Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stalking is not the new yoga.

Twenty minutes later, we get our shot in profile. She’s aiming for incognito, with the hood of her sweater jacket up and the white winter hat pulled low on her forehead, but there’s no longer much point in trying to hide. We found her. Good thing it’s just us.
These chilling words are the final sentences of Becca Tucker's recent column in the New York Press entitled "I'll Be Watching You." Tucker alledges in her column that she is exploring the increase in celebrity stalking as it relates to the heightened amount of personal information available on the Internet. She picks Claire Danes as her subject and essentially stalks her for a few weeks, discerning her address, her usual breakfast spot, and other personal things about Ms. Danes that make tracking her a relatively easy task.

The principal idea for the column is a good one, and if Tucker had concentrated on how life-altering and terrifying being stalked is, then perhaps this blog entry would be praising her work. However, instead of centering her column on the experts she interviewed, or the disruption and fear that stalking causes for the victim, she essentially published a Martha Stewart style "how-to" guide for celebrity stalkers including what street Claire Danes lives on, and what search terms and websites one might use to find another person's street address. Even when she interviews behavioral experts on stalking, the language Tucker uses and the way she frames their quotes makes stalking look like a new trend or hobby rather than a deadly serious problem.

When she isn't giving would-be stalkers advice on how to pursue their victims, she's minimizing the effects and dangers of stalking.

The good news is, celebrity stalkers tend to be nonviolent. While it’s estimated that as many as 40 percent of stalkers do get physical, most of those instances involve grabbing, punching, slapping or fondling, and are targeting former intimate partners, not strangers. There have only been 17 recorded instances of homicide attempts by celebrity stalkers (see sidebar)—ever, anywhere in the world, according to Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and author of a 2006 case study of an obsessed fan who tried to kill Bjork, then killed himself.

Oh, only 17 people. Exactly how many people have to die before stalking is considered a violent crime? Notice that she skims over the affect of stalking on us regular folk. She also doesn't address the fact that most celebrities have security resources (bodyguards, etc.) that people like us generally don't have access to.

Between columns like these and the disgraceful merchandise shown below which was featured in a previous The Big Picture entry on Wal-Mart, it is clear that our society still views stalking as a harmless if somewhat annoying compliment rather than a violent intrusion.

To let the editors at NY Press know that stalking is not a joke, e-mail David Blum at editorial@nypress.com.

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