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Justin Bieber’s arrest only the latest of Canadian pop star’s troubles

Police booking photos made available by the Miami Dade County Corrections Department show pop star Justin Bieber on Jan. 23, 2014.

MIAMI DADE COUNTY JAIL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Thursday, the 19-year-old Canadian pop star Justin Bieber officially joined the ranks of celebrities who have run afoul of the law, after he was arrested following what Miami Beach police described as an early morning drag race on a residential street.

The charges

Mr. Bieber was charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest without violence and driving with a licence that had expired more than six months earlier. He was released after posting a bond of $2,500.

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The digital storm is noisy and chaotic

The popular gossip site TMZ.com broke the story, posting the arrest report hours before it was released by the Miami Beach Police Department. But although the site breathlessly reported Mr. Bieber and his friend, the aspiring R&B singer Khalil Sharieff, 19, had been charged with street racing – a report that spread with fibre-optic velocity through Twitter and news outlets trying to match the story – it is unclear if any news outlets actually tried to confirm that with the Miami Beach police. In fact, while the arrest report stated the men "attained an approximate speed of about 55-60 mph (87-97 km/h)," the police chose to not pursue a charge of speeding.

Remember: He is a 19-year-old multimillionaire in a goldfish bowl

Mr. Bieber's meteoric rise to international fame began in October, 2008, at age 14, when super-manager Scooter Braun landed him a contract with Island Records and put him under the tutelage of R&B singer Usher. He has grown up under a media microscope. And while his youth means he is a savvy digital native who can bypass the media by speaking directly to his loyal army of Beliebers over channels such as Twitter (where he has nearly 49 million followers) and Instagram (13.5 million followers), he lives under what is effectively 24-hour surveillance. On Wednesday afternoon, he tweeted a photograph of three paparazzi standing in the surf, their cameras aimed at him, with the wistful note: "This is how I get to enjoy the beach :("

Where are the parents?

As in most of these troubled child narratives, fans and critics are wondering whether Mr. Bieber's parents can help him before it is too late. The singer is famously close with his mother, but even she has admitted she has limited influence over her son at this point in his life. The British tabloid The Sun reported this week that she had bemoaned how "so many people go into the entertainment industry with amazing Christian roots and they get influenced somehow." She added: "I pray for him every day." Mr. Bieber's father, meanwhile, may have even played a role in his latest troubles: TMZ.com reported that Jeremy Bieber had arranged for two Cadillac Escalades to block off the Miami Beach street where Mr. Bieber and Mr. Sharieff staged their lacklustre street race.

Where does he go from here?

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In the hours that followed his arrest, fans and pundits wondered if this was the beginning of the end for Mr. Bieber. After all, his bad boy behaviour has grown increasingly coarse over the past year: He had a run-in with paparazzi on his birthday last March, was caught on tape urinating in a mop bucket in a restaurant kitchen and was overheard using foul language to describe Bill Clinton.

Reports of drug use have swirled around his entourage, ever closer to the star himself. Last week, police in Calabasas, Calif., searched his house for evidence that he may have been involved in an egg-throwing incident that allegedly caused damage to a neighbour's house.

The latest incident puts him squarely in the infamous company of former child stars who had difficulty navigating the transition to adulthood, such as Lindsay Lohan.

But while Slate magazine suggested Mr. Bieber shares more than a passing resemblance to Corey Haim, another Canadian celebrity with a shock of blond hair and a passionate following of screaming tween girls, the singer does not appear to be labouring under the constellation of pathologies that ultimately killed Mr. Haim.

While the Miami police said Mr. Bieber had been verbally abusive at the scene – the cause of the charge of resisting arrest – by the time he arrived for booking at the station he was compliant and calm.

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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