Justin Bieber’s latest PR disaster and why stars must accept that, in public, everyone is paparazzi


Justin Bieber (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

It’s hard to tell what really happened between Justin Bieber and a woman at a Los Angeles sports park this week — and what exactly the police are investigating — but it appears that the fight stemmed from the lady snapping photos with her phone. Bieber didn’t like that.

He’s not the first celebrity to get upset and wind up making news for a phone-related incident. Over time, many stars have ended up in the headlines after lashing out at people trying to take their photo. This isn’t a problem with the paparazzi (though there have obviously been plenty of scuffles with professional photographers, too) — these are just everyday fans and casual bystanders, eagerly trying to snap a photo on their smartphone.

But the thing that celebrities need to accept is that outside, in the regular world, everyone is a member of the paparazzi — and while it’s fine to fume about that, it’s best not to act out, because that’s likely to lead to even more negative attention.

See: Bieber, as the Los Angeles police confirmed that they are looking into an attempted robbery that has to do with the batting cage incident. He has company: All that trouble with Lindsay Lohan and that congressional staffer two years ago started because he allegedly had taken pictures of her with his phone, and she was trying to delete them. Sean Penn got some unfortunate press when he started screaming at a fan trying to get a photo. Actor Salman Khan went so far as to throw someone’s iPhone away.

Sure, it’s easy to see how a celebrity would get frustrated if they’re constantly surrounded by phones flashing while they’re trying to do things like shop for groceries or hang out in a batting cage or even let loose at a bar. But these days, everyone with a smartphone becomes the paparazzi. The difference? They’re not a hired photog — just an everyday fan, and it rarely goes well to snap at them. Real paparazzi are used to that kind of thing. Average person? Not so much — and they might take it to the cops, as proven.

The one thing Justin Bieber doesn’t need right now is more bad publicity — and with a little more self-control, these types of things don’t have to happen.

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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Emily Yahr | May 14