Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Paris Hilton's Apology

Paris Hilton has released the following statement through a member of her legal team, attorney Richard Hutton:

"After reading the media's coverage of my court hearing, I feel the need to correct what I believe are misperceptions about me. I absolutely realize how serious driving under the influence is. I could not live with myself if anyone was injured or killed while I was driving while impaired. Clearly, no one should -- no matter how slightly.I am ready to face the consequences of violating probation.No one is above the law. I surely am not. I do not expect to be treated better than anyone else who violated probation. However, my hope is that I will not be treated worse."






thewaymouth said...

Dear Josh,

Keep up the great work.

Not only was Paris made an example of by receiving an unfair sentence, now get this:

She is the victim of not one but two sculptures on public display on either coast, that feature Paris as a corpse for autopsy. AND a school is having a contest for kids 13 - 18 to write her obit.

It's defamation of character & misogyny at its absolute worst.

Forget red:
PARIS is the new black.

She actually now HAS suffered more than enough.
Free Paris.

aka Mike Burns has left the bldg on fire 4 U...

Please come see MY free artistic response to all this in my latest Paris blog, a slide show put up today & entitled:

[Hey Joni]
I was a free man in Paris.

* You gotta FIGHT for your RIGHT to PARIS! *

blowhole said...

PS thewaymouth here again:

Josh, both you & Paris were right -- she did receive an unfair sentence.

With Paris Hilton, mainstream media in a digital panic

By Tim Rutten
The Los Angeles Times

Article Last Updated: 05/12/2007 12:15:39 AM MDT

Not very long ago, it was possible to contemplate spending a relatively long and reasonably productive career in American journalism without ever having to type the words "Paris Hilton."

That was then. This, sadly, is now.

Watching the cyclonic attention that swirled around Hilton's court appearance this past week, it was hard not to notice how closely our celebrity-besotted media now resemble Churchill's famous description of the prewar Germans as a people "either at your throat or at your feet."

Having benefited from the tabloid media's attentions while it was in that latter posture, perhaps this rather odd young woman will have to suffer through its assault. That, in fact, is the traditional arc of celebrity for celebrity's sake. First the tabloid media's various incarnations make you famous for nothing more than being famous. Then it turns in a fury of righteous indignation and devours you for, well, being famous.

It's perverse but predictable.

Here is where the ritual dismissal of Hilton's aimless life and self-absorbed character are supposed to occur. Let's skip them.

If millions of people choose to be fascinated by a young woman who apparently feels that the best thing to do with wealth and privilege is to turn herself into an unpaid photographer's model, what can you say? Like the inexplicable English affinity for spaniels, monarchy and the music of Frederick Delius, it's simply one of life's essentially harmless mysteries.

What isn't harmless is the way in which so much of the serious news media checked its critical intelligence and judgment at the door of this particular feeding frenzy.

An unexpected range of otherwise respectable news organizations devoted a stunning number of column inches and broadcast minutes to covering the hearing at which Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer sentenced Hilton to 45 days in jail for violating the probation she received for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Their coverage - and nearly all the extensive commentary that accompanied it - was remarkable not only for its volume but also for the absence of most of the context and perspective serious newspaper and broadcast journalists usually deem essential when reporting on the criminal justice system.

Nobody in the mainstream media, for example, bothered to inquire very deeply into whether Sauer's sentence was within the usual range for such an offense. That's interesting, because how a judge employs discretion is normally an important part of any court story. Had such questions been asked, the reporters would have found that Sauer's sentence was unusually harsh for a defendant who had behaved as Hilton had. It was far more typical of the kind of sanction a judge might have imposed on somebody who had violated probation by drinking and driving again, which she did not do. (In that context, it's also interesting that no one bothered to debunk early reports that Hilton also had failed to enroll, as her probation required, in a program to discourage alcohol abuse. In fact, she's close to completing such a program.)

The harshness of the sentence ought to have loomed larger, when put together with Sauer's unusual ruling forbidding Hilton from paying to go into one of the private jails usually open to suitable defendants with sufficient financial means. The clear impression was that Sauer had decided to make an example of a spoiled young woman who was behaving as if her celebrity put her above the law - and it was an impression both the serious and tabloid media seemed to relish.

The tabloids are somebody else's problem, but it's troubling that none of the mainstream print or broadcast journalists commenting on the case pointed out that the American criminal justice system does not make examples of people. It penalizes people for specific individual acts and punishes them according to the law. We do not punish one person to instruct others. We rely on the public administration of disinterested and dispassionate justice to educate and deter.

We don't make exceptions to this principle - not even for Paris Hilton.

So why are so many people and organizations who ought to know better behaving as if Hilton's case is an exception?

The answer isn't pretty, but it is disturbing.

Many people who direct mainstream newspaper and television coverage of events like this are in a complete panic over the migration of increasing numbers of readers and viewers, particularly young ones, to the Internet as a source of information. That panic has engendered a kind of fog in which anxious editors and producers have fallen into a profound confusion. Many have begun to assume that availing themselves of technological opportunities entails embracing the ethics of the lacier fringes online.

Coverage of celebrities in the popular media took a turn for the vulgar some years ago, when under then-editor Bonnie Fuller, US Weekly began generating huge newsstand sales by publishing photos and stories about movie stars and others caught off-guard in what previously had been private circumstances. Other print media soon followed, and they - in turn - gave rise to the celebrity-focused gossip sites that continue to metastasize across the Web. Many recently have turned to scooping up police reports and booking photos from minor offenses, the serious news organizations used to accord scant, if any, notice.

The mainstream media's digital panic has changed all that. Editors are increasingly mesmerized by the number of "hits" - that's individual visits - these gossip sites receive when they post a given story. Worse, newspapers and some television operations have begun to record the number of hits individual stories on their online sites receive and publishing rankings of each day's most popular stories.

The result?

Things like this feeding frenzy, which doubtless produced the predicable number of hits. They don't mean anything, but that hasn't stopped desperate news editors from grabbing on to what they mistake for useful information the way a drowning man or woman clutches at anything that might keep them afloat.

At the end of the day, there's nothing particularly shocking about Hilton's problems, about her mistreatment by a court that might have lost its balance in the unaccustomed glare of public attention or, even, by the performance of the tabloid media. What is troubling, to those who hope to see the mainstream news media carry a few shreds of its increasingly tattered editorial judgment into this brave new digital era, is the behavior of so many people in this business who should know better.

Changing public tastes might require the serious news media to give more frequent attention to celebrity ephemera. It ought not, however, be the same sort of attention given by the tabloids or by their hyperactive online spawn. The fact that a story you can't avoid covering takes you into the gutter is no excuse for behaving as if you belong there.