Sarah Hinchliff Pearson has a commentary on differing notions of privacy for celebrities and ordinary people that seems quite timely in light of the media fascination with Michael Jackson. Pearson, a Stanford Center for Internet and Society Residential Fellow, writes, in part:
On one hand, we can tell ourselves that celebrities were asking for public scrutiny or at least should have expected it when they sought out fame. The problem is that this “bargain” is not always entered into knowingly (as in the case of those born into celebrity families) and even when it is, the precise terms of the bargain were probably not clear initially. When Britney Spears got her first record deal, could she reasonably have expected to be a favorite target of tabloids as she self-destructed years later? Of course not, just as the Dog Poop Girl could not have expected her entire country to learn of her rude behavior on the subway, despite the fact that she committed her conduct in public.
In my opinion, the double standard between the private lives of celebrities and average citizens is largely bogus. There is no compelling moral reason why private citizens used to be free from public scrutiny while the lives of celebrities were freely dissected. The only thing that has changed is how easy it is to spread information. With the Internet, celebrity status is being democratized, and with even fleeting fame, comes scrutiny.
Read more of Pearson’s blog entry here.
She raises some good points. There comes a time when no matter how famous someone is or how curious the public is, people should be left alone. Whether it’s a politician having an affair that does not break any law, or a prominent figure in the racing world acting out sadomasochistic sex fantasies with consenting adults, or a pop music star having mental health problems or family problems, being a public figure should not mean that there is no longer any right to privacy.
When did the public start believing that it was entitled to every shred of a person’s life? When did we lose our way?