Russell Smith in The Globe and Mail writes about California’s new law in California puts lens rangers on notice. Here’s what the new law says

The statute forbids two types of invasion of private space: one literal, one virtual. It makes it an offence to take pictures or sound recordings of anyone "engaging in a personal or familial activity and the physical invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person," and it also forbids doing so to a person "engaging in a personal or familial activity under circumstances in which the plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy, through the use of a visual or auditory enhancing device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass."

In other words, not only is standing in the subject’s way or pushing your camera into her car window unacceptable, but so is using a zoom lens 50 metres away from her bedroom.

Smith notes that "U.S. public reaction to the law is overwhelmingly positive" and is sympathetic himself. But he has reservations…

And yet, and yet . . . the people who are thrilled to see their icons protected from the scum are exactly the same people who gobble up the tabloids. They must be; the numbers don’t lie. The only way a magazine can offer $400,000 (U.S.) for the first photo of Madonna’s baby is to have millions of eager readers.

Those readers — that type of reader — seem to form the bulk of the American population right now. It’s the same population that elects Hollywood celebrities to positions in government, the same population that has grown to know or think it knows Lindsay Lohan through her pictures in magazines, and feels sympathy for her when she is assaulted or threatened or humiliated.

It’s a bit like being an animal-lover and eating chicken: We’re not opposed to consuming the final product, we just don’t want to know how it’s produced.

Smith is right, but it reads like he thinks there is a contradiction here and there is none (see previous post for another example). There are two separate choices – one is whether to read the Enquirer (given that it is available) and the other is whether to approve of its methods. Given most people can only actually act on one of the choices — whether to read the Enquirer — it is hardly surprising that the market reflects that preference but not the other.  That’s why the whole idea that the market responds to our preferences is a half-truth at best — it can only respond to a few of those preferences: those that can be expressed by an exchange of money.

Not that I read the tabloids of course. I’ve just heard about them, that’s all.

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