Stillwater News Press

Opinion

March 18, 2014

LEONARD PITTS: It's your fault that Justin Bieber is a jerk

It’s your fault Justin Bieber is a jerk.

That’s the contention of attorney Roy Black, who is defending the 20-year-old singer on a DUI charge stemming from a Jan. 23 arrest in Miami Beach.

Black spoke to reporters last week as video of Bieber’s deposition in the case of an alleged assault by one of his bodyguards — you can’t keep this young man’s legal woes straight without a scorecard — was making the rounds on the Internet. It was not a pretty picture. Bieber comes across as a twerp so snotty and insolent even Mother Teresa would want to smack him.

It’s been suggested that opposing counsel baited Bieber by asking provocative questions unrelated to the matter at hand, such as his on-and-off relationship with Selena Gomez. But so what? A deposition is a fishing expedition, and opposing counsel is allowed wide latitude in asking questions. The defendant’s best strategy is to keep calm and answer as briefly as possible.

Presumably, this was all explained to Bieber before he was deposed, but if so, the advice did not take. He preens, he parries, he oozes with visceral contempt for the entire process. Asked if his mentor, the singer Usher, was instrumental to his career he replies, “I was found on YouTube. I think that I was detrimental to my own career.”

Rarely have ignorance and arrogance ever combined so flawlessly to produce unintended truth.

But again, Roy Black says if you want to blame anyone for what Justin Bieber is, blame us and our culture of celebrity worship.

“We love it when people start becoming successful,” he told reporters, “But once they actually are highly successful, we do almost everything we can to destroy their lives. And Justin Bieber’s case is just one of many. He has absolutely no privacy. He is harassed by photographers or paparazzi — whatever you want to call them — at every turn.”

It is an intriguing argument in that it contains just enough truth to give you pause. Our celebrity mania does drive an industry of intrusion. Famous people do live under siege.

On the other hand, Bieber is hardly the first person to be famous — or, for that matter, to become famous while young. And while that proves toxic for some — think Britney Spears and Michael Jackson — others seem to handle it just fine. Where are the headlines about a drunken Justin Timberlake peeing into a janitor’s bucket or pelting a neighbor’s house with eggs? Where are the stories of New Kids on the Block brawling with photographers or closing off a public street to go drag racing?

What we see in Bieber, then, seems to say less about celebrity than about one of its unfortunate byproducts: entitlement. Has anyone ever held this kid accountable for anything?

Consider that when he was popped in Miami, young model Ireland Baldwin tweeted, “We’re all human.”

When cops investigated him on charges of reckless driving, Usher said, “He’s a teenager ...”

When drugs were found on his tour bus, Will Smith said, “These are things that are just simple and normal for a 19-year-old to do...”

But would they be so quick to make excuses if it were Justin Jones behaving as if the world were his toilet and the rules did not apply?

Now here’s Black, saying Bieber’s behavior is our fault.

Maybe, but not in the way he suggests. If one of the least attractive byproducts of celebrity is that it brings public intrusion into private lives, another is that it can induce people to treat the famous person as if his waste products produce no odor.

If you are treated that way, there’s a good chance you will behave that way. Bieber’s deposition is Exhibit A.

So if people really want to help this kid, the answer is simple: Stop making excuses for him.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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