Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Hype Machine - At the risk of sounding like a royal hypocrite, I confess that one of my guilty television viewing pleasures is watching the first few episodes of American Idol. I am particularly fascinated by the conduct of the more obvious rejects; their temerity in showing up to audition is matched by their certainty that Randy, Paula and Simon have made a grave error in dispatching them outright. I would describe the behavior of most of these talentless wonders as bespeaking a sense of desperate entitlement, in that they are both desperate for and - at least in their minds, entitled to - a sort of recognition that they are "special." They all seem to be in need of an unconditional validation that, however they arrived at an earthbound judgement seat, they are still worthy of respect.

In fact, most of these kids (all of the contestants are at least of a childlike mindset) fully comprehend one fact. Namely, that celebrity as it is understood today is derived at least as much from the creation of a collective hunch that someone is singular and thereby worthy of esteem, as it does from raw talent. Beyond idiosyncratic gifts that many people possess to some degree or other, celebrity requires the employment of a hype-generating apparatus that convinces the susceptible that a chosen person is truly special (which, among other things, means that the normal constraints of civil behavior do not necessarily apply.) These would-be American Idol contestants in particular understand the nature of celebrity and fame, and rightly conclude that being a star could be the easiest gig in the world, would that they could get a hype machine deployed on their behalf.

One would be forgiven for suspecting that much of journalism operates to the end of generating hype, with the only distinction being that in the journalistic hype chamber, it is certain ideas that become sacrosanct. Who doubts that virtually all of the mainstream media has concluded that the Iraq War is an irretrievable mess, and that the invasion itself was ill-advised? Of the nation's most widely read newspapers, which editorial pages refute the notion that anthropogenic global warming is the major threat of our time? And where does one turn for any sort of perspective other than one that is sympathetic to most of the Left's pet projects? All of this suggests a unity of thought, effort and purpose that is beyond coincidence, and it calls the much vaunted cloak of journalistic objectivity into question.

But beyond those concerns, the real question ought to be why the proponents of these ideas refuse to allow them to stand on their own merits. Indeed, what makes a hype machine necessary when it comes to, for example, global warming? Everyone admits that the planet is getting incrementally warmer, as it has periodically throughout the earth's history. Most observers concede that the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are increasing. In this context, the hype machine only seems necessary to cow Americans into mandating behaviors and policies that would otherwise not seem reasonable (such as the Kyoto Protocol.) And so it is with much of the liberal agenda; hype is required because hype supersedes reasoned, rational discussion of the pros and cons of a specific policy.

So it makes sense that so-called "special" people are arrayed in support of the progressive agenda. It does not surprise that the beneficiaries of hype now seek to reflect some of it in support of those who prop them up as exemplars. It is this mutual gratification scheme that renders most celebrities - and the Left more generally - far removed from the concerns of most Americans. My prayer for the Idol castoffs is that they learn to develop their own self-esteem, with the esteem flowing from estimable acts and not the caprice of the hype machine.

No comments: