A veteran paparazzo, Frank Griffin, told my colleagues Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein this week that photographers who hound celebrities like Bieber are heroes.
"What's the difference between our guy who got killed under those circumstances and the war photographer who steps on a land mine in Afghanistan and blows himself to pieces because he wanted the photograph on the other side of road?" Griffin said.
"The only difference is the subject matter. One is a celebrity and the other is a battle. Both young men have left behind mothers and fathers grieving, and there's no greater sadness in this world than parents who have to bury their children."
Um, no. One is fearlessly putting himself in harm's way to perform a public service and document a bona-fide news story. The other is a parasite whose sole motive is personal enrichment.
An L.A. County Superior Court judge last year threw out charges related to a state anti-paparazzi law in a case involving Bieber being chased by a photographer on the 101 Freeway. The law established penalties for paparazzi who drive dangerously to obtain their shots.
Judge Thomas Robinson said this didn't square with the 1st Amendment, and that's probably true. But what about a person's — any person's — right to be shielded from reckless behavior? What about the simple decency of being able to drive home without some money-grubbing lunatic trying to run you off the road?
Don't get me wrong: The 1st Amendment is a cornerstone of American democracy. You don't mess with it lightly.
But thanks to the Internet, it could be argued that everyone's a celebrity these days, that everyone's lives are up for grabs.
At some point, don't we need to say: "Enough is enough"?
David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send tips or feedback to email@example.com.