Paparazzi of Plato
by Steve Martin
TABLOIDUS: Socrates, I wanted to show you my new Nikon FM2 with a 600-millimetre lens.
SOCRATES: Thank you, Tabloidus. It looks fine for taking pictures of ducks flying off in the distance.
MO-PED: That is a very fine purpose, in combination with a motorbike and an infrared night scope.
CLOOLUS: What else do you photograph besides nature?
TABLOIDUS: I love to photograph children.
SOCRATES: That, too, is a good and noble profession.
TABLOIDUS: There is nothing more beautiful to photograph than a mother breast-feeding her baby. Especially if it is Madonna.
CLOOLUS: You photographed Madonna breast-feeding her baby?
TABLOIDUS: Oh, yes.
SOCRATES: What was she like in person?
TABLOIDUS: Well, I didn't actually meet her.
SOCRATES: Was she so full of herself that she would not speak to you?
TABLOIDUS: Oh, no. Because of the lens, I had to be three hundred yards away and shoot through her bedroom window.
CLOOLUS: It seems odd to me that Madonna would agree to have herself photographed this way.
TABLOIDUS: Her agreement was tacit.
CLOOLUS: But it seems to me you have invaded her privacy.
SOCRATES: Cloolus, what is privacy?
CLOOLUS: Privacy is when you are alone.
SOCRATES: Are you private when you are alone in a crowded market?
CLOOLUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Are you private when you are alone in a car?
CLOOLUS: More so, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Are you private when you are in a car with tinted windows?
CLOOLUS: That is starting to be private.
SOCRATES: Are you private when you are in your home?
SOCRATES: Is it not true that if you tint your windows or stay home you are in some way protecting your privacy?
MO-PED: It cannot be otherwise.
CLOOLUS: But Madonna was in her home.
SOCRATES: Yes, but her windows were not tinted with UV-40 Reflecto-coat. Nor was she alone.
MO-PED: She was with her baby!
SOCRATES: Therefore, she was not protecting her privacy. And how can one invade what is not protected?
CLOOLUS: I am confused.
SOCRATES: Can something be tinted and not tinted a the same time?
CLOOLUS: It would be impossible.
SOCRATES: Can something be private and public at the same time?
CLOOLUS: They are mutually exclusive.
SOCRATES: And is it not true that privacy and UV-40 Reflecto-coat are one and the same?
MO-PED: He has proved it!
SOCRATES: Tabloidus, where were you when you took the picture?
TABLOIDUS: I was hiding on a rooftop. Further, I was wearing black clothing and a hood.
SOCRATES: So you were merely protecting your privacy while Madonna invaded your camera lens?
TABLOIDUS: I cannot argue otherwise, Socrates.
CLOOLUS: But is it not wrong to spy on a woman breast-feeding her baby?
MO-PED: When you become a singing star, it is wrong to want your breast-feeding to be private.
CLOOLUS: But why?
TABLOIDUS: Because of the public's right to know.
SOCRATES: Is it not true, Cloolus, that when the public is shopping in a supermarket, very often at the checkout point it has an overwhelming desire to see Alec Baldwin's newborn or Frank Gifford having sex?
CLOOLUS: I cannot deny it.
SOCRATES: This desire, known in a democracy as "the checkout point of freedom," is important, because without it Frank's children would never have known about his transgression.
CLOOLUS: Your argument is flawless. But why was there never a similar desire to see, say, Jimmy Stewart having sex?
SOCRATES: Because Jimmy Stewart didn't have "that special something."
TABLOIDUS: Alas, Cloolus, the public's taste in those days was not so sophisticated.
CLOOLUS: So I am living in a wonderful age.
MO-PED: There could not be one finer!
SOCRATES: Let us now go to the supermarket and see if we develop a desire to see a doctored photo of Tom Cruise biting Oprah's car seat!
This article appeared in The New Yorker magazine on September 22, 1997.
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