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Alec Baldwin, you can fight back

By David R. Wheeler
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1707 GMT (0107 HKT)
Alec Baldwin is taken into custody by New York police after allegedly riding his bike the wrong way on Fifth Avenue on Tuesday, May 13. It's not the first time the "30 Rock" star has found his personal matters aired in public. Alec Baldwin is taken into custody by New York police after allegedly riding his bike the wrong way on Fifth Avenue on Tuesday, May 13. It's not the first time the "30 Rock" star has found his personal matters aired in public.
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Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
Alec Baldwin's public battles
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alec Baldwin published an essay saying he wants to leave New York
  • David Wheeler: Baldwin should consider how to fight back against the paparazzi
  • He says instead of retreating, Baldwin should get a photographer or Google Glass
  • Wheeler: By recording his life, celebrities can fight photos with photos

Editor's note: David R. Wheeler lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where he is a freelance writer and a journalism professor at Asbury University. Follow him on Twitter @David_R_Wheeler

(CNN) -- Over the decades, celebrities have chosen various ways of dealing with an increasingly intrusive media. Such methods have included suing (Jacqueline Kennedy), punching (Marlon Brando) and putting a bag over one's head (Shia LaBeouf).

But Alec Baldwin's coping mechanism opens a new chapter in the paparazzi wars. After celebrity gossip site TMZ released footage of Baldwin shouting profanity at an aggressive videographer (with muffled audio that may or may not have contained a gay slur), Baldwin published a bitter "goodbye to public life" essay in New York Magazine.

Before we permanently lose any other celebrities to their secret hideouts, it's time to consider a way to fight back against the paparazzi. In fact, Baldwin was on the cusp of discovering a new weapon — he just didn't realize it.

David Wheeler
David Wheeler

Upon first reading of Baldwin's tirade, you might have missed the solution (after all, the piece is rather long and, at times, tiresome). But the answer is staring us in the face. In fact, it's staring all of us in the face. Every day.

These days, Baldwin said, "everyone has a camera in their pocket." Not just the Ron Galellas of the world, but all of the John Q. Publics looking for a chance to shame a celebrity. This kind of world is too much for Baldwin, who is prone to losing his temper.

But if cameras are small, cheap, and ubiquitous, why not use it to your advantage? Why not take one with you when you go in public, thus ensuring the public can always see your side of the story? "They are baiting you," Baldwin said in his farewell-to-the-world. "You can tell they want to get into it with you. Some bump into me or block the entrance to my apartment..." Exactly. So why not catch them in the act?

Alec Baldwin done with public life
Alec Baldwin: 'Goodbye, public life'

Does that sound like too much trouble? Maybe so. But if you're rich like Baldwin, why not hire someone to follow you around and record life as it happens? Go about your daily life, but have a trusted and well-paid photographer at your side, documenting just how rude, invasive, and aggressive the celebrity chasers can be.

Still sound unreasonable? There's yet another solution that just made itself available. You can record your daily interactions with a wearable camera embedded in your glasses. If you want to show the world what really happened with that jerk of a photographer, just upload the footage from your Google Glass. As USA Today reported earlier this month, police departments are outfitting their officers with wearable cameras to protect both police and citizens against unfair accusations.

All of this might sound extreme. Why should celebrities have to go to such lengths to protect themselves? It may be a lot of trouble, but isn't it better than being humiliated repeatedly by out-of-context outbursts? Isn't it better than retiring from a job you love and living as a hermit for the rest of your life? Baldwin said in his diatribe, "You're out there in a world where if you do make a mistake, it echoes in a digital canyon forever." True, but not if you can show your side of the story.

It may be too late for Baldwin, but not for other celebrities. Don't disappear from public life just to spite the paparazzi. If you do, the celebrity gossip sites will win. It's time for a 21st century solution. It's time to fight photos with photos.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David R. Wheeler.

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