Fame != Importance
Simply being a celebrity doesn’t bless one with special knowledge or intellectual stature.
A cultural, mostly unspoken mindset I’ve long taken issue with is the notion that famous people’s views are somehow more important, or should be taken more seriously, than those of regular folks who have little or no public notoriety. Simply being a celebrity doesn’t bless a person with special knowledge worthy of intellectual stature.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of fame that comes with expertise in a particular field. For example, a renowned doctor’s views in his or her area of study and practice should carry far more weight than those of someone who’s never picked up a stethoscope.
Instead, I’m talking about a point I recall former talk-show host David Letterman once making. He described how there had been times, when he was out in public, when an unfortunate incident had occurred somewhere close by (like an automobile accident or someone having a health episode). When this would happen, he found that fellow bystanders would instinctively turn to him to take charge of the situation; to offer guidance or direction. They somehow interpreted his celebrity stature as one of such universal importance that he was expected to actually manage the crisis.
“Don’t look at me. I don’t know anything,” Letterman joked in his retelling of the phenonenon.
It was a funny line, but it also demonstrated some healthy self-assessment — the type of which many celebrities unfortunately lack. This is especially true when it comes to big cultural and political themes, where lots of famous folks think so highly of their insight that they’re often eager to deliver a public lecture.
Ricky Gervais famously roasted self-important celebrities back in early 2020 in an uncomfortably hilarious monologue. If you’ve never seen it, you definitely should:
“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a political platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f*** off. OK?”
I certainly understand the concept of prestige, and I respect many people who’ve earned their fame through true talent and countless hours of hard work. But in areas outside of their expertise, it’s kind of silly — as Gervais pointed out — to defer to their wisdom or hold them up as standard-bearers for profound thought.
One of the areas of our culture in which popularity should be particularly meaningless (though it’s not treated as such) is social media. Case in point, I often see somewhat notable people with impressive social-media followings dismiss those who challenge their stated views, not with substantive rebuttals, but by pointing out how small of a social-media following they have. In other words, unless a lot of people are following you on the Internet, you’re not “important” enough to engage with online (beyond a swipe at your unpopularity).
Granted, there are lots of low-interest (and a few high-interest) social media accounts that are merely troll accounts — nameless, faceless individuals who are just there to toss out anonymous insults. I don’t blame anyone for blowing the trolls off, but when it comes to those expressing good-faith views, I can’t think of a lamer, more laughable put-down than, “LOL. You only have 37 followers.”
I mean, who cares? This, after all, is the online world we’re talking about. Pretty much anyone can achieve Internet fame just by posting a bunch of crazy, outlandish stuff. Heck, many people make a good living off of doing just that. And unlike other forms of celebrity, it often doesn’t even require any real talent; you just have to have a smartphone (or some other device) and lot of time on your hands.
Sure, with more “followers” comes a wider “audience,” and with a wider audience comes more influence. I certainly understand the allure. After all, I use social media to share various thoughts and silly anecdotes, and get out word about my books and columns. The more people who follow me, the more people who may take an interest in me and my written work. I have a little over 5,000 followers on Twitter (and about a 1,000 elsewhere), which isn’t wildly impressive but enough for the platform to consider me a “micro-influencer.”
Of course, if I had ten or a hundred times that number, I’d assuredly “influence” a lot more people to buy copies of my Sean Coleman Thrillers. Would I like that? Sure. (Any author would). But would it make me and my views on things more “important” than anyone else’s?
To me, what makes individuals important are character qualities, and — as I mentioned above (in the context of one’s work) — experience.
But fame? Nah.
Do you disagree or have additional thoughts? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below. If you have an impressive enough social-media following, I may even reply. 😉
Here’s a brand new teaser trailer for Restitution: A Sean Coleman Thriller. If you don't dig the music, you have no soul.
Please Get Vaccinated
The data paints quite a picture:
Obligatory Dog Shot
I’m going to drop some family trivia on you all. Believe it or not, my mother-in-law used to babysit wild and crazy rock legend (and Eagles guitarist), Joe Walsh. Not babysit for him, mind you. She actually babysat him… when he was just a little guy back in Columbus, Ohio. Their families were neighbors, and her younger brothers were childhood friends of Walsh.
Anyway, my first exposure to Walsh was in elementary school. His hit song “Life’s Been Good,” from this week’s featured vinyl album, 1978’s “But Seriously, Folks,” was still getting good radio play. I remember a classmate of mine (his name was Ken Lovejoy) being pretty much obsessed with the song, singing it during recess and cracking himself up. And frankly, he had a reason to laugh: the lyrics are pretty funny.
I go to parties sometimes until four
It's hard to leave when you can't find the door
I mean, that’s good stuff… and it’s a fun, satirical song about the rock-star life and just having a good time with it. Beyond the lyrics, Walsh’s guitar work really stands out (which is mainly why I like the song).
Though the rest of the Eagles performed on the album, and it’s a decent listen, no other singles made it to the radio. Still, “Life’s Been Good” became Walsh’s biggest solo hit ever. In other words, it was a good outing.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.
Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!