My grandmother used to read the tabloids faithfully. But most of it was silly stuff about aliens and two headed baby chimps and dates of the stars. Their version of “photoshops” were so pathetic and obvious, it was more comedy than gossip. Lately and especially in the past few years when software is available to make realistic looking pictures that never really existed, tabloids and online blogs and gossip columns have taken a rude turn. Complete fabrication of story and “evidence”. Intrusion well beyond what the public needs to know. Serial gossiping in which a story or theme of a story goes on and one for months. Cruelty to the point where readers forget there is a person they are talking about and not some figure at Madame Tussaud's.
Blogging has created a world of anonymity where any half wit with a computer can claim to be anything or anyone. Where I can pretend I'm a store clerk at Sak's Fifth Avenue and say that I saw Meryl Streep slip mink lined leather gloves in her coat without paying but since I'm a big fan, I looked the other way. Where copied AIM chats are used as evidence of conversations between celebrities and regular people to discuss drug use, elicit sex, or any illegal activity. The more salacious, the better. Any fifth grader knows that you can take an AIM chat, save it and then edit it to say whatever you it to say. Unfortunately, most fifth graders are smarter than those who read and believe tabloids and blogs. And most fifth graders that I've met are more mature than those who make their living gossip blogging.
The sad thing is there is real money involved here. Everyone has his price so some people's privacy is betrayed by the guy in the network mail room who wants fifty bucks and overheard something out of context, yet passes it on anyway. A disturbed "fan" who passes on a lie as a blind item just to see her story make print. A gossip blogger who makes his or her money by showing advertisers the number of hits they get on certain types of stories can take that small piece of personal info and fabricate an entirely false yet salacious story around it and voila', increased hits and more money for doughnuts. Sources? Who needs sources.
The disturbing thing is radio stations and other avenues that have constant access to the general public report on this stuff as if it were actually true. A celebrity who denies it looks like they “doth protest too much”. A celebrity who ignores it is seen as avoiding it and after all, “silence is consent.” Forget suing, the laws in this country make it harder for celebrities to sue because they are public figures. The vast majority of lawsuits you hear about are against tabloids in the UK.
Writers for Page Six, the New York Post's notorious gossip column admitted to accepting money from certain publicists to NOT write crap about them. Extortion over gossip.
Some narrow minded people may argue that celebrities enjoy the limelight and the perks of fame so they give up their right to privacy. I disagree. If you don't like a movie, then say the celebrity makes bad movies and can't act. Don't pay for another of his movies. But to probe into his private life, usually at a time when he needs privacy or if you really think he/she will sell papers or magazines or bring more hits to your site, make it up wholesale complete with pretty pictures.
Gossip "journalism" has drifted from Elvis Lives to the lives of real people with no regard to truth. And now that has unfortunately crept into real news. But some celebrities are fighting back.
George Clooney refuses to talk about his private life. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair he said
"I want to spend every single night for three months going out with a different famous actress. You know, Halle Berry one night, Salma Hayek the next, and then walk on the beach holding hands with Leonardo DiCaprio.
People would still buy the magazines, they'd still buy the pictures, but they would always go, `I don't know if these guys were putting us on or not."
This past week, Tyra Banks discussed the hurtful pictures and comments that addressed the fact that she's not a waif thin runway model anymore. She is a beautiful woman with a beautiful body but for some reason, even though she's not asking anyone to buy anything from her because of the shape of her body, it's OK to call her names, draw infantile grafitti on her pictures (not to mention that the pictures themselves were taken while she was on her personal time). It's OK to say to young girls struggling with their weight that Tyra Banks is fat as they look at themselves and think “Tyra is much thinner than I am.”
But Tyra is strong and Tyra knows these young girls are out there. So she fought back and told the tabloids and the bottomfeeders...um...bloggers to kiss her ass. Literally
Clay Aiken has been tabloid and especially blogger fodder for a long time. Most of it centers around the fact that they think he is a closeted gay man, despite the fact that he has said on countless occasions that he is straight. Of course, many stories about Clay say he has never addressed his sexuality which is blatently untrue. I guess it would take them too long to look up his Rolling Stone interview or others like it.
Clay's had photoshopped pictures made up of him as if he trolls gay websites looking for men. He's had fake AIM chats published, despite the fact that all AIM chats can be edited. Heck, you can set up two accounts and chat with yourself and make the two “people” say whatever script you want. He's had pictures manipulated, stories made up around pictures taken in innocuous moments but made to seem like “evidence”. He's had a group of people who find him so fascinating in their hate that they can't walk away but instead spend more time on his career than most fans by feeding these gossip sites ideas. It takes all types but typically consists of people who will lie for fame, money or because they are a few cards shy of a full deck.
But this week, Clay got fed up too. On his blog at the official fanclub site, he indicated he's had enough. While fanclub rules prohibit us from copying over the entire blog, he noted once again that “bull$#@& journalism” (written like that with deference to the younger fanclub members) was once again spinning tall tales about him and perhaps we should “lend them a finger...er....a hand”. He challenged his fans to do the same as the tabloids and gossip blogs. Create a scandal involving him using all the same techniques that they do, whether it be photoshop, audio manipulation programs or making up conversations. He will give a prize to the most creative work.
It's brilliant. In some ways, it reminds me of Clooney's statement. First, show how easy it is to make up this crap so that it is both perfectly believable while being perfectly false and fabricated. Second, create a seed of doubt in everything anyone hears or reads about because you don't know if it was one of the fake ones made up by the fans or the fake ones made up by the lowlife.
How about it Oprah? Let's get Clay, George, and Tyra on your show. You've been a victim of the tabloids too. Talk about how enough is enough and let's get back to important things like Bat Boy.