Celebrities get off easy when they break the law

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Anybody should be able to recall a certain flurry in the news about two months ago. It was a global spectacle, a huge multimedia blitz. A single image of Paris Hilton crying in a car was all it took for the world to stop, drop and obsess. It took over the nation, crept into news wires across the world and found its way into the hearts and minds of millions around the globe.

Even Paris herself was stunned by the media blitz. In a statement she issued while serving her jail sentence for drunk driving, she said, “I was shocked to see all of the attention dedicated to the amount of time I would spend in jail for what I had done by the media, public and city officials. I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things like the men and women serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world.”

How do we justify a nation that seems so dedicated to covering every move celebrity media giants make? Why is it that the death of Anna Nicole Smith, Britney’s bald head, Paris’ prison stint and Lohan’s drug use take priority ahead of issues that could actually benefit the intelligence and awareness of the American public?

Looking back at the past year, you can count multiple times that the news media went haywire about celebrity spectacles like Mel Gibson’s rants, Jessica Simpson’s breakup and Angelina’s adoption. These so-called events sometimes dominate front pages of major reputable newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.

Every time I logged on to the Internet, I was appalled to see the headlines screaming from my home page often under the heading of “national news,” the Paris, Britney and Lindsay stories had higher placement than stories about suicide bombings in Iraq or Karl Rove’s resignation. With Hollywood being the heartland of most media outlets, it’s understandable that a little bit of celebrity coverage should show up.

I sometimes feel that America is a country that feeds on the spotlighted failures of its prominent citizens. It’s as if we’re trying to prove through our fixation on celebrity gossip that America is the best, because celebrities have too much money and time on their hands, which might send the message that every American citizen lives a luxurious life.

Last week, Nicole Richie was released from prison due to overcrowding, 82 minutes into her 4-day sentence. She never even saw the inside of a jail cell. Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to only one day in jail after driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. Better yet, Lohan didn’t even serve her own sentence.

What do these soft sentences say to the remainder of the American public about our criminal justice system? Although those within the legal system argue that their sentences were about average considering their crimes, they were definitely assisted by high-priced lawyers who helped them avoid stronger punishments.

I myself was pleased when Paris finally served her full jail sentence. Whether or not her sentence was longer than it should’ve been, I was glad that a celebrity was finally being forced to accept the consequences of her bad decisions.

We all make mistakes, and though painful, we should accept the aftermath that comes with them. Celebrities should not be handed a “get out of jail free” card just because they’re staring in this summer’s blockbuster or because their weekend car is worth more than your whole education.

In addition to the soft sentences these badly behaving celebrities are given, they prove that even negative attention doesn’t stunt their star-powered growth. Gossip-rag Web sites like www.perezhilton.com tout millions of hits per day, and people are more eager than ever to read what they can about stars’ shortcomings.

However obsessed we are with celebrity culture, is it necessary to update the world whenever a star makes the slightest move? Are we really interested in what Paris wore when she got out of jail or where Anna Nicole’s burial plot is? It seems the news media is only a small step away from declaring stars’ bathroom breaks as international headlines.

If these events take precedent ahead of things like rising gas prices, our nation’s safety and transitions in the law, maybe we need to rethink humanity’s drive for intellectual stimulation.

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy flipping through US Weekly from time to time, but I know my limit. After hearing about Anna Nicole Smith for more than a month, I was ready to lay her and all the attention to rest.

There’s a reason why our media networks are labeled as untrusting and dishonest, and a large part of it probably stems from the excessive use of fluffy pieces about Britney’s dogs or some celebrity’s leaked sex tape.

If stars really are just like us, we should cut the leash attaching them to constant mass media coverage. I’m sure they hate it just as much as we do.

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