Cut for Bieber: How Did We Get Here?

Cut for Bieber: How Did We Get Here? January 8, 2013

The ever-reliable and scrupulous news outlet TMZ recently publicized a photo featuring Justin Bieber with what could or could not be something resembling a hand-rolled cigarette or miniature cigar in his hand. The photo is far from conclusive in what it reveals, but this did not stop TMZ from reporting that Bieber appeared to be holding a “smoldering blunt,” which is slang for those unfamiliar for a cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana.

Was the teen pop star smoking weed? No one is sure but him, I suppose. Was he smoking something? Apparently so, though it’s hardly a crime (even if it’s gross). Does he have a responsibility to his fans to maintain a different image? Some might say yes, although I can only imagine what it’s like to try and live any semblance of a normal life while being scrutinized every second of every day.

Who among us, after all, look good under such intense scrutiny?

Regardless, the whole potential scandal was such a hot topic that a member of the paparazzi actually died chasing down Bieber’s car, supposedly because he believed he had caught Bieber smoking weed.

As if this was not enough insanity, some pranksters, masquerading online as Bieber fans, suggested that devotees of the singer should engage in a “Cut for Bieber” campaign to force him into amending his ways. Again, if you’re not familiar, “cutting” involves self-mutilation, often with a razor blades, and generally along the wrists or forearms. Though the intent of cutting is not generally suicidal in nature, it can certainly be an unintended consequence, and at the very least, it can lead to scarring and addictive cycles of self-abuse.

Needless to say, it’s not exactly ideal fodder for practical jokes.

Unfortunately, as some legitimate Justin Bieber fans heard about this, they took up the cause, posting photos on social media of wounds they’d inflicted on themselves, all with the supposed intent of coercing their musical idol to stop using drugs. I had thought about sharing the photos, but it seems the risk of promoting the practice by sharing them is too high. But some of the photos were “liked” and “shared” on Twitter in the hundreds to thousands of times.

So some voyeuristic gossip outlet shares a photo of a teenager may (or maybe not) smoking something that may (or may not) contain an illicit substance. From there, a member of the media dies in a related incident and teens start hurting themselves, all based on speculation that really doesn’t matter one way or the other in the grand scheme of things.

It reminds me of the song “Cookie Jar” by Jack Johnson:

“It wasn’t me”, says the boy with the gun
“Sure I pulled the trigger but it needed to be done
Cause life’s been killing me ever since it begun
You cant blame me cause I’m too young”

“You can’t blame me sure the killer was my son
But I didn’t teach him to pull the trigger of the gun
It’s the killing on this TV screen
You cant blame me its those images he seen”

Well “You can’t blame me”, says the media man
Well “I wasn’t the one who came up with the plan
I just point my camera at what the people want to see
Man it’s a two way mirror and you cant blame me”

“You can’t blame me”, says the singer of the song
Or the maker of the movie which he based his life on
“It’s only entertainment and as anyone can see
The smoke machines and makeup and you cant fool me”

It was you it was me it was every man
We’ve all got the blood on our hands
We only receive what we demand
And if we want hell then hells what we’ll have

So, how did we get here? We long for it. We demand it. We are tantalized by watching something we’re not supposed to. We want to see superstars doing something we can resent them for. We’ll pay to see something bleed for entertainment. We’ll share it with our friends.

And then we sit back, click our tongues in contempt and sigh in dismay or disgust at the decay of the moral fabric all around us, all the while ignoring the blood on our own hands.

Pardon the frankness of this post, but this is a sickness that affects far more than the handful of gossip columnist, pranking bloggers and cutters who jumped on this particular bandwagon. Feel free to disagree, in fact, placing blame elsewhere. Maybe you feel Bieber himself is to blame (I don’t) for starting the whole thing rolling, or perhaps the entire entertainment-industrial complex (whatever that means exactly). Never mind that all of it matters simply because we decide that it matters.

Meanwhile, Rome continues to burn.


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  • Three thoughts which I’ve been contemplating recently. First, at the risk of sounding like a prophecy hunting nut (I’m totally not), I have come to believe that those places in the bible which talk about a time when what is done in secret will be known, what is hidden will come into the light, etc are talking about today. I can’t help but wonder if our problem isn’t that we have declined but rather that we can now see more clearly than ever before who we really are and how we really behave. Nearly all of history has been the record of people who are privileged, powerful and probably more refined than the overwhelming majority of human beings. Today, probably for the first time ever, we are getting a clearer view of how human beings actually think and behave. And it may well be that much of the change we think we’ve been observing isn’t actually change but simply what happened in the dark coming to light.

    Second, while we’ve clearly gone a bit hog-wild with our freedoms, human beings are capable of learning. And I think that this is an underestimated benefit of having everything in the light. Just as a simple example, I was raised by early boomers who had NO idea how to teach their kids about sex. And it showed among myself and my age co-horts (Gen X-ers). However, having to navigate this new reality of modern sex and made a lot of mistakes doing so, my husband and I are much better equipped to teach our kids how to do better than we did. Likewise, it’s horrible that there are teens cutting themselves, but odds are very good that they will survive, learn a bit and be better able to help their kids navigate the pitfalls of being young and dumb and enamored of the latest heart throb.

    Third, one of the effects of having a front row seat to all the foolishness of humanity as never before is that it creates the appearance that things keep getting worse. In fact, all measures show that the opposite is true – not uniformly, of course, but broadly. Absolutely there are problems we are struggling to figure out how to manage – marriage and out of wedlock childbirth among lower income, less educated people for example. But overall the trends are positive.

    I do think it’s important to keep speaking out about what we see happening and to hold people accountable for their part in what is not working. But I think that it ought to be done with the perspective that we do learn, things do get better and the project of bringing the Kingdom to fulfillment (what I think humanity is actually in the process of learning to do) is a multi-generational endeavor. I do think we live in a particularly tumultuous and trying time. And things may get worse on their way to getting better. But all the same, we are very, very far from lost.

  • SamHamilton

    This is sad. And I don’t blame Bieber or any other earthly idol. I blame the worshippers. We have a natural desire to follow someone. So we make idols of singers, movie stars, athletes, politicians, etc. when it is God we should be following.

    For some reason, our society also likes to see famous people do stupid things so people gobble up gossip about them. Maybe it’s because we like being reminded that in some ways they’re just like us. But who is it that’s built them up into idols? The people who consume the gossip in the first place.

    Parents need to instruct their children the differences between enjoying the art someone produces or the skills that person has and making that person into an idol. Only Jesus is Lord.

  • Tony

    Who’s ‘We’? There be no blood on my hands, guv’nor. Sure society is falling to bits but I didn’t do it, your honour.

    Normally I agree with most of what you say, Christian, but I seriously don’t believe in collective guilt.

    Many people – myself included, I like to think – go about their daily lives working hard, looking after their families, and all the while being Jesus to their colleagues, friends and neighbours. To include people like me in a collective guilt grouping is plain wrong – not that you’re alone in doing this. What’s the point trying hard to be the salt of the earth when there’s always someone to say that it’s not good enough?

    And no, I don’t go around being tantalized, demanding or resenting. I, personally, don’t. I know there are many who do, but I don’t. That makes it *them* not *we*. I’m not being self-righteous; I have my faults like anyone else, but it’s a plain fact that I do not think like these vultures you describe.

    I recall (but I have never joined in singing!) the Graham Kendrick song, ‘O Lord the clouds are gathering, the fire of judgement burns, how we have fallen’….. oh for goodness sake!

    Once again, who’s ‘we’?