Media critic Brent Bozell calls it the “celebrity asylum”, and that’s a pretty apt description, for in this society increasingly driven by various degrees of voyeurism, the constant 24/7 media obsession with stories on the likes of Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears feeds an audience obviously fixated on lifestyles and behavior the attraction to which borders on insanity. And, much worse for our future, the attention paid to these stories and the priority assigned to them by the all-encompassing popular culture is at best sending mixed messages to our youth. In fact, I wish all of it were required to be broadcast with a disclaimer, such as “the following celebrity update includes scenes from a lifestyle and life choices that represents potential hazards to physical and psychological health and are not recommended by this network or its sponsors” (good luck!).
In case any of us think we can observe all of this in detachment without feeling guilty or responsible, consider this comment from Bozell, which is dead on point: “The media cannibals who love chewing on [these celebrities], and watching their profits soar as a result, are refusing to reflect, even for a moment, on the damage done to the children who gather at the temple of celebrity worship. But we—a society that is not sufficiently ashamed of itself to denounce this cultural rot simply by walking away from it—we are the ultimate enablers.”
We can add to this not totally unrelated phenomenon the degree to which our elections, particularly at the Presidential level, are essentially celebrity-driven and have lost any semblance of serious debate about the future of this country. As a result, they are likewise covered in a superficial manner—who’s in, who’s out, who’s up, who’s down, who’s going “negative”, who’s responding, blah, blah, blah. Marshall McLuhan famously coined the term, “the medium is the message”, and, unfortunately, at an increasingly disturbing level we are making him into a brilliant prophet.