Exactly eight days ago, Justin Bieber posted a 13-strong missive on Twitter accusing the media, British in particular, of writing: “rumors rumors and more rumors. nothing more nothing less. might talk about them 1 day…”
Apparently, that day has now come.
Following a few days of innocuous tweets sent while in transit from Portugal to Spain, Bieber has just fired off an Instagram that reads the riot act to the media at large over what he considers to be misleading or outright false stories.
The original message was tagged with the brief — and now deleted — reference to Lindsay Lohan and was an admittedly clumsy attempt by the pop prince to distance himself from comparisons some outlets have made between him and the court frequenting “Meangirl.”
No prizes for guessing what came next.
Bieber’s outing of certain kinds of media selectivism and their well documented practice of fabricating sources or skewing a narrative has now been thoroughly select-ivized.
Instead of the fourth estate asking itself why so many entertainment sites and even some hard news ones prefer to sensationalize stories rather than examine the veracity of a “fact” or “source,” 90% of outlets’ response to the Instagram hyped up the Lohan line — easily the most insignificant part of the teen idol’s message.
The edited Instagram that deleted the Lohan line and inserted a new closer can be read here.
In it, Bieber slams the media’s coverage of the last week of the 12 day UK leg of his Believe world tour. While that “rough week” could be considered a series of unfortunate incidents that included a “worst” b-day,” a late stage show, encored by a collapse, a sick-bed selfie, Twitter vents, and a paparazzo run-in — they aren’t the pop star’s real gripe. What he’s mad about is how they were reported.
One example is the so-called “two hour” stage delay on the opening night of the pop star’s four night run at London’s 02 Arena. For the record Bieber was late, he just wasn’t two hours late. Subsequent to the concert-goer fury that ensued, 02 organizers and the BBC later said the delay amounted to 49 minutes past the scheduled stage time of 21:30, but you’d never have known it from the media’s coverage. [It should be noted that while many concertgoers insist it was a two hour delay, none were aware of the actual stage call time.]
Some outlets even said the delay was due to Bieber’s backstage “tantrums” and playing of video games. The basis for the hit-pieces? Unnamed, unverifiable ‘sources’ and Heat magazine’s segue into a flimsy story about fans who met the pop star before an 02 show and claimed they weren’t given sufficient face-time.
Cue “Bieber is a diva” headlines, accusations of “brattiness,” barely a mention of the concerts themselves, ‘sources’ insisting the Canadian star is on the cusp of a drug meltdown, amid quotes from “disappointed” grandparents that were never given.
Bieber’s mother, Patti Mallette posted a frustrated tweet of her own on March 13, saying: “Crazy rumors, fake fights & fake ‘sources.’ Don’t believe most of what u hear /read.”
Further examples of creative reporting are illustrated byTMZ’s — and the rest — “low ticket sales” story as the reason for Bieber’s canceled Portugal concert. Sheer logic alone should have alerted most outlets to the obvious fact that an artist who can sell out four nights at a 20,000 capacity 02 Arena should easily be able to fill two nights at the Pavilhão Atlântico which also holds 20,000.
Inevitably, the genuine but boring story of “load out” regulations and worker union restrictions was jettisoned for the juicer one that fancies Bieber’s career is entering its Sunset Boulevard decline. Less than a handful of outlets put real weight on a correction story that confirmed the Lisbon promoters’ statement that the second show was in fact also sold out.
The irony is, that while some online outlets, print, radio, and TV networks are content to churn out content that perpetuates falsehoods, most know that a significant proportion of those stories are baseless. The reality that tabloids and gossip outlets routinely use “construct sources” to flesh out stories about celebrities, public figures, and at times ordinary people — is self evident.
It’s what the UK’s Leveson Inquiry is trying to address. It’s why Carl Bernstein and Guardian freelancer Nick Davies are seen as journalists’ journalists. And it’s where attacking a 19-year-old over a hasty Lohan reference that he has now apologized for — becomes so self-serving.
When most entertainment outlets daily use Lohan as their go-to money shot joke on any given day of the week, attacking someone for speaking out about the same pervasive machine that crucifies her is truly hypocritical.
Forget the bubblegum persona of yesteryear, parallel to his continuing musical ascent, Bieber’s “I believe in me” statement shows he has found his voice and is lifting the lid on the often shameful business of how celebrity media narratives are spun and won.
If that’s not a responsible way for a talented young man with a public platform of over 36 million people to use that privilege — I’ll wager you won’t find a better one.