No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?

It seems like everyone was talking about Justin Bieber today, but it certainly wasn't "good publicity." Online feeds, newspaper headlines, television news reports, radio coverage -- and most importantly, social network chatter and real world "water cooler conversations" -- all were reporting the events that took place: the arrest of the young music star in Miami Beach for driving under the influence (drag-racing to be precise), driving without a license, and resisting arrest.  He was then bailed out, posting bond and free to go until his court appearance, and was greeted outside to the typical media circus, jumping on the top of the car and waiving to the crowd that had gathered to cheer him. You've heard it said that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Maybe that's true. What should have been a day of events that would have made anyone hang their head in shame, turned into a time of confident defiance for Bieber, exiting with arms raised high as if victorious.

The skeptic in me sometimes wonders if all these celebrities who seem to find trouble at every turn (Miley Cyrus, Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan) do it intentionally as part of a misguided strategy to boost their fame at any cost. Logic would tell us that no good can come from such notoriety, but examples prove otherwise. Stars who had reached the lowest depths managed somehow to rise up again -- Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen -- and maybe their phoenix-like return would not have been as impressive without the inferno of their trials and tribulations.

I'm not ludicrous enough to imply that Bieber and others intentionally want to break the law in order to go to jail and have their mug shots go viral. I do believe that their handlers, at least some of them, look the other way or might even encourage some risky behavior to create an edgier image that could lead to lucrative new business opportunities. Many child stars, Bieber included, start out with a more wholesome image and then try to transform themselves into more adult personalities, desperately attempting to convince the world that they are not kids anymore, but ready to break out into a more "grownup" market.

The sane stars would just let their talents speak for themselves, but others might venture into circumstances that could lead to trouble. Others just welcome a lifestyle that's prone with risk and delude themselves into thinking that they are above the law, that their fame and fortune can rescue them from any jam, dig them out of any hole. Maybe they have a point as so many of the rich and famous seem to escape the repercussions of their actions while the rest of us would never have such good fortune.

At the end of it all, we the public remember their names, even if we never listened to their music, never bought their products, never watched their movies, never went to their concerts, and so on. As much as we resist, as much as we treat them as punchlines after their latest implosions, we have been suckered into absorbing the publicity, good or bad, and their fame grows. Even if it is "infamy" instead of noble accomplishments worthy of praise, when all is said and done more people will end up buying what they're selling, especially if it's a "comeback tour" or a "tell-all book," the prodigal star returned, chastened and wiser, having learned their lessons and entered a new chapter of public redemption.

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