Who Are You?

Breitbart’s Big Government blog posted an article about Democrat Congressman Bob Etheridge’s interaction with some camera-wielding, question-asking students along with the footage of the encounter:

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In the video, the Congressman repeatedly asks the individuals “who are you” and then gets a little more forceful than some people believe was appropriate. At one point he says “I have a right to know who you are.” Now it has been a few years since I had a Constitutional Law course, but I do not recall a right to “know who you” are anywhere in the Constitution.

David Weigel of The Washington Post authored an article which asks Who TMZ’d Rep. Bob Etheridge? I found the use of TMZ as a verb particularly interesting. To me, to be TMZ’d means to be hounded on the streets while being questioned about petty things and photographed in potentially compromising situations. I do not view a paparazzi in the same way I view a journalist. Yes, I believe freedom of the press is essential to a free society. But I have serious concerns about the paparazzi mentality that is so prevalent in our society today. When Britney Spears was photographed getting out of a car without any panties the photographs were posted on TMZ and other such sites and were reported on by traditional media outlets as well. Never in any of the reporting did I hear anyone question whether it is appropriate to take pictures of a celebrity’s crotch and distribute them throughout the world. Society just seems to accept that there are people who earn a living taking photographs of people (who happen to have a higher status of notoriety) and post them for all the world to see (the more embarrassing the better). Further complicating matters is the fact that TMZ and the National Enquirer are starting to actually break substantive stories, beating traditional media to the story.

This brings me back to Rep. Etheridge. Put yourself in his shoes. He is not Brittany or Lindsay. He probably is not accustomed to paparazzi-like encounters on the sidewalk, much like most of the general public would not be prepared for such an encounter. There you are walking down the street and all of a sudden people start filming you. Granted, the students were not initially doing much other than filming, but who could know how the encounter was going to transpire. If I were in that situation I hope I would have just kept walking. I realize he is an elected public official and held to a higher standard, but I’m not sure that I would have reacted any differently.

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