Move along, there's nothing to see

Is there a rehab unit -- like the size of, oh, Yellowstone Park -- for serial celebrity watchers?

Let's start at the end of this story, and follow it back to the beginning:

- Britney Spears was checked into the hospital for a mental evaluation for the second time in a month this past week.

- According to one news account, for some reason it took "at least 10 officers on motorcycles, two police cruisers and two police helicopters" to escort Spears to UCLA Medical Center.

- Why on Earth, you ask? Well, maybe because there are a lot of cops who want to get a glimpse of her. Or maybe the official explanation is right: that the massive, presidential-type motorcade was necessary, as the LAPD claims, in order to "get Spears through a paparazzi swarm without endangering her or the public."

Is that true?

You know what? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that it's plausible.

In other words, the insane, stalking paparazzi have created at least the potential for a public hazard -- one apparently necessitating "at least 10 officers on motorcycles, two police cruisers and two police helicopters" for a celebrity to go to the hospital or to go buy a loaf of bread.

It's tempting to blame the paparazzi. They are the proximate cause of this mess, which costs Los Angeles taxpayers untold dollars in brigade-size police escorts. But the paparazzi aren't the root cause.

Nope. It's the viewing, paying, voyeuristic public. We're the ones who make it possible for grown men and women to pull down a paycheck hanging outside a celebrity's house or night club on the off chance they might get an exclusive shot of someone famous opening a door, unfolding an umbrella or -- always a crowd favorite -- stepping off a curb.

This is just beyond juvenile. It's gone more than a few blocks past trivial. This celebrity-worshiping, human-hounding celebrity-driven fever that won't let a troubled young woman get medical help without being protected by Saddam's elite Republican Guard has got to break at some point, doesn't it? Can't we just agree that Britney sang some songs that got some attention a few years ago and just walk away? Wasn't there something else we were going to do? Let's go home, there's nothing to see here.

Maybe it's not Britney after all. Maybe it's the rest of us that need an evaluation.

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