Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Nation of Voyeurs

“In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes,”-Andy Warhol

Let’s consider Warhol’s statement for a minute. Between reality television and YouTube, have we not reached this level of development? Where it used to be that talent rose to the top, now it’s notoriety and “hits” that determine levels of fame. I can point out any number of local singers better than Justin Beiber, but he’s the one who got millions of hits on his YouTube online videos. I have no idea what Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton really do to merit their fame other than create sleazy homemade videos for public consumption. In another age the moniker “fools names and fools faces often appear in public places” has been replaced by the concept that anything goes where nothing is too silly, too vain, too vulgar or too horrid to be widely distributed to anyone who cares to do a simply online search.

Beyond this shallow existence, we’ve developed an entire industry made up of people who spend their “professional” lives hiding in bushed trying to ambush the famous and the powerful into some trumped up charge. This has played a role not just in entertainment, but in politics. Do I really need to know what a candidate’s stepdaughter thinks about anything? Do we really need to stoop to unsealing divorce decrees, custody agreements and other painful personal histories just to score political points? What sort of insight is that supposed to reveal? Likewise, it seems that a parallel universe has developed where people make up entire facts and because their voices are louder, they seem to think this justifies the lie. The Big Lie was an old Soviet trick used to quash underground uprising and to keep the working class in check. Now it seems to be used for distributing politically aimed disinformation to keep party line voters controlled while trying to stampede the opposition into making a mistake. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t remember it being so publicly vile and nasty in a long long time.

More than being voyeurs, we are also becoming victims to people who cannot or will not control their addictive urges to use the internet. I’ve heard cell phones going off at meetings, at church, at weddings and yes, even at a funeral. The same general demographic that accesses the internet to know end also likes to post things, often without thinking. Even the most circumspect individual can find themselves tagged and slandered without their knowledge. Now another industry has grown up just to clear up peoples’ online reputations for PR or employment purposes. I guess the bottom line is that people who act decently generally don’t have to worry about much, unless they run for public office in which case their entire history can be changed, attacked and destroyed with little forethought. And just the fact that decent people have to worry about something like that demonstrates how deeply we’ve all headed down that slippery slope.

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