genie she had released.”
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? If Paris Hilton doesn't wise up, she too will be devoured by the vultures of the press. Imagine how much would be paid for a shot of her funeral.

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