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Why we celebrate celebrities
News: Dr. Helen Caldicott, actively promoting awareness of the nuclear threat most people think is long over.
Not News: Britney Spears at the VMA Music Awards
A funny thing has happened in our society recently, in the last few decades. We celebrate non-celebrities, and even "celebrate" criminals. And nobody seems to know why, or even notice that it's going on.
Someone used to be "celebrated" for something they did. A Nobel Prize winner. Mother Teresa. Gandhi. A discoverer, explorer, or great inventor. We would all appreciate their own achievements, and we would celebrate them and what they had done. This is what "celebrity" means. We would celebrate them by giving them social noteriety, positive attention, positions of esteem and influence. We would give them fame, as often as not. And we would do all of this because they deserved it.
Today, the media gives fame and noteriety to people not because they have done something particularly valuable, worthwhile, or rewarding - but simply because they are famous or rich or powerful. We give them noteriety - why? Because they already have noteriety? Obviously, some other agenda is at work in the reporting media, and it isn't benevolent. People get noted in the media for no apparent reason, and then disappear from the radar again just as quickly. Others stay in the Golden Rolodex, that select A-list of personalities who seem to get media attention out of nowhere for doing nothing of note, without any cause or effort on their part. What does this in our society today? Whatever it is that drives this media mechanism, it certainly isn't value.
Politicians, whose job it is to represent the People and the wishes of the People, now routinely tell the People what to think, how to act, and what should become policy. We now have political representatives whom we revile and publicly shame everywhere else in life, but listen to with a straight face in the media. In fact, we have people reported in the entertainment and political media who routinely break the law, and not only do we not demand accountability for them from their actions... we continue to report on them as though it was perfectly fine, telling what they did today and quoting something they said at an event.
Fame has replaced celebrity. We used to celebrate heroes. Now we simply have famous villains and non-entities. We report on the activities of people with no apparent skills that set them above the rest, but have become household names known by everyone... simply because they get so much media attention. We have few heroes, and many famous villains today - and we continue to accept this as valid, because it has happened gradually over time. We do not demand accountability of these famous criminals, who seem to have acquired some kind of mythic, legendary aura of status around them simply because people talk about them on the news. They seem above reproach, although a moment's consideration tells us irrefutably otherwise.
Neither do we demand accountability from a media which now only talks about famous criminals, non-entities and microfocuses on completely irrelevant trivia rather than actual reporting on the matters of the day - while society crumbles around us, because the real issues are being dealt with by famous criminals in positions of power and influence, those people aren't held accountable, and so the issues are dealt with in completely inappropriate ways that just don't solve the problems. Have a sneak peek at Iraq 2, the big summer blockbuster Fox News is actively advertising... apparently building on the success we've been having with the Iraq invasion.
We need to take a good long look at our media, and do something that doesn't involve accepting what it has to say without any kind of critical thought or analysis. We need to realize that reporting baseless pablum is not the news, and that we need to demand some actual reporting on something besides what Britney Spears is up to, and what politician made what minor embarassing diplomatic gaffe or funny grammar mistake.