Celebrity Ethics: Sir Paul And Bill

Pual rejcected

Two recent ethics stories involving the famous, accomplished and popular:

1. Bill Murray The aging bad boy of SNL and “Groundhog Day,” found himself in some trouble recently when he was trying to chill at the Vesuvio rooftop lounge in Carmel, California, convenient to the annual Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tourney in which Bill was playing. A few patrons started flashing cameras at him from close range—without asking, of course–and true to his on-screen character (and off-screen, where he is known as an impulsive jerk), Murray got up and chucked their phones off the 2nd story rooftop. Obviously, whatever the provocation, you can’t do that.

Bill paid for the phones, and the owners didn’t press charges. The problem for me were the typical reactions of commenters on the story, proving once again that the average, even above average member of the public can’t solve a simple ethics problem.

Reaction A: Murray is a celebrity, the public pays his salary, and he has no right to be upset if people impose on his privacy every waking hour.

WRONG. The public has no more right to be rude and inconsiderate to celebrities than they do to anyone else, and the Golden Rule applies.

Reaction B: Murray was in a public place, and has no reasonable expectations of privacy. Thus he cannot complain about people taking his photos.

WRONG. He certainly can. He can’t reasonable complain about people looking at him, but a celebrity not working has every expectation of being left alone. Taking photos of anyone without permission is unethical, but if people must do it, they must do so unobtrusively—no flashes. Again, this was rude and inconsiderate.

Reaction C: The fans were jerks, and Murray was justified in taking their cell phones.

WRONG. He can tell them to stop. He can call the manager. He cannot destroy their property. His conduct was excessive, violent and unfair.

2. Paul McCartney. Sir Paul attempted to attend a Grammys after-party at the Argyle nightclub in Hollywood , hosted by 26-year-old rapper Tyga. A bouncer wouldn’t let him in.

Theories abound. Tyga now swears he knew nothing about it. Another artist, rapper Bow Wow,  has theorized that Paul wasn’t welcome because he isn’t part of a ‘new generation’ of artists who frequent the popular nightspot. Others suggest that maybe the place was just too full.

Too full to let in Paul?

Right.

The icon took it well, reportedly, and even made a comment that is a funny substitute for “Do you know who I am?”, saying, “How VIP do we gotta get?”

Good question. I refuse to believe that the bouncers didn’t know who he was.

At a certain high level of accomplishment and lifetime achievement, and whatever that level is, Paul McCartney  has cleared it with room to spare, an individual has earned respect…from everyone, and forever. There is a great story about when Ted Williams met President George H.W. Bush, and said, “I can’t believe I’m meeting you.” Bush relied, “That’s funny, I was going to say the same thing!” That’s the kind of treatment Presidents, the greatest hitter who ever lived and musical geniuses who changed the world have earned.

Show some damn respect.

80 thoughts on “Celebrity Ethics: Sir Paul And Bill

  1. I take a different view of both these incidents. At some point, we get OLD. Bill Murray playing a petulant bad boy? Come on Bill, it and we get old. You’re sixty-damn-five years old. Give it a rest. Grow up. It’s time. Soon you’ll be dead. Sure, it’s your shtick and you’ve been dining out on it for decades, but act like an adult more often. Let people remember your youth rather than having a horrid skeleton of it force upon them.

    And Paul McCartney. Same thing. You may be a legend, but you’re a very old one. Look at the photograph. You’re a very old guy with thinned, horribly dyed hair. And good for you for not having all sorts of surgery done on your face, by the way, but lay off the hair dye.

    You were a big deal in the ’60s and ’70s. That was half a century ago. You are old enough to be the grandfather or great grandfather of the kids having this party. Go to bed. It’s late.

    When my daughter (who is now forty-two) was in eighth grade, one of her school mates asked a car full of their contemporaries, “Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?” My daughter now has a daughter roughly the same age as my girl grade school classmates were when they were screaming as they listened on their transistor radios to The Beatles arriving in Jacksonville on one of their early tours.

    Even legends get old, Jack. And at some point, if they’re not careful, they can end up making mockeries of themselves.

    • And I’m with Albert Finney who rejected the knighthood they offered him saying knighthoods are essentially too snobby for words. Sir Paul? Give me a break. All the lonely people, where do they all come from.

    • Tyga’s hip hop will be forgotten rather quickly after Paul McCartney is no longer around. Consider the number of artists who have done covers of the numerous songs he wrote and sang. I am not a great Beatles fan but their music will be remembered long after hip hop is dead and gone.

        • And yes, The Beatles are over-hyped. They sold music to a generation of kids and were lionized by the music/entertainment industrial complex just as it was exploding and becoming really, really big business. And it was a generation of kids that was large in number.The Glen Miller of their era. Not that big a deal, frankly.

          Whenever anyone calls Paul McCartney a genius, I have a four word response: “Band on the Run.”

          • I don’t think Paul or John were geniuses but together they wrote some of the best pop songs of the 1960’s and they did change sound of rock and roll. I can think of maybe a handful of artists that did the same thing.

            The only real geniuses of the 1960’s music scene I can think of are Brian Wilson , Phil Spector, and Stevie Wonder.

          • I know your view on this, but at a certain point, especially when it comes to cultural matters, you have to take the approach of Robert Benchley when he was a theater critic for the New Yorker, and conclude, as he did about a long-running hit show that he couldn’t stand, “I’m just wrong, I guess.”

            The Beatles led the entire genre, expanded rock past boundaries, but mostly, John/Paul join composers like Grieg, Rodgers, Arthur Sullivan, Victor Hugo and a few other who had the genius of melody, like the ancient folk music writers. It’s a rare gift, and we see it only every 50 years or so, if that often.

            Rolling Stone did a list of the BEST 50 Beatles songs, and some of my favorites didn’t make it. Best FIFTY. There just aren’t many songwriters that good.

            • “The Beatles led the entire genre, expanded rock past boundaries”

              Yes they did and ,most people would say they did it mostly with Sgt Pepper but what a lot of people don’t realize is that album was in response to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, which was in response to the Beatles Rubber Soul.

              • Although Pet Sounds is mostly pompous junk. The Beach Boys were far more limited ans self-referential than the Liverpool Lads, and I’m pretty sure the BB’s would agree.

                I heard one of the old founders of The Byrds on the radio with Cousin Brucie talking about the days when the band toured with The Beatles. A middle aged woman called in and was gushing, and finally said, “I love the Byrds; they were much better than The Beatles!” And the Old Byrd cracked me up by saying, “Well, that is so nice, maam, thank you. But you are out of your mind!”

                • Funny that you say that because Brian Wilson did think that Sgt Peppers was superior.

                  But its production values and arrangements did change the sound of popular music.

    • Respect shouldn’t get old.

      Decades ago, I went to an Old Timers Game in Fenway Park, the first ever. They had the oldest living player, Smokey Joe Wood, who won 30 games in 1912, throw out the first ball. Well, “throw” is kind…he was shrunken and wizened, in a wheelchair, and they had to place the ball in his hand, and sort of dropped it. But the fans gave him a standing O. He died a few days later, and a while after that, “Field of Dreams” came out. And you know what? At one point, someone points to the ghost-ballplayers on the magic field and says, “There’s Smokey Joe Wood!”

      Makes me happy every time. If we forget, it’s our fault.
      And here’s how Joe always will look to me…

      • Great story. But that was an old timer’s game at Fenway. Not an “after party” (what a horrible, ubiquitous term) thrown by and for a bunch of kids at some Hollywood or LA hotel. At a Grammy ceremony for Paul M. twenty years from now, he’ll be lionized. Great.

        There’s Frank Zappa’s story about when and why he dissolved The Mothers of Invention: He was in a studio one day and Duke Ellington had to has some punk, junior producer for an advance so he, Duke Ellington, could buy himself some lunch.

        The Beatles were dominant for and among the most self-indulgent, self-obsessed generation ever- ours. I think most anything from our time needs to be given a little more time and should be looked at more than a little bit askance. All those tin pan alley guys cranked out early Beatles tunes by the dozens.

        Do you adhere to the Benchley line yourself?

        • I do. And rap and hip hop, as well as jazz and most opera, are categories where I apply it, among others. When the world goes nuts over something for a long, long time, it’s special. There’s no denying it.

            • Ol’ Blue Eyes is a case, isn’t he. His early recordings are actually surprisingly fresh and engaging. But once he became The Chairman of the Board, he became a parody of ‘fifties and early ‘sixties bourbon soaked machismo, i.e, himself, the distillation of all that was bad about the Eisenhower (and maybe part of the WWII) generation. But a very, very smart and musical college classmate (baby boomer) of mine thinks Frank is God incarnate. Go figure.

              You should give live, in person opera a try. I can’t believe you love musicals and hate opera. Very unusual. Listening to the Met broadcasts IS the worst, by the way.

                • Hah!

                  Is there such a thing as too much G&S? Evidently Groucho Marx listened non-stop. He played their records at his dinner parties to the point regular guests dreaded attending them.

                  • I never liked G&S until I saw it done properly. I had only heard recordings or seen clips on TV and it always came off as way too serious and pompous.

                    Then I saw Pirates of Penzance live and I was blown away by it. The difference being that when I saw it live the performers were having fun with it and it infected the audience .

                    • About 75% is terrible, which explains why so many people don’t like it, and also proves how good the core material is, because it continues to survive even being massacred—and always, ALWAYS, being unwatchable on TV. It’s a live theater genre only.

                  • The McCartney incident reminds me of the time an older John Lennon was down in the Carribeanby himself. He was in a nightclub & kept trying to get the girls to dance with him. He was repeatedly turned down; obviously he was not recognized. Talk about not gettin’ any respect!

        • I’ve seen the Frank Zappa-Duke Ellington story here a couple of times now. Is the lesson supposed to be that Duke Ellington was broke? If so I don’t think that’s accurate. I think the message of the story was supposed to be that Zappa suddenly realized that carrying the overhead of a permanent band was bad business.

          • I’ve always wondered what the take-away from that story was. How could Duke Ellington have been broke at that time? How would anybody know, and if he was, I’d be afraid that broaching the subject with him could be insulting.

            • I think the story is more about respect and deference, or the lack thereof with the passage of time. Who knows, maybe it’s apocryphal and means absolutely nothing.

  2. What about events where they tell you up front no pictures or your camera/phone will be confiscated? If you violate, is it then tough luck if the venue confiscates or destroys your $400 camera? Or can they only toss you out?

    For that matter, what about police officers who don’t want to end up like Officer Rivieri in Baltimore? Can they confiscate someone’s cell phone or camera before dealing with them further? Part of me says yes, officers don’t need to be second guessed by youtubers.

    • If you are at an event where they tell you up front no pictures they can only toss you out, but if they confiscate or destroy your camera then that is theft or criminal damage, .
      You can take and/or publish photos or film of people where there is no expectation of privacy, such as a beach, shopping mall, park or other public place.

        • 1st Amendment is supposed to, but officers attempt and have found some success in citing “safety concerns” to keep people at a further distance. If you are the subject of the investigation, you could record, but police have killed people and said they thought the phone/camera was a weapon. Self-defense with LEOs seems to be really heightened, whether it’s before or after the fact.

  3. ” Reaction A: Murray is a celebrity, the public pays his salary”

    That’s so wrong. My opinion is that you spend your money and watch a movie or buy a CD in exchange, and that’s the extent of the ‘contract’. Celebrities don’t owe you anything else.

    • I’ve long believed the same thing. If I buy a book, my money gets me the book, not unlimited access to the author. We’ve started to turn celebrities into commodities, expecting them to perform whenever and if-ever we see them. It’s become an ingrained part of our cultural conscience that the thing to do when spotting a famous person is to ask for an autograph, regardless of what’s going on at the time.

      Now that people have cameras with them everywhere they go, courtesy of the cell phone, the autograph requests have morphed into photo requests as well, often leaving out the request part.

      I don’t know if it’s apocryphal, but I’ve read that Paul Newman stopped signing autographs when someone passed him a sheet of paper in the men’s room.

      And we’ve certainly become more intrusive as a society since then. I would hate to think what would have happened if the autograph seeker in question had possessed a camera phone back in the day.

      • Well duh. There’s a certain way to go about getting autographs, pictures, etc., without being rude or intrusive, the most obvious being to attend an event where they will be offered or where the person you are looking for will be “on duty.” Stopping them on the street, though? No way, though no one will begrudge you if your head turns. BTW, if you’re into autographs, stick to collecting them for yourself, don’t trade on them. There’s something ethically slimy about profiting from someone else’s generosity. Exception: gifts for someone who can’t meet the person. I stood online, one of only a half dozen men in an otherwise female group, to get the autograph of a celeb chef for a friend who was never going to make it to NYC.

        • Exactly. The customers could have asked Bill…but he was under no obligation to allow it.

          Autograph collector myself. Would never dream of selling even one. 🙂

  4. “Too full to let in Paul?”

    Did Gomer let the colonel through the gate? Did Barney let the governor off with a warning? If there was any of the good old sitcom grit left in America, this young bouncer would be saluted for staying faithful to his appointed task.

  5. When I was still living with my parents, we at one time loved on Bashan Lake in East Haddam, CT., which is not far from the Goodspeed Opera House. Our landlord was affiliated with the opera house in some capacity, and often arranged for parties, lodging, etc for the actors (I ended up being an usher there for a bit just before I went into the Navy, a very interesting story for another day. I lived literally about 300 feet from the place at the time). Anyway, he would often have me bring them out on the lake to waterski or fish. The first guy I brought out was “Cheswick” from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I remember how content he was to spend the entire day just idling around on the lake, soaking up the peace and quiet all day, then just dangling his feet in the water off the swimming dock afterwards. At the end of the day, he thanked me very sincerely for giving him such a nice, peaceful day. I learned from this that these people probably long for ordinary existences and maybe a little room to breathe, and that showing them a good time was a pretty simple formula. It reminded me of that scene with John Merrick in the train Station, pleading to be treated like a human being rather than a circus freak. It was also a good lesson about class envy for a young kid, too.

  6. Since when do people (celebrities included and maybe moreso) change their personalities or social behavior for that matter, just because they reach some arbitrary age?

    Finney, arguably one of our greatest living actors, and a lifetime curmudgeon, turned down two honors’ offers that, he said, “encouraged snobbery”. Over 300 “refuseniks” have turned down knighthoods or lesser honors for various reasons, mostly to protest government policy. McCartney, always gracious, even tongue-in-cheek, whose activism centered entirely on animal rights, (his musical status already reviewed by Jack) received his knighthood as a personal achievement: “It’s a long way from a little terrace in Liverpool,” he said, having dedicated the honor to his working-class home town. Their choices; they’re entitled.

    McCartney is also entitled, as Murray is to his privacy, to go celebrate (and be celebrated) at a post-party for an awards ceremony at which he was an honored guest. Sir Paul had an entourage, you see. This included two other turn-aways who were looking to get into this Grammy party: Beck, last year’s Grammy winner for Best Album of the Year; and Taylor Hawkins, iconic drummer for the Foo Fighters, a Seattle rock band popular since 1994. Both in their early 40s, at the top of their form, and well known faces in that world. The party host is now well aware that a … mistake?… was made for three bad choices, not just one.

    I have numerous friends and acquaintances, some of whom do go to bed early, one of whom gets up early enough to be swimming in the 51-degree waters of San Francisco Bay by sunrise. She is a “Polar Bear” member of the Dolphin Club, meaning she’s swum at least 40 miles between December 21 and March 21, planning soon to break one of their records and swim her age: 73. (McCartney is 73; if she can swim, he can go dance). Her husband, who un-retired himself to start a new business, is sometimes still awake when she gets up — he and his buddies play poker. I know all the members of a local square dance club I still belong to, and participated in until a physical disability brought me down last year. Also, the math involved was taking its toll. (The activity is not what it used to be – you have to be pretty brainy to follow the calls). The lowest age for the mixed squares is 19, the highest 88 at present. Can you dance strenuously for a half hour at a time for four hours? — you can’t just stop when you have seven others depending on you to complete an intricate pattern. The group breaks up at midnight. One of them was homeless for 14 years until he turned 70, didn’t tell anyone, came for the free snacks, stayed to dance. The ten-day Noir City film festival just ended — double and triple bills every day, five different shows on weekends, 3/4ths of the audience declared themselves over 65 … that’s over 1,000 people up for programs that ended at 11 or midnight, followed by parties that went to 2 and 3am. For my part, I probably don’t count since I am a night-person by nature. I train volunteers, primarily college and grad students, on a number of crisis lines where I work a 1- 7am shift three or four nights a week and fill in on holidays. I often go out socially before I go to work. I used to climb with my best friend who is slightly older; he finished “peaking” (as he calls it) on his last fourteener two years ago, second time around. I’ve left my 75th year behind with no regrets.

    None of us look like the Pretty People, some are downright raisins, but I’ve noticed that “bright-eyed” is the order of the day (if not as bushy-tailed active as the the bounding squirrel it describes): and that says healthy, happy and ready to par-tay. It beats early-to-bed sallow, puffy-faced couch potatoes any time. Some were “big deals” in the 50s, 60s and 70s; at least two I know are recognized by face and name from NYC to Beijing, and could walk into any of the celebrity hangouts with impunity — and have done so. Recently. I have a cousin. a publisher, living in Connecticut who can get a table at any restaurant in the Big Apple with a phone call. He goes to bed early on alternate days so he can crew every other morning on a local river. He’s over 80, won’t say how over. No thinning hair – sports as bald and wrinkly a skull as Jack Nicholson’s face: the local kids think it’s sexy. More West Coast, another friend has long hippie hair still, always dyed in several contrasting colors, but he’s an early techie inventor (gets round the city on a scooter), has seven grandchildren and four greats, all of whom (and their friends when he goes to their schools or colleges to talk about making and inventing things) think he’s cool.

    “At some point, we get OLD”. No, that is so sad. There is no such point. We age. And we run into age-ISM at both ends — the ends that meet in the middle, in other words at every point (and no matter what the covergirls and boys look like). If we are respected for our accomplishments, past or present, then there is nothing wrong with being celebrated for them. That means being honored by our presence and enjoying us as guests in your … nightclub. That means we don’t have to go to bed early if we don’t feel like it. So, nyahhh!

  7. I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe that the bouncer did not know who Paul McCartney was. There was really no upside to denying a person like Paul McCartney entry. The video shows that that the bouncer did not seem to know who any of them were, he seemingly thinks they are paparazzi, or connected with the paparazzi. Even if the bouncer was familiar with the Beatles (and that is a big if, they are far from being universally ubiquitous in some cultures), he may not have known what he looked like, especially now. He looks a lot different from the doe-eyed youth that he was at the height of his fame.

    McCartney was probably a victim of his own down-to-earth personality. The A-list types usually send “their people” ahead of them to inform the bouncers that they are approaching, and to make sure there are no delays at the door. This way they avoid embarrassments like what happened at the door to the club. I’m glad he maintained a sense of humor about the whole thing.

  8. “I refuse to believe that the bouncers didn’t know who he was.”

    Seriously? I know that you bemoan our general cultural ignorance, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when something like this happens. I would not be the least bit surprised if they guy didn’t know who Paul McCartney is.

    With regard to the rest of the suppositions about PM’s rebuff at the door —

    1) I agree with whoever scoffed at the notion of the place being too full for PM. The guy just didn’t recognize that PM was a celebrity.

    2) These guys at the doors of these clubs really seem to have broad discretionary authority for whom they admit. Maybe he DID think PM was just too old. Again, no recognition of PM and his place in pop music history.

    3) “You were a big deal in the ’60s and ’70s. That was half a century ago. You are old enough to be the grandfather or great grandfather of the kids having this party. Go to bed. It’s late.” Reminds me of the time I was invited to the wedding and reception of one of my choir members who is 30 years younger than I, and was told by Momzilla that I would be sitting with a bunch of people I didn’t know because, “after all, you’re not like the other members of the choir who are her friends who are young people.” Highly insulted was I. Not because I believed that I deserved special treatment because I was the choir director but because I thought you try to seat people with their friends, regardless of age, and not with freaking strangers! I might call myself a geezer but I’m not REALLY a geezer. Paul McCartney might be a geezer technically, but not musically and culturally. Sheesh.

    Re Bill Murray — love him but that was just stupid. Bill, didn’t you take your meds that day?

  9. “Taking photos of anyone without permission is unethical, but if people must do it, they must do so unobtrusively—no flashes.”

    I disagree with the first part and wholly agree with the second part.

    To discuss the first part further, we can’t declare a common act as unethical without inviting naive and simple-minded politicians/legislators to make bad laws. Laws that would be and have been struck down by the Supreme Court.

    “Taking photos of anyone without permission is unethical…” is such a generalized statement that it’s easy to refute with innocuous examples, such as taking a landscape shot at a beach where others are present.
    …but that’s not even my best argument. My best argument that being in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy is implied consent. That’s the justification for government surveillance cameras and private detectives as well as police detectives.

    Now… on the second point, I agree that using intrusive equipment like a flash is unethical because that’s not simply recording what you can plainly see, but projecting light into an otherwise pleasant atmosphere. It’s interference and it’s rude.

    I get that I’m walking a fine line on the first point on the difference of law and ethics and that just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical, but I don’t think anyone taking my photo in public is unethical and I see no problem with taking photos of others who catch my interest for some reason or another. Sometimes I want to engage with them, sometimes I want to see if I capture a unique image and it doesn’t pan out. Intent plays a large role in deciding whether it’s ethical or not, but the reasons that would invoke unethical, in this particular arena, are very few.

    • I agree with where you are going, though haven’t sat and done a great deal of meditation on it.

      It would seem a lot of the ethics involved would have to do a passive / active line involving the photographer. Ignoring the law for a moment: if you actively make a person a subject of a photo, you are treading closer to the line of invasion of privacy & unethical conduct. Now, even then, I can’t for sure say where the line is crossed when you are actively making an individual a subject of your photo. Many factors go into that.

      On the passive side, if the photographer’s intent is to capture a beautiful sunset on the beach and happens to capture a dozen people or another person in the image, I’d submit that that individual is closer to the ethical side of the continuum. However, Golden Rule would suggest that the photographer go back after the fact and crop or edit out any individual who MAY not have wanted their image captured…though there may be no actual obligation to do so. And of course that is all tempered by circumstances related to the person whose image was captured. Such as: are they even recognizable…or, what if the camera snapped right as the individual was caught in the horrible throes of projectile vomiting…

      Seems photography ethics MUST rely more on Golden Rule analysis than anything else. And of course, Golden Rule analysis relies on the overall civility of the population at large…groan.

      Should someone find a truly unique, artistic, emotion-filled and message-filled scene involving an individual and that moment is the only moment to capture the image, it seems to me the obvious choice is to take the picture and then engage the individual afterwards for explanation.

      Of course, some circumstances, such as horribly egregious public behavior ought to be seen as surrendering consent past any Golden Rule need to engage said individual.

      • I want to offer this to see if it will sway you.
        Given 1) that you can’t expect privacy in public, so I can’t invade it
        2) with the right equipment, I can get a closer better shot from so far away you wouldn’t realize it, so taking it from 10 ft away shouldn’t really change the maths, 3) art is subjective and only the art maker (photographer) can make that call….

        The ethics issue is never about the act of taking the picture, but how the picture is used. If the picture is kept private, no foul. If the picture is used commercially, big foul. If the picture is newsworthy and used in the context of news, no foul. Etc

          • Sure – but those are given in the situation discussed. So for a different situation where you aren’t in public, but maybe a private house and I’m a peeping-Tom (::ahem:: George McFly), Photography is not only unethical but illegal.

    • Tim,
      With all due respect; some of these celebrities are literally stalked 24 hours a day for the sole purpose of taking photos, any photos they can get, they are ruthlessly intruding into the personal lives of celebrities. So do you think this kind of intentional stalking is “ethical”?

      Put yourself, your wife, and your children into a situation where their every move is literally stalked by hoards of camera wielding immoral SOB’s trying to get their next photo scoop to plaster on the front page of the tabloids.

      • Zoltar, I don’t believe I suggested that stalking (or harassment) is ethical. I believe my words are that Photography (the act of taking a picture) is rarely unethical. With any situation, you have to take a step back and ask yourself, what’s really going on here?

        • Tim said, “I don’t believe I suggested that stalking (or harassment) is ethical. I believe my words are that Photography (the act of taking a picture) is rarely unethical.”

          I know what you said; my comment wasn’t about what you said, it was about what you didn’t say.

          I think you’ve completely missed the point of my comment; but after your sarcastic BS below, I really don’t care whether you “get it” or not and you don’t likely care either.

            • Actually Tim, I said stalking “for the sole purpose of taking photos” but let’s not get too hung up on semantics. Think what ever you like.

              You choose to separate the action of taking the photograph from the intentional action of stalking for the sole purpose of taking the photograph; I’m sure there will be some that choose to stand with you based on that separation, I choose otherwise. In these kind of celebrity paparazzi photo encounters you usually don’t have the paparazzi photos being taken without the stalking taking place. Paparazzi are abusing their rights.

              • I don’t want to get caught up on semantics, so I’ll go to the end. Paparazzi are abusing their rights.
                1) Who are the Paparazzi? Who gets to make that call?
                2) Which rights are they abusing? Their (literal) right to take a photograph or their (imagined) right to stalk and harass people?

                I suppose the below one (I just had to include it) is semantics, so you can just ignore it….

                3) If I stalk someone, is it somehow better if I don’t take a photo? Or if I do stalk someone and take their photo, is it better that I do it for a dual purpose like take a photo and get their used tissue out of the trash receptacle?

    • “To discuss the first part further, we can’t declare a common act as unethical without inviting naive and simple-minded politicians/legislators to make bad laws.”

      What? Conduct has to be regarded as ethical because if it is called unethical, some idiot will pass a law against it? So racist speech is now ETHICAL? Lying to a date about your job is now ethical? Ducking responsibility and accountability on the job is now ETHICAL?

      I’m going to pretend you didn’t write that.

      ” My best argument that being in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy is implied consent.”

      Then your best argument is terrible. This is an argument that being in public is consent to be treated rudely, It isn’t. Someone can legally call me a fucking asshole in public because they don’t like my shoes, but it’s still unethical, and so is taking pictures of me without my express consent, unless I am part of a public event, a crime or otherwise in the middle of something noteworthy and newsworthy, and not being photographed as an individual. If you can ethically take a picture of me, then you can ethically take a picture of that gorgeous 16-20 year old woman in the sexy sweater, creeping her out a s she imagines what it might be, ah, used for later., and the 7-year old with her mother, creating fears of kidnapping, or that woman having a bad day, skipping make-up and looking her worst, and fearing the photo ending up being published, or a photo of a priest picking his nose for second because it was dry and driving him nuts, or a photo on the beach of Ted Kennedy looking like a beached whale that will end up in a tabloid with a mean caption…I can go on like this forever. it’s wrong, that’s all. It makes being in public unpleasant and risky when it shouldn’t be.

      “but I don’t think anyone taking my photo in public is unethical and I see no problem with taking photos of others who catch my interest for some reason or another.”

      This is one of the reverse Golden Rule provisions. “Do unto others as you allow others to do unto you, thus substituting your lesser sensibilities for theirs to rationalize you doing something to them that they don’t like, but you do.”

      • I have to justify my position to Zoltar because I separate the act of taking a photograph and what is done with the photograph. You and Zoltar don’t make that distinction.

        What you are advising is that consent needs to be explicitly given to make the act of taking a photograph “ethical”. Under your standard, anyone that operates a camera in the public space is unethical. Government cameras (there’s a few of those) immediately thrust our Law Enforcement into the realm of “unethical”. I must be really unethical because I have a dash camera running all of the time on my car. I haven’t gotten everyone’s permission to film what I see out of my car.

        “…or otherwise in the middle of something noteworthy and newsworthy…” Who decides what is newsworthy? The journalist (photographer) or the subject (the guy with the camera in his face)? If that’s an exception to providing consent, then you’ve just provided consent to everyone. A photo may not become newsworthy until well after it’s taken. If I took a picture of a woman and her 7-yr old girl and she’s later kidnapped, do you think police, the news outlets, and society might find value in the photo?

        Do P.I.’s need to get consent before they stalk and photograph the targets of their investigations? Gimme a break.

        “What? Conduct has to be regarded as ethical because if it is called unethical, some idiot will pass a law against it? So racist speech is now ETHICAL? Lying to a date about your job is now ethical? Ducking responsibility and accountability on the job is now ETHICAL?

        I’m going to pretend you didn’t write that.”

        Was the racist speech a poignant parody? Was the racist speech directed against Nazi Germans before landing on Normandy as a way to rally the troops? Was the lie an obligation for their job as a CIA spy? And is ducking responsibility and accountability really a “common act” (in the sense that I used and coined the term “common act”?)

        Is speech really unethical? Speech that directly leads to a crime is unethical – and illegal. Speech that actually hurts people is unethical and sometimes illegal.

        In my view, 1) Speaking words is akin to taking photographs.
        2) Speaking mean words is akin to taking photographs without consent.
        3) Speaking harassing words is akin to peeping-Tom photographs.
        4) Speaking words to directly cause a crime is akin to child pornography.

        Again – I must be really unethical because I took a video of my then 4-yr-old’s xmas pageant and didn’t get the permission of all the other kids/parents to take that video. I must be a horrible parent because I didn’t go through the entire church to make sure the only people taking pictures were those who were related to one of the children and not some stranger off the street.

        I’m really not trying to make a legal distinction here. I’m trying to show that the norms of our society (based off of our constitutional rights) do not comport with your view of “consent to be photographed”. People simply aren’t running around all over the place asking if they can take a picture and sure, that might make us a rude society, but that is the norm and it doesn’t make us unethical simply because we hit the shutter button.

        • Tim: your counter examples are straw men entirely. A kid pageant does include presumed consent. If I objected to my kid having his photo taken, or he did, then I would pull him from the pageant. You know what a dash camera is for; you know that’s irrelevant.

          Meanwhile:

          1. I have to justify my position to Zoltar because I separate the act of taking a photograph and what is done with the photograph. You and Zoltar don’t make that distinction. Damn right, because creating the picture and owning it gives you complete control over my image. It is fair and just that I be allowed to say, sorry: I do not grant you that power. Taking it without consent is unethical.

          2. What you are advising is that consent needs to be explicitly given to make the act of taking a photograph “ethical”.

          Not true. Explicit, or clearly implied, as in your pageant example.

          2. Under your standard, anyone that operates a camera in the public space is unethical.
          No, anyone who uses that camera to take photos of strangers without their consent is unethical.

          3.Government cameras (there’s a few of those) immediately thrust our Law Enforcement into the realm of “unethical”.

          True!

          4. “Do P.I.’s need to get consent before they stalk and photograph the targets of their investigations?” Legally? No. Ethically? Absolutely. PI’s are habitually unethical. You really think taking photos of private affairs through windows is ethical?

          5. “Is speech really unethical?” I’ll forget you asked that too. Is gratuitously rude, obscene, cruel, misleading, threatening and hurtful speech with no other purpose than to be rude, obscene, cruel, misleading, threatening and hurtful unethical? Of course. Are revealing personal secrets of people who trusted you just to reveal them unethical? Sure.

          5) Speaking words is akin to taking photographs. Wrong. Speaking takes nothing at all from the object of the words. Speaking benign words is not analogous to taking unwelcome photos, which is not benign.
          6) Speaking mean words is akin to taking photographs without consent. No, speaking mean words is not like, but about as unethical as taking unflattering photographs without consent. Both are unethical.
          7) Speaking harassing words is akin to peeping-Tom photographs. No. All unconsented, unwelcome photographs are harassing by nature. Ask Bill.
          8) Speaking words to directly cause a crime is akin to child pornography. No because the speaking isn’t a crime itself, just the intended effect of the words. The crime in child pornography involves the tangible conduct photographed.

          9) “…that is the norm and it doesn’t make us unethical simply because we hit the shutter button.” That’s not the norm, that’s an “everybody does it” argument. I don’t do it, and nobody gets away with doing it to me if I see them trying.

          On the plus side, you have revealed an important rationalization I had missed!

          • “You really think taking photos of private affairs through windows is ethical?”

            Way to twist my words with your own strawman, because ::sarcasm:: P.I.s would never take a photo of a man and woman entering a motel room together from across a street – their only option is to take photos through windows.

            “Speaking benign words is not analogous to taking unwelcome photos, which is not benign.”

            Why isn’t taking unwelcome photos benign? Without referring to any other action, possibility, or outcome resulting with the photo, what isn’t benign about taking a photo that neither physically or obtrusively interferes with the subject?

            To clarify this one question, I’ll put it in the form of an example. Jack Marshall is walking on a city street in front of a group of stores when Tim LeVier standing by a tree waits until Jack enters his frame and Tim snaps the picture clearly focused on Jack Marshall, making Jack Marshall the subject of the picture.

            In this scenario – what is not benign about taking the photograph?

            • I am being used, without consent, as a component of a Tim’s property, with value and entirely subject to his whims. He can turn it into art, post it on Facebook, hold it up in a group as he mocks my form, publish it on Facebook, write humiliating captions to it, photo shop tentacles on my body, or masturbate while holding it. It doesn’t matteer if he does these things: I should have a right to avoid that risk. Absent clear indicia of consent, implied or express, I have been wronged if Tim takes the picture.

              • How is that entire comment not a strawman to the question asked? Regardless of what I might do with the picture (each action having their own designation of ethical or unethical), taking the photo is entirely benign as an action.

                It doesn’t matter if he does these things: I should have a right to avoid that risk.

                Here we get to the crux of the matter. Risk avoidance. Creating “safe spaces” for those who are overly worried that they’re very important. Making sure the average person doesn’t have to worry about remote possibilities. By declaring it unethical to take photographs (but fully recognizing the legality of such practice) you enable people to feel hurt, violated, and offended.

                The 1st Niggardly Principle:

                “No one should be criticized or penalized because someone takes racial, ethnic, religious or other offense at their conduct or speech due to the ignorance, bias or misunderstanding by the offended party.”

                …and just to head off one’s use of the 2nd Niggardly Principle, I shall jump directly to the 3rd Niggardly Principle:

                “When, however, suppressing speech and conduct based on an individual’s or a group’s sincere claim that such speech or conduct is offensive, however understandable and reasonable this claim may be, creates or threatens to create a powerful precedent that will undermine freedom of speech, expression or political opinion elsewhere, calls to suppress the speech or conduct must be opposed and rejected.”

                • I think this is all semantics in order to separate the actual instantaneous click of the camera from what the camera captures. But the two CANNOT be separated. It would be like arguing that that pickpocket’s action of taking a wallet from someone is benign. It’s what the pickpocket plans to do with the wallet later that makes the pickpocket unethical.

                  I think you are biased towards your analysis because of just how ubiquitous photography has become, you personally are so used to it that you don’t care what deeper significance IS involved in the *taking* of someone else’s likeness.

                  The comfort with the ubiquity is driving your “everyone does it” or “it’s always been this way” rationalization. And in some cases, it borders on a “If I’m cool with it, everyone else ought to be also” rationalization (which I think it one of the victim-related rationalizations).

                  • “I think this is all semantics in order to separate the actual instantaneous click of the camera from what the camera captures. But the two CANNOT be separated.”

                    Before I reply, I have to point out a correction and make sure you still mean what you wrote.

                    I’m not trying to separate the click from what it captures. Those are intertwined and can’t be separated. I’m trying to separate Action 1, taking the photo, with Action 2, which at the time the photo is taken is “undefined”. Action 2 could be anything Jack listed above, as well as an infinite continuum of positive outcomes.

                    When (if) you reply, might I implore you to start a fresh thread as this one’s getting fairly narrow in the browser window? Thanks in advance.

                    • Let me rephrase:

                      I think this is all semantics in order to devalue a person’s likeness in relation to their publicity. And it does key entirely on just what “implied consent” means and on just what “reasonable expectations of privacy” means.

                      Your stance is that ALL privacy is surrendered upon entry into a public scope and therefore implied consent is automatic.

                      Yet, an individual’s likeness must have some value, much like that individual’s other possession, such as in my example: their wallet.

                      The semantic game here seems to divorce the value of that individual’s likeness from that individual once they enter the public realm.

                      I would submit you don’t value that person at all, whereas, those on Jack’s side of the argument insist the person has some level of value imposing certain ethical limitations on conduct towards that person. You just don’t think their likeness is part of that.

                    • That is to say, should one’s person or their own likeness be evaluated like a possession for matters of ethics?

                      If I sat down, in public, and laid a 5 dollar bill on the ground immediately in front of where I am sitting, do I have a reasonable expectation that someone ought to ask if it’s mine or that they can have it before they snatch it up?

        • Tim LeVier said, “I have to justify my position to Zoltar because I separate the act of taking a photograph and what is done with the photograph. You and Zoltar don’t make that distinction.”

          Tim, What you said is incorrect because I really didn’t discuss with you what happens after the photo it’s taken, I discussed the actions that lead up to the action of the photo being taken. You have no reason whatsoever justifying that. What happens after the photo is taken is well after the fact and is a completely different discussion that I’ve chosen not to participate in.

          There are three things going on here, the actions of the photographer for the sole purpose of taking the photo, the actual action of taking the photo, and the subsequent action of what is done with the photo that wouldn’t have existed without the previous two actions. My personal view is that the first two actions are intrinsically linked to one another because the purpose on the first is literally to obtain the second, and the third is a completely separate issue both ethically and legally.

          My discussion was about stalking. Stalking is stalking regardless of the intent of the stalker; camera wielding Paparazzi are stalkers, period! I would not wish a stalker on anyone; until you have actually had to deal with one yourself you will never, ever understand the direct and indirect affects it can have on you and your family. There is a very good reason why I use a pseudonym for blogging here and on other websites.

  10. Personally, I’m absolutely appalled at how the public treats entertainment industry celebrities with such a general lack of respect regarding their personal space and personal lives. I know, I know, they’ve chosen to do the work they do and this is the result of popularity, but let’s get real folks, these people need to be left alone in their personal lives.

    If we choose to interfere with their personal lives outside their job, why can’t we just show our appreciation and respect in a simple manner like, “thank you for your work”, we do this for other widely appreciated professions.

    Enjoy, appreciate, and respect their professional work and respect their personal lives and allow them to be as non-public as possible outside their job. It’s the right thing to do.

  11. I couldn’t reply above, got too narrow. Tex, I hope you come back here and see this; I’m not trying to hide my response.

    I’ll admit I’m not fully understanding some aspects of your comment (perhaps it was hurried) but I think I have enough I can continue the discussion.

    “Yet, an individual’s likeness must have some value, much like that individual’s other possession, such as in my example: their wallet.”

    A couple of ways I could go here and there’s some clarification needed.

    1) we are talking about capturing likeness, not utilizing or publishing likeness. Publishing ethics are very different from Photography ethics. Many of the arguments so far have been about Publishing ethics, the use of the image. Since I am here for Photography ethics, that is the focus of my comments.

    2) what value does a likeness have? You are right that I don’t ascribe value to likeness alone. I think it always has potential (positive or negative) but that potential is only realized through publication and use. Until it’s used, it’s only potential.

    3) if a person’s likeness has value, why are they giving it away for free? Is it unethical to witness a person’s likeness without their consent? No? Why is it unethical to document what I witness?

    “The semantic game here seems to divorce the value of that individual’s likeness from that individual once they enter the public realm.

    By entering the public realm, you are presenting a likeness. Whether you show your true self in your birthday suit, cover yourself from head to toe in traditional Islamic garb, wear a costume, or wear make-up – what you present to the public is up to you and a way to avoid or incur risk. That presentation you make to the public can be witnessed. You can obscure witnesses with tinted windows, ducking, hiding, putting your hands up, carrying an umbrella, but in the public space, it’s simply….public. You become a part of the public. You aren’t “in public” you “are public”. Most of us will never know the fame that it takes for others to notice us, but sometimes someone might see us, even when we don’t see ourselves….and that’s not unethical.

  12. “If I sat down, in public, and laid a 5 dollar bill on the ground immediately in front of where I am sitting, do I have a reasonable expectation that someone ought to ask if it’s mine or that they can have it before they snatch it up?”

    Deprivation of physical property really is an unfair comparison to something that is entirely new and never existed before. As much as I like to engage, it’s nearly impossible to fix this analogy to be a reasonable comparison.

    • But this is very OLD, Tim. Natives in many cultures view photography as an attack, and an intimate one. They feel violated; some believe their souls are being stolen. It is a visceral, negative reaction.

      You were looking for an analogy: I’d say public nakedness is similar. It is an intrusion. I don’t want to see someone’s naughty bits when I am out for a walk, unless Kate Upton or Dakota Blue Richards strolls by. Someone is interacting with me in an unwelcome manner without my consent. Unethical.

      • So, the ethics that prevail in a native culture is what guides the ethics in our culture? Is that what the argument has boiled down to?

        Also, why is that a good analogy? That’s horrible. And a horrible analogy is a horrible straw man.

        Perhaps a good analogy is an amazing painter who can recreate your likeness from memory of just seeing you once. Is it unethical to paint someone from memory?

        • That the visceral dislike of photography arises in more primitive cultures suggests that there is something innate and natural about the objection. That people can be desensitized to it, as you have, doesn’t make the natural response the outlier Many people don’t mind loud shouting and obscenity in public. It’s still rude.

          I don’t know how you each the conclusion that a saying something unwelcome is a good analogy for taking unconsented photos, which creates a legitimate fear that one image is being misappropriated fo unknown purposes, but the naked man or women isn’t—as analogies, they have the same flaw: both are intrusive like photography, but neither takes something of value from victim. I agree , upon reflection, that this is fatal flaw in my analogy as well. However, it’s better than the verbal analogy, because the naked man or women forces the person minding his own business to take on an unwelcome and embarrassing role: voyeur, in the case of the flasher, unwilling model or subject, with the photo.

          Surrepticious, unconsensual recording is unethical. A good memory isn’t. Same with a your painter.

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