Idol Chatter

britbritforidolchatterpraye.jpgPortfolio magazine blogger Jeff Bercovici calls the current state of Britney Spears a “Joseph Welch moment,” referring to the U.S. Army attorney who effectively put an end to McCarthyism in the 1950s by publicly shaming anti-Communist crusader Sen. Joe McCarthy. Like Welch, Bercovici is trying to shame tabloid traders in Britney’s mental-health meltdown by asking, “Have you no decency, sir?” If Britney’s odd behavior is not spoiled celebrity behavior but symptoms of a real illness, should the media continue to report it?

Bercovici puts the question to People magazine editor Larry Hackett, who admits “the media is in this extraordinary role in the middle of her life.” But he fires back: “There’s an assumption in that that if we stopped covering Britney Spears, she’d get healthy. That seems to me a little presumptuous and a little sanctimonious.”
It would be, Larry, if that were the assumption. No one with any understanding of mental illness considers bad press the immediate cause–any more than good press would stabilize someone suffering from depression. But by turning every private foibles–even losing her grip on her baby or making bad underwear choices–into a sign of diva-esque meltdown, the tabloids couldn’t see it when her problems became real.
So Bercovici’s actually got it backwards. While McCarthy pursued political dissent beyond any serious threat to the United States, the media has pursued Britney’s frivolity past the point when her behavior had become seriously disturbed.

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