Top Leaderboard, Site wide
July 31, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Help us grow by sharing
and liking Truthdig:
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Newsletter

sign up to get updates


Hydropower Illuminates a Piece of History
Report Criticizes EPA Oversight of Injection Wells






Truthdig Bazaar more items

 
Report

What Price Hollywood?

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Feb 9, 2009
Flickr / AtomicPope

The final resting place of punk guitarist Johnny Ramone at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

Soldiers and Marines speak of entering combat as if they are entering a movie, although if they try to engage in movie-style heroics they often are killed. The difference between the celebrity-inspired heroics and the reality of war, which takes less than a minute in a firefight to grasp, is jolting. Wounded Marines booed and hissed John Wayne when he visited them in a hospital in World War II. They had uncovered the manipulation and self-delusion of celebrity culture. They understood that mass culture is a form of social control, a way to influence behavior that is self-destructive. 

Neal Gabler writes in “Life: the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality” that the power of celebrity culture means we often seek to enact the movies that play inside our heads. We become celebrities, at least privately, to ourselves. Celebrity culture is so ubiquitous that it has established perverse interior personal scripts and modes of speech through which our relationship with the world is often constructed. Gabler argues that celebrity culture is not a convergence between consumer culture and religion but instead is a hostile takeover of religion by celebrity culture. Commodities and celebrity culture alone define what it means to belong to American society, how we recognize our place in society and how we determine our spiritual life. Celebrity culture is about the denial of death. It is about the illusion of immortality. The portal to Valhalla is through the celebrity. 

Celebrity worship is dressed up in the language of the Christian right, the frenzy around political messiahs like Barack Obama or the devotional following of Oprah by millions of women. If Jesus and “The Purpose Driven Life” won’t make us a celebrity, then Tony Robbins or reality television will. We are waiting for our cue to walk on stage and be admired and envied.

Personal style has become a compensation for our loss of democratic equality. Our choice of brands becomes our pathetic expression of individuality. Celebrity is the vehicle used by a corporate society to sell us these branded commodities, most of which we do not need. Celebrities humanize commercial commodities. They are the familiar and comforting faces of the corporate state. Advertisers use celebrities to promise us that through the purchase of a product we can attain celebrity power. Wear Nikes and become, in some way, Michael Jordan. 

Advertisement

Square, Site wide
Celebrity culture plunges us into a moral void. The highest achievements in a celebrity culture are wealth, sexual conquest and fame. It does not matter how these are obtained. These values, as Sigmund Freud understood, are illusory. They are hollow. They are hallucinations. They leave us chasing vapors. They encourage a perverted form of narcissism. They urge us toward a life of self-absorption. They tell us that existence is to be centered on the practices and desires of the self rather than the common good.

The most moving memorial in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is held in a small glass case containing the cremated remains of the actor David White and his son Jonathan White. David White played Larry Tate, the Machiavellian advertising executive, on the television show “Bewitched” and also had a long stage career. He was married to the actress Mary Welch, who died during a second childbirth in 1958. David was left to raise Jonathan. Next to the urns are pictures of the father and young boy. There is one of Jonathan in a graduation gown, the father’s eyes directed upward toward his son’s face. Jonathan died at 33, a victim of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. His father was devastated. He entered into a long period of mourning and seclusion. He died of a heart attack shortly before the two-year anniversary of his son’s death. The modest memorial is simple and poignant veneration of the powerful bond between a father and a child. It defies the celebrity culture around it. It speaks to other values, to loss, to grief, to mortality and to the awful fragility of life. It is a reminder in a sea of kitsch of the beauty of love.

Celebrity culture encourages us to turn our love inward, to think of ourselves as potential celebrities who possess unique if unacknowledged gifts. It is the culture of narcissism. It is about the hyperinflation of the ordinary. The banal chatter of anyone, no matter how insipid, has in celebrity culture cosmic significance. This chatter fills the airwaves. Reality, however, exposes something very different. And the juxtaposition of the impossible illusions inspired by celebrity culture and our insignificant individual achievements leads to frustration, anger, insecurity and a fear of invalidation. It leads to an accelerated flight toward the celebrity culture, what Chris Rojek in his book “Celebrity” calls “the cult of distraction that valorizes the superficial, the gaudy, the domination of commodity culture.”

This cult of distraction, as Rojek points out, masks the real disintegration of culture. It conceals the meaninglessness and emptiness of our own lives. It deflects the moral questions arising from mounting social injustice, growing inequalities, and costly imperial wars as well as economic and political corruption. Shamanism is not only the currency of celebrity culture; it is the currency of totalitarian culture. And as we sink into an economic and political morass, we are controlled, manipulated and distracted by the celluloid shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave. The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain. It is designed to keep us from fighting back, even, apparently, in death.


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

By Sepharad, February 12, 2009 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

M.B.S.S.—I don’t know what her face looked like as I was heading in opposite direction, but it may not have changed at all. She’s a 40ish blonde I’ve only seen in gray power suits; probably has some high-powered job in the city (SF) that requires non-reactive demeanor. Shortly after she moved in a year ago, she once confronted my husband, also riding along the road, saying that the land across the road from her house was also hers as far as the eye can see. He said he didn’t have to argue as a big waterdistrict truck happened to appear and turned in toward their ponds as is routine, but that being caught telling a lie didn’t disturb her in the least. She just turned around and walked back up the huge concrete drive. 

Am envious of your “john muirs” if they really are. We had a county supervisor who acted like and even voted as if he were John Muir reincarnate, but the minute he retired he went to work as a lobbyist to the development commission for any development group with the money to buy him.

Folktruther, agreeing with you on anything is not humorous, just unlikely enough to be worthy of note.

Report this

By M.B.S.S., February 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

great story.  i can imagine her face after trying to sic her dogs on you to no avail….  smile

Report this

By Sepharad, February 11, 2009 at 11:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

M.B.S.S. - Town we are closest to is Forestville, about a mile north. Hate to think of all the time we’ve spent in town meetings trying—futilely—to keep people from developing every inch of orchard, meadow, woods. Then there’s the Laguna between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, which is another tooth-and-nail struggle even though it FLOODS, completely covered, 10-15’ every year. And they are still trying to get permission to develop it.
We’ve been wondering if we could sell out and relocate central coast, but probably pointless if you guys are having the same problem.

A few months ago, was taking a work break on a pretty fall day riding my horse down a county-maintained dirt-gravel road and a lady runs out of her new McMansion, stands there in the driveway on top of a big oil spot telling me I have to leave lest my horse poop in front her her property. I said no, this is water district land, and even if she did it doesn’t have the half-life of that spot you’re standing on. I’m not usually a smart-ass but it was really irritating. She turned two big mastiffs out saying “Sic!” Horse is used to dogs and likes to chase them so that didn’t work, but she was still yelling at them and us so I whistled them up and they came running with us. We stayed out a couple hours then I brought them back—had contemplated keeeping them overnight but decided that would be crossing the line from mischief to mean.

Husband working out of house in Las Cruces for a few months for a different riding place and for my health—RA doesn’t do well in rainy winters—so we’re here thru March with our two horses. Completely different here, people like horses, wave at you and in general are quite friendly, even drive politely. But developing is just as big. We’re a bit out of town in open desert but there are suburban tracts all around—nice spacing now, but all those empty lots and arroyos aren’t going to stay empty for long. Crazy world. Horses are sane and transmit some of that to their riders. Part of their charm.

Report this
Virginia777's avatar

By Virginia777, February 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment

One point Chris Hedges is missing here is that the Stars are victims themselves.

Hollywood’s most precious commodity, actors, are literally hunted day and night by the Paparazzi who have the law on THEIR side.

They are beat up by the press on a regular basis and have every foible and extra pound documented by worldwide press.

A huge part of “celebrity culture” is pure viciousness.

Report this

By M.B.S.S., February 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

sepharad:  “saved by the bell,” is a cheesy, early 90’s teen sitcom, which enjoys a sort of cult following.

im from the central coast of california myself.  horse country here too.  lots of beautiful rolling hills (with the rain they are green again) and near virgin beaches that are perfect for riding a horse.  sometimes ill be down at the state park, and see folks going on the most sublime and medititatively fun looking rides upon the sun warmed sand.  they are always in a good mood.  hopefully the state budget spares my beloved local state parks.

the encroachment of Suburban Sprawl and Pro Development City Planners eats away at this community.  we fight hard to conserve what we have here.  luckily we have enough “john muirs” here to hold them at bay…for the time being.  there is some
kind of overarching inevitablity to the whole process, but at the same time we have a politically active community, so there is hope.

its great to be conservative as long as you know what is worth holding on to.

Report this

By Folktruther, February 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

You mean, Anarcissie, that the Caroline that was to be appointed senator was the Kennedy’s Little Caroline? My last image of her was when she was riding her little horsie. My, time really flies when you are having fun.  I don’t watch TV so I don’t have a strong grasp of popular culture.

And you are right, I DID foget that Guilliani was America’s Mayor.  you are just trying scare everyone with the thought that he might become president, aren’t you.  But then Nixon did.  Iherit’s kid is Mayan, maybe he would put in a Word for us.  Assuming he does not want to take revenge for Ihherit calling in Rabbinical goons to whack off great chunks of his dick with a machete.

Sepharad, your assertion that we agree on Lenin and Trotsky is just another example of your rich sense of humor,isn’t it.

Report this

By Sepharad, February 11, 2009 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, Folktruther, it may never happen again but for the moment we are in complete agreement re Lenin and Trotsky.

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 11, 2009 at 11:24 am Link to this comment

KDelphi:
‘Anarcissie—I dont know. There is already an anti-gun Dem talking about running against the new Senator. Guilliani?? Do you REALLY think he’ll run?! Gaawd help us all!

I think that the MSM was hard on Paterson. I dont know whose orders he would be following, but, maybe the new Blue Dog would be easier to beat?’

I am pretty sure Giuliani will rise from the undead run for Senator or Governor.  I believe Paterson received orders from Obama and the Clintons to select Gillibrand, rather than Paterson’s most natural choice, which would have been Andrew Cuomo, thus getting rid of a very possible rival for the governorship next year.  Kennedy was, of course, a completely inappropriate choice, given that she, a private, mild-mannered New York City socialite, would have to fight for the seat against a hideous monster in just a year and a half, but the possibility of having an opportunity to shower us with endless images of little Caroline on her pony and recount endless Kennedy stories caused the media to foam at the mouth and babble.  Now they are infuriated because Paterson quite properly gave them the back of his hand.  The only problem was getting rid of Kennedy without seeming to unceremoniously dump her out of the wagon.  This was done, I believe, by giving her just a touch of the lash of mainstream politics, after which she hastily withdrew.

Tasini is the anti-gun Democrat and if Gillibrand knows her business and if she has the backing I think she has, he will be crushed.  Anti-gun politics has never done much for the Democrats outside of the soccer mom set, and New York State has many other constituencies.  Giuliani cannot run to the left of Gillibrand, so I think she’s got him pinned, as they say in chess, not as in old-time high-school romance.

Thus Giuliani will go after good soldier Paterson instead.

Folktruther:
‘Guliani isn’t featured much in the LA hollywood magazines, Anarcissie, so I don’t know how you can consider him a celeb. ...’

You’re forgetting that Giuliani was “America’s Mayor.”  It is true that everyone hates or fears him, but a lot of people like that in a leader.  It got him elected Mayor of New York City twice.  As for governor, if Pataki could be elected governor, anyone could be elected governor.

Winning the governorship in New York would give Giuliani a shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.  People unlucky enough to watch television would have to endure his ghastly visage croaking at them for another four years,  or worse.  Some people are famous for being ugly.

Of course, the Maya Long Count runs out on December 21, 2012, so maybe the universe will come to an end and we’ll be spared.

Report this

By Folktruther, February 10, 2009 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

M.B.S.S. you’re a bad influence on prole.

Report this

By Folktruther, February 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

Guliani isn’t featured much in the LA hollywood magazines, Anarcissie, so I don’t know how you can consider him a celeb.  Acutally everyone who knows him hates him, those who don’t fear him, so its hard to know how he gets elected anyway.
            ***
Lenin wasn’t vain, he just did his job. Trotsky however was.  When he was given the military task of the Octoboer insurrection, which by that time was merely changing the sentries since everyone was disgusted with Kerensky for not stopping the war and getting bread to the people, he timed the uprising of the first socialist state for his birthday.  He was an extemely talented writer and orator, but some of us hold it against him.

Report this

By Sepharad, February 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

M.B.S.S.—Who is “that dude save by the bell?”

You’re right, the celeb culture is growing too fast(unlike jobs), judging from the number of mags at the supermarket checkout lines, but it will only bother you if you look at it without understanding what it means, like gazing on Medea or turning your head to watch Sodom burn.

I’d add that entertainment—even the good kind—is just another spectator sport if you don’t make the effort to engage it like a book you’re reading, at the level of its meaning (or a metaphor, as George Edelman says). But it’s better when you are creating something yourself, or looking into the world as is while doing something that is as vital as breathing to your life. For me, that’s riding a horse with no destination but the ride itself and the little things I see in the process. Admittedly this is getting harder to do: even in rural Northern California where I live concrete is increasingly being poured though there are few people looking for houses, and fences going up all over to keep nothing in but people out, making just plain riding harder and harder to do. Husband, a lover of epic sagas and horse-rich histories of all kinds, wasn’t satisfied till he devised a description for what we do—postindustrial horsemanship. (It’s easier in the desert as long as you’re not too close to town and the military hasn’t snapped up all acreage up to the foot of the mountains for testing all manner of things.)

Report this

By M.B.S.S., February 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment

You hear that, Elizabeth?! I’m coming to join you, honey!”

Report this

By TAO Walker, February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

One of our tormentors’ oldest tricks is to put their “brand” on something that is just naturally going to happen anyway, and then take loud credit for it when it does.  Their half-Human henchmen do the same damned thing….like the industrial capitalists’ve done with the inevitable elaboration of electro-mechanical gadgetry, f’r instance.  And of course we’re all too familiar with the way the “money” mongers’ve CONvinced their Human livestock that absolutely nothing worthwhile is possible without piles of their poisonous “product.”

So here we have the ruling-elite and the “leadership” they sponsor trying to position their sorry selfs to both claim “ownership” of the organic “CHANGE! that’s coming,” in the form of our Mother Earth’s Purification Ceremony, and to try to “steer” it to their own exclusive advantage.  Keep your eyes open, Sisters and Brothers, if you don’t want to miss a “global” prattfall by our wannabe owner/operators that’ll be the subject of hilarious stories around winter lodge-fires for hundreds of generations to-come.

Don’t worry, M.B.S.S., this “revolution” is going to be, ala Fred Sanford, “....the big one, Honey!”

HokaHey!

Report this

By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, February 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

And now, A-Rod

I said three or four years ago that the guy is a juicer. 

Next time he comes up to bat—if’n he does—take a good long look at his pyhsique.  If that ain’t juice, nothin’is?

Celebs and stars all juice on one thing or another.  You’re going along all comfy in your celebrity and then you realize some part of the real you is hanging out there for everyone to see.  That scares you because you’ve never been the real you and you know no one will like you as you are.  At least that’s what everyone in MSM, except Mr. Rogers has told you.  You smell bad, you have a fat belly, too much hair on your legs, wear ugly, outdated clothes, drive junkheaps, drink inferior beer and have an ugly mate.  So you juice.

Thank God for an afterlife.  I just know I and everyone else will get it exactly right next time around.  At the very least Jesus, like Mr. Rogers, will love me just as I am, without one plea, and I can just be me.  Sammy Davis Jr. was just himself, so sang he.

Cyrena:  George Bush was my hero and he let me down.  I’m in therapy now trying to make it heroless.  I envy you and anyone who has extra heros.  I grew up on Superman, WonderWoman, Mighty Mouse, Spider Man and Flash Gordon.  Then I found out they were imaginary.  That killed me.  I can no longer trust heroes.  Thanks anyway. 

P.S.  I hope I’ve helped get to the truth.

Report this

By M.B.S.S., February 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment

vanity yes

foolishness no

vanity is a requirement for any leadership.  its never foolish, no matter your beliefs, to seed a revolution. revolutions are just rapid complete changes.  rapid changes are catalysts for human development.  we would stagnate without any revolutionaries.

Report this

By KDelphi, February 10, 2009 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie—I dont know. There is already an anti-gun Dem talking about running against the new Senator. Guilliani?? Do you REALLY think he’ll run?! Gaawd help us all!

I think that the MSM was hard on Paterson. I dont know whose orders he would be following, but, maybe the new Blue Dog would be easier to beat?

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

I think vanity and foolishness are almost absolute requirements for revolutionary leadership.  No humble, sensible person would engage in such an enterprise.  As I said, the one exception I can think of is George Washington.  How he got into the business I can’t imagine, although I have read that in spite of his powers of self-discipline he barely controlled a violent temper.  It is not hard to imagine that the fatuous administration of George III and his ministers provoked his monstrous wrath, it might be over some minor thing; and so they lost much of North America.  Hate and wrath, which serve us so well in daily life, might be almost as good as vanity and foolishness when it comes to revolution.  All that is required is a broadening of scope.

If you’re not keeping up with your celebrities, you may have missed the fandango we had here in New York about Caroline Kennedy.  The media ordered the governor, Paterson, to appoint her to the Senate seat vacated by Clinton, but he refused to do it, instead naming someone with a chance of beating the ghastly Giuliani, who is almost sure to seek a new perch from which to radiate his poisonous influence.  Paterson is now being punished by the media for his disobedience in the form of nasty stories—which are, of course, sourceless and fact-free.  But he probably was only following orders from on high for the good of the party.  And that’s the latest news except for various actors and athletes taking various drugs.  These, I get mixed up—someone should prepare a chart.

Report this

By cyrena, February 10, 2009 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

By WriterOnTheStorm, February 9 at 11:51 am #

Who better than Chris Hedges, that staunch defender of Christianity, to know a good con when he sees one. Apparently, the hypocrisy of blasting one manifestation of idol worship while singing the praises of another has escaped his otherwise finely-tuned moral compass.

It is a natural impulse to revere those who are perceived to embody one’s values. In this sense every society has the heroes it deserves. Our celebrity culture is a perfect reflection of the predatory capitalism, commodification, infantilization, and fetishized sexuality for which we are known throughout the world.

~~~

Woo Wee…you hit it here writeronthestorm.

Made me pause for 5 seconds to wonder what spot Oprah has chosen for herself. Surely she will be a lasting goddess of 20th Century CONSUMERISM. Top saleswoman of the 20th Century, and her commissions just keep on coming.

So, maybe she’ll buy the Sears Tower and turn it into her own burial pyramid?

By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, February 9 at 4:06 am #
“For almost 70 years, I’ve been searching for what is more than me.  I just can’t be all there is.  There’s got to be more.  I’m in big trouble if I’m IT. 
I thought it was Jesus.  Wrong.  Then, Elvis. The Beatles.  Wrong again.  Mickie.  Tiger.  O.J.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.  Someone, PLEASE HELP ME!!
Bill Gates.  Warren B.  The Kennedys. 
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  I just can’t take it anymore.”

Isn’t there SOMEONE out there? 
Scottie, PLEEEZE?

~*~*~
Dr. Knowitall,

It’s ME! I’m here! DO NOT DESPAIR. (Scottie isn’t listening anyway…if he was, I’d have been beamed up long ago).

Anyway, the real heroes and heroines are right there under your nose, and I can loan you some of mine if yours are on vacation or whatever. I now have a newly adopted family of FOUR CANINES. Add them to the 4 you’ve already got, and THERE – my friend, you find the ‘bigger than yourself’.  Worshipers of canines, birds and plants can rarely go wrong.

By troublesum, February 9 at 10:50 am

•  “An effective means of keeping people under control is to make them believe that they are totally insignifgant.”

~~~

This is only ‘effective’ for those who ALLOW themselves to believe that they are totally insignificant. For these kinds of people are the needy ones, (Oprah Winfrey?) who need to have their presence validated by others. How does one go about “making someone else believe” that they are totally insignificant anyway? Seems to me each person is responsible for maintaining their own significance to themselves and those around them.

Report this

By Folktruther, February 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie- your comments on celebs are the first dingy posts that I remember that you made. Read prole’s post again and re-orient yourself.

I try to follow the love lives the celebs myself in the movie magazines, when the checkout line at the supermarket is slow, but its difficult given they only use first names.  So I never learned why Jen left Brad to run away with Evangeline, or whatever it was

And since I only get to the market once every two weeks or so, by that time of course all the relationships have changed and the celebs are already hours deep in their new relationships. So I don’t really have a penetrating insight into their lives, except that they are not like the lives of anyone I know.  Or want to know.  Or want our children to know.

As for revolutionaries being vain and foolish, the 20th century was decisively determined by Lenin and Mao, and if you think they were vain and foolish I pity you.  It is true that Trotsky was vain but he wasn’t foolish.  And Che gave his life to try to gain power for the people of Latin America and the world.  He may not have gained the respect you have for Brad and Evangiline and their colleagues, but he did impress some of us.

Report this

By KDelphi, February 10, 2009 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

“Personal style has become a compensation for our loss of democratic equality. Our choice of brands becomes our pathetic expression of individuality.”

It is true. People in the uS think that consumer choice is “freedom”. If it is, it is a very hollow version of the actual freedom we are supposed to be enjoying…It reminds me of the Iraq ‘war” vet who said that invading Iraq was “the right thing to do” and, when asked why, he said that a lady he had met had a “right to go to McDonald’s without getting blown up like anyone else”, sigh

” They tell us that existence is to be centered on the practices and desires of the self rather than the common good” This is a problem everywhere, but, morphed beyong beief in a strictly capitalist society.


Che Guevara icons better than Ronald reagan icons…look at the actual photos of Che , as he aged, and got battle hardened. The “pics” now look nothing like him! I dont know if he would have celebrated this faux worship of him or not. But, he hasnt been alive for awhile to ‘carry it on”. I guess it would depends on which side of the Revolution you might have been on.  “fear of commies” is such an old Cold War deal..I will be glad when it is gone. We need some of these countries that Cold Warriors fear, as allies.

“The celebrity industry does not distinguish between people of no merit and the very talented who enrich our lives.” (Sepharad)

This is very true ie. actors vs “stars”. actual quality musicians vs. “stars”. The Grammies the other night were disgusting in their excess. I heard that some were going to “tone it down
“, but, I didnt see it. There are talented people who escape the mold of celebrity, and,. I try to patronize thier plays, movies and music. (if I like it,and can afford it, also) But, everyone spends too much on bread and circus—-politicians, “movie stars” and musicians.

Anaricissie—I think you have to have a huge ego to be a Revolutionary, to be a prime minister, or to be a president. Does anyone here ever wake up and think, “I should be leader of the free world” (to the extent that being pres. of the uS is leader of the “free” world anymore).

Acting or making good music is not about “celebrity” at all. Some very talented people become rich and it seems to ruin them—but some break the mold.

As one who has NEVER watch ed American Idol, nor any “reality” show, who always wished people would stop scraming at concerts so I could hear the music,(even when I was a teenager), I can tell you that, especially in times of “pain” , celebrity can backfire…in the background, Gov Crist of Fla is announicing Pres. Obama’s speech in Ft Myers, with another call for “bi-partisanship”—barf.You can bet your ass that they wouldnt be touting it if McCain had won…Pres. Obama is rebuking some of the GOP/Blue Dog crap—good. But, talk about celebrity!!

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 10, 2009 at 6:15 am Link to this comment

I guess it will be tedious of me to again mention celebrities who have been leftists or dissidents or who have been poster children for cooperative or altruistic behavior.  The doctrine has been proclaimed and the faithful will not deviate from it.

Report this
prole's avatar

By prole, February 10, 2009 at 1:56 am Link to this comment

One of the world’s best known pop celebrities, Tiger Woods revealed on his website last week that he had met Barack Obama at a star-studded gathering at the Lincoln Memorial last month. Woods, who’s recovering from a knee injury, related some of his conversation with pop celebrity Obama, “I did ask him if he wanted to play golf and he said, ‘I’d love to.’ So we’ll make it happen,” Many celebrity-gawking Americans might have a hard time deciding whether in their fantasy they’d rather be Woods so they could play golf with the president, or whether they’d rather be the prez so they could play golf with Tiger. Either way, it brought to mind a perceptive observation half-a-century ago by the great American sociologist (of which there have been too few) the late C. Wright Mills who wryly remarked, “The professional celebrity, male and female, is the crowning result of the star system of a society that makes a fetish of competition. In America, this system is carried to the point where a man who can knock a small white ball into a series of holes in the ground with more efficiency than anyone else thereby gains social access to the President of the United States.” Or vice versa. Regardless, celebrating celebrity - either positively or negatively - may be confusing cause with effect. Obviously, there’s no good reason to lionize someone for ‘knock[ing] a small white ball into a series of holes in the ground with more efficiency than anyone else’. In itself that’s pretty useless, but if you are one of the best at it - no matter how useless it is - you can achieve celebrity status through rising above the competition. Millions of kids play youth sports, or are in the school play, or practice a musical instrument but only a select few achieve stardom. In celebrating the celebrity, the ‘fetish of competition’ is “valorized” . The celebrity is one who beat all the competion to make it to the top. Even if they did get a helping hand or some lucky breaks, along the way. The ‘fetish of competition’ is one of the linchpins of capitalist ideology. Granted in advanced stages of monopoly capital, most economic activity is controlled by a few large corporations with broad governmental support but the illusion of competition is necessary to keep the working population competing with one another for scarce privileges and opportunities rather than organizing in cooperative activism. So, what might at first seem like some vague “celebrity culture” may at base be the promotion of ‘the fetish of competion’. The ones who achieve fame and fortune are admired for winning the competition, not for ‘knock[ing] a small white ball into a series of holes in the ground’ or other equally irrelevant activities. “We are a de facto polytheistic society. We engage in” - competition. Personal competition “has become a compensation for our loss of democratic equality”. The ‘fetish of competition’ “plunges us into a moral void. The highest achievements in a [competition] culture are wealth, sexual conquest and fame. It does not matter how these are obtained” ...“They tell us that existence is to be centered on the practices and desires of the self rather than the common good.” Consequently, “the juxtaposition of the impossible illusions inspired by [competition] culture and our insignificant individual achievements leads to frustration, anger, insecurity and a fear of invalidation. It leads to an accelerated flight toward the celebrity culture”  Ergo, “the fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain. It is designed to keep us from fighting back”,  through coperative organizing rather than invidious competition.

Report this

By marcus medler, February 10, 2009 at 12:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I feel compelled to caution intellectuals and cultural commentators to be aware of hype. Much of what he witnessed in that commercial enterprise are results of sales pitches to the living.( good old fleecing) The excess is due to the fact that the fleeced in that local tend to be or were wealthy. This form of fund raising is as old as burials. It manifests throughout time and culture, and provides much fodder for the living. Examples, only a drop in the bucket, of other monumental statements are the Taj Mahal, the burials at Xi’an and the Pyramids of the Nile. What a graveyard tour they make!  I like this kind of tour, but think it reflects the dead trying to stay alive, more than revealing the living getting a genie rub.

Report this

By martin jones, February 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have visited that graveyard and it is fascinating.
Tyrone Power was no phony.  He was a Marine transport pilot in WW11 and was shot down but successfully crash landed his plane.
Interesting the largest memorial is that of a man whose name is that of a person that has no celebrity whatever.

Report this

By M.B.S.S., February 9, 2009 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

revolution bashing is so counter-revolution 101.

i doubt that any revolutionary, co-opted or not, has ever been as banal as the system they fought against.

of course there is some quality content out there.  there has always been some quality content.  that doesnt address the degree to which we obsess over our celebrities.  they come down from mount olympus to mingle with the mortals in malibu.  its disturbing and telling.

of course the entertainment culture isnt entirely bad for people.  but for those that have replaced the old gods with that dude from saved by the bell, and the fact that this segment of society is increasing, is scary.

Report this

By M.B.S.S., February 9, 2009 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

this article is as close as chris hedges gets to being a paparazzi.

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 9, 2009 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad:
’... In general, I disagree that the entertainment culture is in its entirety bad for people….’

Well, you’re certainly running against the consensus around here.  Everyone else knows that celebrities and celebrity culture are bad, bad, and designed by the ruling class to keep us all enslaved.  They’re still carrying on that way even after my crack about Che.  In fact, a moment’s reflection would recall to them that revolution and revolutionaries not only became celebrities in the Sixties, but they were banalized beyond all recognition.  Oh, well.

By the way, I agree that Guevara was vain and foolish, but I imagine almost all revolutionaries are vain and foolish.  It seems like a sine qua non for revolutionary leadership.  Maybe not George Washington….

As for the function of celebrity, I think Uncle Karl might say that its function and characteristics are determined by the relations of production.  Doesn’t that sound terribly Marxist?  But it seems to me that it’s true anyway—that celebrity is what we get when we mix the natural desire of primates to find a big, or strong, or clever, or beautiful, or lucky, or witchy fellow primate to follow around, with the culture, technology, and physical structure of the media, which allows images to be multiplied a billionfold while remaining somebody’s property and profit.

Report this

By Folktruther, February 9, 2009 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment

Great comment, Troublsum.  Sekf worth and self respect IS necessary to want to change the world.

I wanted to be a celeb when I was young.  To get girls, you know.  But that cemetary is grotesque.  It is really impossible to parody reality when it is it’s own self-parady.

Report this

By TAO Walker, February 9, 2009 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment

Sure domesticated people all over the world are kept distracted and in-thrall to the demi-gods of entertainment.  Like in any feedlot operation you have to keep the inmates heavily drugged, lest they go nuts, kill their tormentors and each other, and destroy the “facility.”

So just like John Wayne’s “Pilgrim(s)” when they got to Turtle Island, all the tamed two-leggeds are drunk on something all the time.  It goes with their captivity.

But hey, “There’s got to be a morning-after.”

HokaHey!

Report this
Virginia777's avatar

By Virginia777, February 9, 2009 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

Celebrities have very calculatingly been USED by dubious media manipulators.

You need look no further than Brad and Angelina’s sponsorship of Reporters Without Borders, now embroiled in an embezzlement scandal. http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2008/octubre/vier17/41menard-ing.html

excerpt:
“Since the publication of the Bush Plan to Annex Cuba in 2004, RSF [Reporters Without Borders] –identified in the document – has had no option than to acknowledge its collaboration with the State Department and its hefty remuneration not just through Calzón’s apparatus, but also through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).”

Or George Clooney’s sponsorship of the Save Darfur campaign:

Ten Reasons Why “Save Darfur” is a PR Scam to Justify the Next US Oil and Resource Wars in Africa
http://www.blackagendareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=453&Itemid=37

excerpt:
“The star-studded hue and cry to “Save Darfur” and “stop the genocide” has gained enormous traction in U.S. media along with bipartisan support in Congress and the White House.  But the Congo, with ten to twenty times as many African dead over the same period is not called a “genocide” and passes almost unnoticed.”

Report this

By Sepharad, February 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anarcissie—Right of course. Revolutionary icons abound. We have a fat bio on Che on the bookcase, and years ago, when our youngest was 14, one of his buddies asked “Who was Che Guevara?” My husband replied, “A vain and foolish man.” I reflexively started to object to that characterization but, rethinking Che’s long career in the revolutionary spotlight, decided the reply was accurate, if unkind. We even need our revolutionaries to be attractive. Mention Guzman, founder of Peru’s bloody-minded Sendero Luminoso, whose origins and career resembled Che’s in prominence if not righteousness, and most people, even from the radical left, may not be able to place him ... probably because Guzman was slightly pudgy and lacked Che’s celebrity looks.

In general, I disagree that the entertainment culture is in its entirety bad for people, opiate of the masses etc. Books, movies and plays, ballet productions and music concerts are only as good as their content and creators (though you can absorb more information faster reading). The best entertainment can be a window into places we’ll never see, situations we’ll never experience; expose us to beauties of form, movement and sound that are transformative. Bad entertainment—about 99% of what is available on tv and and the big screen—is worthless and mind-numbing. Those who create good entertainment deserve their celebrity status (if not salaries); were there any justice. those who squeeze out bad entertainment would be fined for their efforts, which revenues could be distributed to the more talented. Celebrity per se can be useful outside its own arena, e.g. Bono in Africa. The celebrity industry does not distinguish between people of no merit and the very talented who enrich our lives. So we have to be responsible for making that distinction ourselves, which isn’t that hard.

Report this

By zenwave, February 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

Evelyn Waugh portrayed this with great wit in “The Loved One”. Very funny film version was done in the sixties ...

Report this

By ray d, February 9, 2009 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment

Collin26:

To hope for a celebrity that says something fresh, or even defiant of a status quo—in our current social context—is to hope that a politician will do it.

It is not going to happen, in the current context.

Troublesum makes a good point when he says that “celebrities are people whose lives are validated by millions of others.” My gut feeling is that the great majority of them are shams, and are profoundly insecure people who don’t just happen to be celebrities, but need to be so. Celebrity not only brings fame, it also brings wealth, sexual conquest, oodles, and oodles of personal freedom. Now, why would a celebrity—say Tiger Woods for argument’s sake—who bases so much of himself on the spoils of celebrity—want to risk that? Why would he do that? Because he has strong moral fiber? No. The Tiger Woodses of our cultural scenery DO NOT have a strong moral fiber. What they have is a voracious appetite for power that is only satiated (and it never really is) by the powerful engine of celebrity culture. As Hedges points out, they are our little gods. They’re not going to give that up. I would not risk that, not in a celebrity culture.

It’s the same with our politicians: Democrats and Republicans. They all sell their principles to remain in power. Look at the Republicans, selling out their “fiscal responsibility,” and their clamors for “small government,” when W. Bush launched the GWOT, and created Homeland Security. Look at Obama, and his minions Emmanuel, Pelosi, and Reid, trading a viable stimulus package for so-called bipartisanship.

Now, returning to the idea of celebrities rebelling against power, and using their podiums to say something profound. When celebrities have done that, they have been destroyed, or marginalized. We all remember the Dixie Chicks saying a few negative words about the war. Now, I think it was one phrase they said that was negative about the war. Please, please, please, let’s not confuse that with a bona fide critique of the war, and our politicians. It was a sound-byte, a spontaneous, and unique one, but a sound-byte of criticism nonetheless. And look what happened. Thankfully, their careers were not completely derailed.

If celebrities, or anyone, is going to rebel, they need support. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to rebel alone. That’s suicide. We the people, the other folks on this discussion, the Chris Hedgeses of the world, parents, workers, we all need to try to transform our culture from one of extreme individualism to one of sober community. When something like that is created, an important politician, or celebrity can get on soapbox without worrying about landing on concrete when, inevitably, he will be pushed off. He will be able to count on support. But, when such a culture is created, we won’t need a celebrity to speak out for us.

We could be strong enough to do it ourselves.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we wait for such a thing to speak out. We are all strong enough to speak out, and reach out, in some way.

Report this

By George Edelman, February 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wish I could say it was interesting, or at least novel, to hear another voice sing in the choir of pop culture vilification. While I think it refreshing to see any reference to Plato’s cave, despite the obviousness of comparing the ‘shadows on the wall’ to a film projection, I am left wishing Mr. Hedges had the insight to also bring up Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’. In doing so one might then discuss “Poetics” as a reaction to Plato’s assertion that utopia must be without poetry, which I believe is what Mr. Hedges was referencing. However, since greater efforts were spent quoting the cost of a plot next to Marilyn Monroe, I cannot be sure. 

I submit that we can look no farther that this very article to size up to what degree pop culture ruins the efforts to think more deeply on any subject; even pop culture itself. Mr. Hedge’s prose is lined with vitriol and hatred, and rather than attempting to grasp at the greater reasons for our celebrity culture and its roots in the fiber of our cultural history as human beings, he condemns it as some sort of step backwards. This piece does not transcend what it despises, but kneels to it cursing everyone within earshot for forcing it to do so. For it is not merely shadows that once danced on those cave walls, but paintings, and through them we were meant to glean an understanding, not merely of the literal world they represented, but of the metaphoric one. It is my view that they were meant to help us understand our own march towards death and change in its many facets, and not just to ‘entertain’.

I would argue that celebrity, and pop culture, the modern extensions of the ancient epic poems themselves, are in fact tools (often featuring gods) to help us understand our world. As an author, it is within Mr. Hedges power to reach towards a deeper understanding of that which takes place around him, or instead to choose simply to condemn it, offering no alternative, or ‘higher way’ to understand what is clearly not only a current global obsession, but also an unyielding historic one. Certainly we should not see these many tales as literal events to mimic (i.e. John Wayne’s heroics in battle no more real than those of Odysseus) but that we should see them as metaphors for existence, and the heroics in the battles of daily life. It is not the only the fans who take the shadows for real, Mr. Hedges, but apparently you as well, and if there is any hope to making Aristotle’s vision of a more useful poetry, it would have to include writers who bother to look beyond the surface themselves.

Report this

By ocjim, February 9, 2009 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain. It is designed to keep us from fighting back, even, apparently, in death.

Our celebrity culture does not involve a conscious conspiracy to solidify power and it is only effective and pervasive if you choose to allow it to be. But because it captures all forms of communication, including the internet, education media, and filling stations now, it is so omniscient that it requires a conscious effort, involving thought and education, to counter its affects.

So is it specifically designed to keep us from fighting back or is it just designed to influence our choices?

Report this

By WriterOnTheStorm, February 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

Who better than Chris Hedges, that staunch defender of Christianity, to know a good con when he sees one. Apparently, the hypocrisy of blasting one manifestation of idol worship while singing the praises of another has escaped his otherwise finely-tuned moral compass.

It is a natural impulse to revere those who are perceived to embody one’s values. In this sense every society has the heroes it deserves. Our celebrity culture is a perfect reflection of the predatory capitalism, commodification, infantilization, and fetishized sexuality for which we are known throughout the world.

At least matinee idols are relevant to modern, living society, and not the dead, morbid representations of bronze-age superstition and primitive sacrifice ritual. It could be argued wether a modern hero like John Lennon has brought as much happiness to the world as the Christian hero Jesus Christ, but there can be no doubt which of the two has brought more misery.

Report this

By ntc, February 9, 2009 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Chris.  This is a beautiful sermon, and it really made me think…

Report this

By troublesum, February 9, 2009 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

Celebrities are people whose lives are validated by millions of others.  In contrast, to be unknown is to be so unimportant as to be non existent.  An effective means of keeping people under control is to make them believe that they are totally insignifgant.  We find an increasing number of celebrities becoming politically active because political activity follows naturally the belief that one’s life is meaningful.  People become politically passive when they believe they don’t matter.

Report this

By colin2626262, February 9, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

Hey, good article, Chris.

But don’t you think it’s possible that a celebrity could break the mold and start saying things in the media that were truly meaningful?  Let’s say a celebrity (who has all this access to the public and all this exposure to the whole world)—let’s say he or she starts talking about reality, about real faith and love and engagement with the world.  That could start a revolution of sorts, a spiritual revolution—if the person is spiritual.  Let’s say a well known celebrity becomes an anti-war spokesperson, even though there already are those kinds of celebrities.  But let’s imagine this celebrity has something new to say, a new message, an original spiritual message to convey.  That would be beautiful.  It would reach so many people.  So don’t knock celebrity culture too much.  You never know what might happen.

Report this

By coloradokarl, February 9, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

Opium for the Masses? I think if we need Opium let’s buy it all from the Afghanis and get more content in the MSM. The false Gods of the “Elite”, The perfect smiles on perfect bodies, the lethargic masses chomp cheese puffs and dream , “What IF?”.. The unfolding reality of economic class warfare will shock many to their senses and leave the rest crusty and glazed with tans-fat to follow their permanent carpet worn trail to the toilet. The “Stars” are Good and Greasy they they will go good with Worcestershire and lemon, broiled with Garlic. July brings the barbecue, Don’t forget the potato salad.

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 9, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

Revolution has had its turn, its fifteen minutes, as a celebrity too.  Remember all the Che Guevara icons?

Report this

By Shift, February 9, 2009 at 9:33 am Link to this comment

A well described Circus of Death.

Report this

By ian, February 9, 2009 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great article. All part of the massive con job that is busy falling around our ears at the moment.

Report this

By Allan Gurfinkle, February 9, 2009 at 8:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the underlying cause of the fascination with Hollywood is what I call the ‘disappearance of reality’.  Your reality is determined by the your interactions with the outside (of yourself) world.  Increasingly, these interactions are not with our immediately surroundings, the old reality, but rather with the electronic grid that permeates the physical world, that is, cyberspace, the new reality.  If I am interacting with cyberspace, like I am right now, then even though I am physically located in some location, I am not acting in that local reality.

For example, suppose in some small town in the US on a Tuesday night 50% of the people are watching TV and are tuned to Seinfeld.  Then their brains are all in sync, but they are not mentally present in their hometown. They have disappeared.  Hollywood is defining their everyday reality.  So, of course, they are obsessed with Hollywood.

Today, if you go into a bar in the US,  there will be several TV screens.  The local reality is insufficient.  We have to be continually hooked up to cyber-reality.  We are becoming increasingly oblivious to local reality.  Local reality is ceasing to exist.

The only way local reality will ever make a comeback is if towns are created with enforced laws that limit TV to one hour per day and internet activity to one hour per day.

Report this

By Catherine, February 9, 2009 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

Where would all those celebrities be without ‘we the people’? If we didn’t “celebrate” them, they would not be “celebrities,” and I, for one, would love for all the hoopla to simply stop, for the celebration to come to an end.  We should be so much more than star worshipers and realize these people put their pants on just like the rest of us do.  Same thing with politicians.  None of these elevated people would be where they are without our allowing it to happen.  Choices made, as Octopus said so well, and nothing will change until “we the people” really want it to change, and that means changing ourselves and the kinds of choices we make.

Report this

By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, February 9, 2009 at 5:06 am Link to this comment

For almost 70 years, I’ve been searching for what is more than me.  I just can’t be all there is.  There’s got to be more.  I’m in big trouble if I’m IT. 

I thought it was Jesus.  Wrong.  Then, Elvis. The Beatles.  Wrong again.  Mickie.  Tiger.  O.J.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.  Someone, PLEASE HELP ME!!

Bill Gates.  Warren B.  The Kennedys. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  I just can’t take it anymore.

Isn’t there SOMEONE out there? 

Scottie, PLEEEZE?

Report this

By octopus, February 9, 2009 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

Keyword search:
Culture Jamming
Subvertising
Reclaim the Streets
Billboard Liberation Front
Guy Debord and Situationists
Jorge Rodriguez de Gerada

Buying in to Celebrity Culture is a conscious choice.
Choosing not to is a revolutionary act….

Report this

By Peter, February 9, 2009 at 4:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The headstone of Sylvia Plath was “uprooted and carted away” not by thieves or worshippers, as your article implies, but by her Estate in order to be repaired - the HUGHES in the headstone being repeatedly chiseled off by vandals.

Report this
 
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.