Inner Michael » Media:Toward hope and a more humane narrative? Part II

Media:Toward hope and a more humane narrative? Part II

Halle Barry is applauding a new paparazzi law that will protect the children of celebrities in California.

The 47-year-old actress, who is expecting her second child with husband Olivier Martinez, testified in support of the new legislation that was signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown Tuesday.

In a statement released to ABC News, she said, “I started this fight with a great deal of hope and a bit of uncertainty so I cannot express my immense gratitude that Gov. Brown has recognized, and acted to remedy, the plight of children who are tormented because of the identity or prominence of their parents. On behalf of my children, it is my hope that this is the beginning of the end for those overly aggressive paparazzi whose outrageous conduct has caused so much trauma and emotional distress.”

“This started as just a hope and a wish for my daughter,” said Berry, mother to 6-year-old Nahla.

In her statement, the Oscar-winning actress thanked Calif. Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored the anti-harassment legislation, which changes the definition of harassment to include photographing or recording a child without the permission of a legal guardian by following the child or guardian’s activities or by lying in wait.

The New Law

The new law allows for $10,000 fines and civil law suits to be filed if paparazzi harass children to grab a shot purely because of who their parents are. Anyone convicted of a first offense could spend between 10 days and a year in jail.

Berry also thanked her fellow artists who lobbied alongside her.

“I am forever in awe of the support I got within my community, from the enormously talented musician Adele to fellow actor, Jennifer Garner, who traveled with me to Sacramento to share her children’s stories, experience and her desire to give them a better life,” she said in her statement. “I’m grateful to Nia Vardalos and the numerous parents who work as actors, musicians, as well as professionals in medicine, mental health, lawyers, judges and cops who have experienced their children being harassed, tormented or otherwise put in dangerous situations due to their parent’s profession and therefore lent their support.

“It is for all of us that I rejoice today and hope that this fight will continue and that the proper enforcement of this law will truly make a positive impact on the daily lives of all children,” she said.

I was struck by the arrogance and attitude of entitlement of some characters in this clip. It’s appalling.  “They don’t have to live in New York;” they don’t have to…” blah blah blah. As if these strangers have the right to invade someone’s (another stranger’s) privacy, frighten children and take photographs without their permission in order to write headlines that excoriate or ridicule the very target of their interest. It is an individual’s CIVIL RIGHT to live anywhere they choose. As if a journalist or magazine has the right to dictate where someone should live, what they should do, where they should go, what they should be subjected to and tolerate and all manner of other limitations to another person’s life? Isn’t that the very definition of slavery?


Garner, who has three children with actor-director Ben Affleck, said in a statement to ABC News, “I’m elated that this bill has passed and that all kids will now be protected from harassment by the paparazzi. Halle Berry is my hero for leading this charge. I’m truly grateful to everyone involved in making this happen.”

In June, Berry gave emotional testimony at the California state capitol in Sacramento.

“My daughter doesn’t want to go to school because she knows ‘the men’ are watching for her,” the “Monster’s Ball” actress told the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. “They jump out of the bushes and from behind cars and who knows where else, besieging these children just to get a photo.”

She added: “I have to yell, ‘She’s a child. Leave my child alone. Leave my child alone.’ We get into the car, and my daughter is now sobbing, and she says to me, ‘Are they going to kill us? Are they going to kill us?’”

The legislation had been opposed on First Amendment grounds by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Motion Picture Association of America and the California Broadcasters Association.

Los Angeles (CNN) — Ben Affleck’s children are “freaked out” by photographers who camp near their home and follow them in public, the actor said.

 Affleck and his wife, Jennifer Garner, hope a beefed-up California law with keep the paparazzi at a distance when it takes effect on New Year’s Day.

 “My kids aren’t celebrities,” Affleck said in a wide-ranging Playboy interview. “They never made that bargain.”

 The law, which Garner joined Halle Berry to lobby for, doubles to a year the jail time a photographer can get for harassment that “seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes” children. The law applies to children under 16 who are photographed because of their parent’s occupation.

 “The tragic thing is, people who see those pictures naturally think it’s sweet,” Affleck said. “They don’t see the gigantic former gang member with a huge lens standing over a 4-year-old and screaming to get the kid’s attention.”

 Affleck and Garner have three children: Violet, 8, Serafina, 5 next month, and Samuel, who turns 2 in February.

 “The kids are always looking down because they’re freaked out and scared of these people,” Affleck said. “And so they yell. Which is fine if you’re Lindsay Lohan coming out of a club, or me, or any adult. With kids, it’s tasteless at best.”

 Affleck recounted a case five years ago when a man was charged with stalking his family after hiding among the pack of paparazzi that followed his children to nursery school. The stalker “who had threatened to kill me, my wife and our kids showed up at the school and got arrested,” he said. “I mean, there are real practical dangers to this.”

 A Los Angeles judge ruled the man was mentally incompetent to stand trial. He was committed to a mental health institution and ordered to stay away from the family for 10 years.

 The California law does not punish websites, newspapers or magazines for publishing photos of children taken in violation of the law.

“A lot of these photographs are being bought by legitimate magazines,” Affleck said. “In the UK, they have a good system: If you take a kid’s picture, you have to blur out the face. It protects the privacy of children, any child. I wish we would do that here, though I don’t expect it.”

 He wants a “bubble of safety” around his children, with cameras staying at least 100 feet away, he said. “They all have 300-millimeter lenses. I’m a photographer myself, and I can tell you with complete confidence that you can get a fine picture.”

 Ben Affleck is no stranger to ridicule by the media.

Ben Speaks to Playboy Magazine in an Interview 


PLAYBOY: Your relationship with Jennifer Garner came after a very public engagement to Jennifer Lopez. Both your relationships were tabloid fodder.

AFFLECK: The crucible by flashbulb. It was magazines then, and those days are more or less gone. Now it’s online, but it’s the same thing. At the nadir of that I felt I was being treated worse than Scott Peterson, who at least got the benefit of the word alleged when they talked about him.

PLAYBOY: He’s the guy who——

AFFLECK: Murdered his wife and tossed her over the side of a boat. The point is I felt like I was at the bottom. I became the guy people could kick around, even if they hadn’t seen the movie, because they saw other people taking shots. I thought it was unfair. But some of those people later wrote nice things about my work. I’ve learned not to take it personally.

PLAYBOY: But often it is personal.

AFFLECK: Once I saw my way out of it, I said, You know what? I don’t even care anymore. I’m going to focus on my job. I don’t give a shit. Take my picture. Write what you want to write. At the end of the day, what you write in a gossip column doesn’t matter. What matters is how the movie works. I found out it doesn’t kill you. But once I thought I had that figured out, I started having kids. And that is when I drew the line.

PLAYBOY: What is the line?

AFFLECK: You can say what you want about me. You can yell at me with a video camera and be TMZ. You can follow me around and take pictures all you want. I don’t care. There are a couple of guys outside right now. Terrific. That’s part of the deal. But it’s wrong and disgusting to follow children around and take their picture and sell it for money. It makes the kids less safe. They used to take pictures of our children coming out of preschool, and so this stalker who had threatened to kill me, my wife and our kids showed up at the school and got arrested. I mean, there are real practical dangers to this.

PLAYBOY: How close did he get?

AFFLECK: He was in the pack of paparazzi. They didn’t know he was a guy who was threatening to murder our family. That makes me angry. It’s a safety thing, and there’s also a sanity thing. My kids aren’t celebrities. They never made that bargain. We were offered a lot of money to sell pictures of our kids when they were born. You’ll notice there aren’t any. I make no judgment about people who decide differently; a lot of them give the money to charity. For me it was a matter of principle. I didn’t want someone to be able to come back and say I was complicit, that it wasn’t a question of principle as much as price.

PLAYBOY: You didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

AFFLECK: As their father it’s my job to protect them from that stuff. I try my very best, and sometimes I’m successful. The tragic thing is, people who see those pictures naturally think it’s sweet. They don’t see the gigantic former gang member with a huge lens standing over a four-year-old and screaming to get the kid’s attention. The kids are always looking down because they’re freaked out and scared of these people. And so they yell. Which is fine if you’re Lindsay Lohan coming out of a club, or me or any adult. With kids it’s tasteless at best. A lot of these photographs are being bought by legitimate magazines. In the U.K. they have a good system: If you take a kid’s picture, you have to blur out the face. It protects the privacy of children, any child. I wish we would do that here, though I don’t expect it. When my wife met with California lawmakers to get legislation passed to establish a certain distance between paparazzi and children and also to prevent the stalking behavior on the part of the paparazzi, she was opposed by the association of magazine and newspaper folks. They said it would have a chilling effect on the way the news was covered. You couldn’t chill the internet coverage of celebrities if you tried.

PLAYBOY: But do you understand why the press would worry about infringements on the First Amendment?

AFFLECK: I think the First Amendment and the public’s right to know are adequately served by photographers who are at least 100 feet away. They all have 300-millimeter lenses. I’m a photographer myself, and I can tell you with complete confidence that you can get a fine picture. I understand we won’t be able to prevent them from taking photos of children or get them to blur the faces, even though I think that would be preferable. But at the very least there should be a bubble of safety. We do that at football games: You can’t just come on the field. We do that with politicians: You can’t photograph the president from any distance you want.


The president is someone who is elected to serve the public. Don’t we elect celebrities via popularity? By consuming their art and work? Isn’t “serving the public” their job description too?

The press demands access to celebrities at any and all times because they are famous? The media insists that terrorizing children is part of their first amendment rights?

We insist that animals be treated humanely “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.” But children should not have the same rights? What?

Celebrities who take steps to protect their children from harm and from being terrorized by the media shouldn’t have the same civil rights as the rest of us? Is that sentiment because the media manages to somehow make them caricatures and not quite as human as the rest of us?

Celebrities voluntarily share a form of art with us, “the public.” An artist with talent must hone that art form and that is hard work. Some are compensated well for that art as it should be. They are not our friends or our possessions. We don’t have the right to dictate their lives. We don’t have the right to demand anything from them. We rate their performance by buying tickets or consuming their craft in some way. We shouldn’t have the right to ridicule, beat up, insult or injure them. We don’t OWN them. We don’t OWN their talent or craft. And we certainly don’t OWN their children. That is the definition of slavery.

And another thing… Celebrities can go to court and ask a judge to grant them the right to protect their children and that is seen as exercising your civil rights as a citizen by changing the law. And that is viewed as an infringement upon the media’s claimed and arrogant “ownership” of all of the celebrity’s rights (their privacy, where they may live, what they may do for a living, how they parent their children, and their right to protect their children.)

But if a celebrity parent, in order to avoid all this ruckus and protect his children, puts masks on them whenever they go out in public with him, he is “wacko” that is “weird,” how he parents is “bizarre” and the public should find it maddening that “his children are made to suffer.”

When the masks come off and they go out to a public park or event with a bodyguard or caretaker– (because sadly they can’t go with their father because for they wouldn’t be safe from the crush of the paparazzi and media) they are not recognized and are therefore, left alone to be normal kids without being terrorized– that is “abnormal” and he is still a poor parent.

If he relents to a persistent call from his fans (who truly love him and his children) and attempts to show his fans (not the paparazzi) a glimpse of his new baby while tightly holding him on a balcony (that has a ledge underneath, by the way, it is OK for the media, (deprived of their first amendment “right” to photograph his children” thus far) to take advantage and punish him by playing that moment over and over from an angle that makes it look unsafe and call him a “terrible parent” and hype it to the degree where uninvolved parties looking for media attention themselves, ask for an intervention from child protective services. And that is not viewed as intentional ridicule, retaliation, and self-serving exploitation by a media so “deprived of its rights.” It is seen as “bizarre” behavior by a “freak.” And since he has been culturally exploited, damned, demonized, dismembered and made into a cartoon like caricature non-human over time, nobody thinks it outrageous. Nobody sees it as abuse.

OK, now I see how that works.

One Comment

  1. Aberjhani said . . .

    Thank you Rev. Kaufmann, please forgive the length of my response but what you are writing about concerns me a great deal and has at times affected me personally.

    Despite the calculated demonization of Michael Jackson, he infused his combined creative spiritual works with so many layers of performance genius, public service, and incredible personal sacrifices that whatever may have been lost while he lived is destined to resurface in ever-increasing waves of triumphant validation. He was a man, so he had his flaws like any other man, but the ferocity with which he labored to rise above those flaws and present to the world the timeless best of himself made him close to something angelic. I may be ridiculed for making such a statement, but I can only call it as I see it. I’m accustomed to paying the price for doing that.

    Truth be told, we are living through a very dangerous time in which certain segments of society are very comfortable with the practice––not just the idea but the practice––of mining other human beings’ lives for their vulnerabilities and then turning those vulnerabilities into commodities of one kind or another. Money is not the only payoff. Sometimes it is an illusion, or delusion, of popularity, power, or even safety. Media powerbrokers happen to be in a particularly advantageous position to undertake such enterprises. Things like ethics, integrity, and conscience just get in the way.

    I suspect “a more humane narrative” is developing exactly as you have said and part of the reason may be a reconfiguration of the dynamics you illustrated in a previous blog regarding Katherine Jackson’s determination during the AEG trial to right the wrong she (and many others) believe done to her son. In that case, it was/is a mother battling for the legacy of a son who lived almost his entire life as a “celebrity.” But in the case of Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, we see 2 mothers who happen to be “celebrities” battling for the safety and sanity of their children. Their stance as mothers apparently elicited far more focused attention and compassion than Michael Jackson’s reality as a black man who dared to compose his own narrative, or as a superlative performing artist who rose far above the ceilings put in place to contain him and as a self-determined single father.

    Moreover, Garner’s and Berry’s statuses as glamorous Hollywood powerhouses command a very different quality of respect than does Katherine Jackson as a formidable family matriarch. In fact, I respect Mrs. Jackson far too much to say just how too many others still view her in spite of all she has accomplished and survived, and regardless of the fact that she now stands as one of the wealthiest women in the world.

    The hairline differences noted here should not matter. What should matter is recognition of the need to heal ourselves of this pandemic addiction to indifference and to every form of violence there is. But we apparently haven’t gotten to that part of the narrative yet because as with any addiction, the struggle against denial of humanity’s mass cravings to inflict harm before moving on to the phase of recovery is not easily won. All the more reason to dig one’s heels in like Berry and Garner and You and “keep the faith.”

    Posted March 7, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

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