It is all too easy to feel morally superior to the paparazzi who hound the world's so-called celebrities, and to find them repugnant. I do. Moreover, I can call them jackals who feed off the bones left by their betters, and in the case of Princess Dianna and her entourage, refer to them as ghouls. Most of what I've stated is true enough, but I do not want to simply make my conscience feel comfortable at the paparazzi's expense, then sit down in an easy chair and turn on the next televised sporting event.

Diana is dead, but she has been released from bondage, a unique persecution that she may have experienced at its most extreme, but one to which hundreds of the world's "bright and beautiful," are also subjected. However one reaches that title and degree of notoriety, it is a distinctly mixed blessing. Today, Michael Jackson, the Kennedy family, and Hollywood's luminaries of the season are fair game for the kind of treatment the Princess of Wales came to expect as her lot in life. In the past, Jacqueline Kennedy and Elvis Presley, among others, were imprisoned by the same curse.

What is this voodo hex that hangs over these selected heads like some sword of Damocles? The paparazzi? The tabloid press? Television's appetite for titillating video? Or is it based on the so-called right of the public to know everything, no matter how personal, about those nominated by shadowy, fickle, and impulsive arbiters of public taste! What on this good earth can be so wrong with the human race that it votes for democracy, but must foolishly annoint and embrace royalty, celebrity Kings and Queens? What makes us so interested in the affairs of others, and so little concerned with our own? Are our own lives so devoid of worth and meaning that we must live vicariously by speculating on the triumphs and disasters of glamorous strangers? Have we ever stopped to consider what we are doing?

America's free press, armed with broad constitutional rights and unhampered by any restrictions of good taste and decency, has become a tyrannical monster that devours our right to personal privacy granted by that same constitution. The press in Britain, whose cultural and legal legacy we inherited and extended, is even worse. If good manners and civilized behavior cannot correct these obvious inequities, then let us as a nation stop buying the tabloids that finance celebrity hounding. It is that simple. Take away the profit, and the chase for pictures will end.

Complicating this needless tragedy, the French government announced the driver of the Mercedes was legally drunk. His blood alcohol content was three times the limit for drivers in France, and twice that for drivers in Florida. Further, the speedometer was pegged by the crash at 120 mph. He also was not the regular driver, who was sent out ahead in the car in which Diana and Dodi had arrived at the restaurant. We surmise he was sent somewhere in a ruse to throw off the waiting paparazzi. The alternate driver, who was drunk, drove them away rapidly. Too rapidly.

Have the paparazzi been absolved of responsibility? Not to my mind, though a sober driver under the same circumstances might not have driven that fast, and the probability is high he would not have crashed. On such things do people live and die. Life was ever a game full of mockeries and ironies that seems to be chess played by divine lunatics. No, the paparazzi do not bear total responsibility, but they never did.

I am making an effort to place the blame where I think it really belongs: to the world of curious, insensitive, bored people who must invent and adore human gods and goddesses to fill the voids in their own lives. It is they who buy the papers and magazines, read the gossip columns, and pay for these photos. As long as large numbers of respectable, law-abiding voyeurs continue to purchase this trash, greedy paparazzi with minimal ethics and no compassion will hound the rich and famous by taking photographs of their most private moments. Even the worst among us know such unjustifiable behavior is a violation of basic human decency.

The conclusion I draw from the events from Paris is simple, unpleasant, and will be both unpopular and politically incorrect. Neverthelesss, if people do not collectively refuse to buy this printed slime, Diana will have died in vain. In spite of the pomp and circumstance with which we will laud, honor, and bury her, she may be remembered only as another high school dropout who came to an unfortunate end. She was far more than that, and we dare not forget it was humanity's merciless and unrestrained hunger for the intimate details of celebrities' lives that caused her untimely death.

Sam Orr
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)