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Malibu Locals, Paparazzi, and the Matthew McConaughey Incident (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
Did loud mouthed local surfers in Malibu crowd the Civil Rights of 'Paps' or Paparazzi?
(MALIBU) - After watching the video closely, I'm fairly convinced that the so-called local surfers in Malibu who attacked a Paparazzi crew last June were wrong, really wrong.
I see in them an expression of the American mindset that believes it can randomly activate the "fascist" button and pretend like they live above the Civil Rights of others.
The word that day in early June 2008, was that actor Matthew McConaughey was going surfing in Malibu and the locals didn't want to see him harassed. While most of us can probably appreciate the overall intent, it turned out to be a poorly executed, gang-like maneuver.
The Paparazzi are a component of American society that is driven by a mindless occupation with the private lives of celebrities. It isn't always pretty but it is generally legal.
No doubt they are irritating, but the paps have a purpose, they have jobs; they aren't a bunch of trust funders who get to lounge on the beach all day, and they almost always keep their feet off private property when they do their work. Finally, the American Constitution protects their right to take photographs on public property, with a few limited exceptions.
Gawker.com quoted the surfers saying, "Nobody that lives here wants you here".
People like that think they own public property, and even if the LA County Sheriff deputies don't enforce the basic federal right of public access, which they did not in this case, the locals still don't have a right to attack people as a mob.
According to Gawker.com, the locals said to the paparazzi, "Let's go. We'll draw a line in the beach, and we'll fight for the beach. If you guys win, you can have the beach."
That sounds like a scene from the movie American History X, where the young LA neo-Nazi's play the African-American kids over a contested basketball court. The winner takes all; the loser can never return. The white guys won and the black kids were banished.
In the video recorded that day, visibly intoxicated people on the beach chase the paparazzi and drag one into the water along with his equipment, worth thousands of dollars.
The group TMZ that hires many of the paparazzi, suggests that what took place that day is nothing less than gang activity, but because rich white kids on the beach are behind it, the behavior somehow flies under the radar.
In fact, TMZ reports that a Malibu-based gang known as Malibu Locals Only (MLO) was at one point assaulting college students and tourists that hung out on parts of the beach MLO considered its turf.
One of those altercations led to a lawsuit against Nick Nolte's son. TMZ reports that in 2004, Brawley Nolte was part of a Malibu group that beat a San Fernando Valley teenager so badly that he was left with permanent brain damage.
Nolte's son had to deal with the civil suit, but the criminal case for the beating was dropped, ala OJ. Just have enough money in LA and you can buy your way, or your son's way, out of anything.
Brawley Nolte was "in like Flynn".
When TMZ asked LA County cops about the MLO gang, they were told law enforcement doesn't officially recognize MLO as a gang, saying "they don't meet gang criteria."
If they were black or Hispanic kids, they probably would be arrested within minutes, especially if they acted the way these so-called surfers did.
It is puzzling that the cops in LA County refuse or are unable to control the surfers, but they didn't hesitate to control the paparazzi. Instead of enforcing the Civil Rights of these photographers, they ordered them off under the threat of arrest.
I understand that the LA County Sheriff's Department is trying to keep the peace and that's their job, but there is a cost.
The beaches of Southern California have been the scene of fights and brawls between locals and non-locals for decades.
There are a lot of people in several counties who were seriously affected by the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and the rest of the late 50's/early 60/s surf culture. It sent them running to the beach in droves, often in hot rods purchased with money from their parents in the San Fernando Valley.
The ranks from the valley bought surfboards, shorts, Sex Wax and hair dye, and paddled out into the lineup all over California. It was probably a fairly natural explosion of culture, but too many people and too few waves is a combination for big problems.
The inland surfers were hated. Sometimes they littered the beach and messed with the locals. Most of the time however, they simply were disliked and shunned because of where they lived.
Like Oregon in the late 80's, most valley surfers who owned surfboards in California in the late 50's and early 60's really couldn't surf. It takes patience and time and all surfers aren't with that program.
Today things have evolved, but that earlier history lodged itself into the culture of the place and localism will never completely go away.
Then or now, when a novice paddles in front of an experienced surfer on a wave, it's called "cutting a person off" and that is a pretty big taboo, regardless of where you live.
Most locals are good people, but some get pretty irate, because cutting people off is dangerous and leads to dinged boards, and a good deal of the time there is potential for ensuing violence.
As surfing evolved into the 80's and 90's, another rift developed between the younger guys with short tri-fin boards in bright neon colored wetsuits, and older surfers with clear or white boards, and black suits. These were generally longboard riders, they often might be referred to as overly serious. Sometimes they look a bit like cavemen.
I guess the point is that people always tend to divide into groups, and friction is almost always part of it, but still it is easy for situations to quickly spiral out of control, like that day at Malibu a little over a year ago.
I am a news and war photographer and I've surfed since before I was a teenager. It places me in a unique position when interpreting this story. I certainly don't see myself as any kind of paparazzi, though I have photographed and interviewed plenty of celebrities. In each case I was working for a TV station in a pre-arranged press event and was not clamoring for a position.
Still, I see these photographers who chase movie stars as some type of cousin. I don't know, but I suspect that actor Matthew McConaughey probably doesn't appreciate being in the middle of a situation like this. In the video you see a female in a bikini absolutely pushing and screaming the paparazzi as she challenges them to hit her. I can visualize her in another time as a wrinkled old hag heading up a hill leading a group with torches.
A woman yells at the paparazzi, "This is America" as she and her associates act like a criminal gang and physically assault the photographers and steal their very ability to live as Americans. The irony is sad.
This clip is titled "The real footage from the surfers vs. paparazzi fight in Malibu"
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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