When does a celebrity dive in?

The world of being a Creator must be a crazy one. Having never held any success with my attempts to create, I can only assume that the world beyond my zeroed hit counter is incredibly enlightening. Given how many people seem to assume that audience size is tantamount to truthfulness, I can only assume that the moment someone’s numbers explode, a beam of light descends from the clouds, and people are given the enlightenment that many buddhists suffer and meditate for a lifetime to achieve.

Because successful people seem to be given a lot of airtime for their, frankly, stupid views.

It’s easy to pick a target and fire at them with criticism, but frankly it’s pointless. For one, they won’t listen. For two, Youtube exists and has a large number of visible people flailing their arms about with righteous indignation. WordPress is not the best place for such rampant delusions of relevance.

But I were to cast my mind into the faint possibility that I could be somehow notorious for something. At what point do I stop revelling in my own self-congratulations, look out upon a crowd of people and think to myself, “I know better than these people and they should listen to me”?

Let’s bypass the irony of me typing these words on a blog where I seemingly profess to know all, and position myself into the shoes of an actor or singer. I know nothing much about the world, but I am decent at pretending to be other people, or pitching my voice at a resonance that is not ear-savaging. I can perform. I can please a room of people.

But why would I think my opinions on sensitive subjects such as politics and religion are warranted, insightful, or even correct? Moreover, why would I expect anyone to give more weight to my words over, say, Jill the Plumber from Arizona? I have just as much exposure to politics as Jill does, yet I feel I should include my voice to the exclusion of others. Why would I think that?

When Katy Perry demands for love (or “resistance“), or Leonardo DiCaprio preaches for climate change (not that I oppose their opinions on the subjects), why should we nod along with them and pledge money to their cause celebre? Why wouldn’t we listen to actual scientists, or psychologists instead? Is it because they aren’t as pretty as Katy or Leo?

Part of me can understand these celebrities, though. I mean, what would I do if I had nothing to worry about? What would drive me if I reached the top of my industry, had enough wealth to ensure my family’s well-being for generations, and enough food in the fridge for the most sacrilicious orgies that would make Caligula blush?

I’d worry about immortality, or legacy. What better way to ensure that – at least in these mortal bodies – than by enshrining our place in history as “That Person Who Stopped Bad Thing”.

Of course, most prominent historical figures stood up in the face of great danger, engaged their bravery gland, and stood tall. However, in the instance of Katy and Leo, they stand up in the face of popular consensus, have engaged their preaching gland and deliver the most milquetoast of opinions that challenge precisely no one.

The Griffin Head joke

I hate that I need to reiterate a point I’ve already made, but the week’s story that everyone seems to be talking about – for reasons I do not fathom – is the one where comedian Kathy Griffin holds aloft the severed head of the President of the United States.

TJ Kirk’s video effectively sums up my thoughts on the scenario.

I loathe getting into left-right labelling, because it immediately paints people into categories of “them and us”. People will squeal, “Oh the lefties do this” or “those right-wing nutjobs are at it again” trying to convince whoever is within earshot that there is a good “us” side and a nasty “them” side.

When the truth is we’re all the same kind of dumb animals.

Kathy Griffin’s photo in this instance is grotesque and not to my taste. Like TJ Kirk, I think it boring, pedestrian, and unchallenging. Ooooh, you hate Trump? Great. Join the millions of others on the pile. Fucking yawn.

However, I do not feel it a good idea that I be some kind of arbiter as to what kind of speech is palatable for the masses. God knows I hate a great number of comedians, artists, musicians, and would love to have them never perform a single piece ever again, but I am not that kind of person. Not because I am of high moral fibre, or because I am smart.

But because I possess an “off” button on my technology. I can choose to not listen or watch or taste.

Griffin has since lamented the apparent loss of her career, and many have bayed for her dismissal from any kind of public role. As I said in my previous post, I do not think that instances like these warrant attacks on peoples’ livelihoods. If not because that effectively stifles free speech, then because it reduces all discussion into milquetoast inoffensive words that dare not push any boundaries – even if (and especially if) boundaries need to be pushed. Sometimes we need to be confronted with views.

I don’t mean to say that Griffin’s photo was a necessity, either. As I said, it was boring. There are far more interesting and important debates to be had than “I hate Trump”. But if our reaction to an actual debate is to attack the livelihood of those who engage in it, then this is a path to destruction.

“But the other side does it” is a fucking lazy excuse, too. Do better than your supposed “other side”, and maybe then some moderates might come around to actually listening to you.

As I’ve said: the behaviour you exhibit is the behaviour you endorse – even with your opposition. Especially with your opposition.

Populism is not the problem nor solution

I’ve linked to one of Jonathan Pie’s videos before, and I think this one also manages to align somewhat with my thoughts.

The only caveat I would add to anything relating to Populism is something that rings true for most democracies; the majority can sometimes be wrong.

Note, I said “Sometimes”.

I am not, broadly, calling everyone who has voted for the most popular candidate “wrong”.

I’ve sometimes thought that what politics needed wasn’t someone (or a party) that did everything that the majority wanted. That’s pretty much Governing by polls, and I think that’s a blight on the political landscape. When you’re Governing to get re-elected, you’ve immediately sold out your rational thought. You’re willing to do what is popular, which may not be the right thing.

Besides. I think polls are dead anyway.

What I’ve sometimes thought was needed was a party who would come in without the notion that they were going to survive the next election. They would come in, and do a large number of unpopular, but correct, things. A party that owns the issues it creates and says, “This is how we think it’ll get fixed, and we don’t give a shit what you think.”

Some might argue that this is the politician’s current modus operandi, but they do it with a smile and roundabout words. I would probably agree. Which is why I think it would be refreshing to see a single political term with some hard-headed dipshit at the helm. For one, at least they might stand by their convictions, and two, the people might appreciate the blunt honesty, rather than being spoken to like they’re a child.

I know I would.

I would rather be told that a housing market crash is a “necessary bad time” we had to had, than be told that it was “an opportunity to rebuild.”

At least tell me it’s a shit-sandwich, and the politician is paid enough to at least own the fact that they were the chef who wrote it on the menu.

Beyond tribalism and into cultism

The term “cult” is a loaded one. The moment that the word is uttered, it conjures pictures in ones mind of either Jonestown-type commune, or in its most milquetoast incarnation, a Scientology temple. Participation in cults are seldom considered good, healthy pastimes, so it comes to no surprise to me that – in our never ending ability to police others’ behaviours – I have seen the term thrown about.

Typically it’s employed to tarnish the extreme views and behaviours of “The Other Side”. Instead of debating points in an honest way, it is far easier to simply brand an opponent as a narrow-minded devotee.

I find this somewhat infuriating, as someone with experience and knowledge in cults. Quite often I have seen those who accuse others of being in a cult are actually those who are guilty of being in one themselves.

But rather than identify what I see today as being a “cult”, I feel it would be far more constructive to point out the telltale signs of a cult. In my experience, you cannot simply tell someone that they’re participating in a cult. People who are in a cult are fervent believers in the group. The group is what they have attached a great amount of their identity, and to suggest that the group is insidious in nature, or exploiting them, is tantamount to an insult. The best method, I feel, is to highlight the abusive behaviours that a cult performs, and their inherent hypocrisies.

I admit that finding a strict definition of a cult can be difficult, and that there are legitimate community groups that could also be considered as having cultish behaviour. However, I do feel that when seeking to identify a cult, it will ultimately come down to “Who is the beneficiary?” Cults serve only themselves, whereas community groups do tend to have a tangible benefit outside the group.

However, when talking about politics, there can be an illusion that a group benefits the community at large, when in actual fact the triumphs of the group are thin and have only served senior figures of the cult.

So, let’s start with some of the signs:

  • The group paints the world largely as an evil place, and the group is the only protection against the bad in the world.
  • The group requires utmost devotion, often requiring members to volunteer their time and expertise for no recompense.
  • The group always requires members to purchase items (ie books or “special classes”) in order to attain a higher understanding or ranking. There is also no finish to these classes, and there is always more things to purchase.
  • The group will threaten that leaving the group can result in harm to the individual, or death.
  • Former members of the group are ridiculed, considered “not worthy”, or are accused of even criminal acts. They are discredited and group members are instructed to avoid them.
  • The group sometimes asks people to sacrifice their existing personal relationships, or at least prioritise the group before all others.
  • The group widely perceives itself as more enlightened than regular people in society.
  • Any new information presented to the group needs to be filtered through the group’s own lens and standards – typically to be discredited.
  • The group tells you that there is no other answer to the world’s problems. Theirs is the only answer.
  • The group has slogans, catch cries and labels for which it can quickly categorise any outsiders.
  • The group ridicules any other group that doesn’t align 100% with their philosophy.

There are other aspects to cults, such as the demands for members to confess personal sins to senior members, or in some cases rituals and initiations, however with the nature of the Internet, this kind of criteria is difficult to fulfil. I might flesh out some of these items in later posts, and maybe even highlight my observations in modern “debate”.

But remember, it’s not that a cult needs to meet all these criteria in order to be a “cult”. It must be determined the level of harm a cult is bringing, I feel.

Cults are easy to slip into, though. We shouldn’t criticise people for falling into one, but rather understand that they need to make the realisation on their own. More can be read in Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, for sale on Amazon. (Disclaimer: I am not receiving any affiliated kickbacks for this link).

Quote from the book:

The truth seems to be that propaganda on its own cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep people persuaded once they have ceased to believe. It penetrates into minds already open, and rather than instill opinion it articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients.

Polls are dead

In an environment in where there is only one socially acceptable answer for anyone who values their social status, I am sure people will largely gravitate toward that one answer. Those who publicly go against the grain either have nothing to lose, or have enough backing behind them that they can support themselves.

This is one of the reasons why every single poll everywhere in the lead up to the US election was saying with unbridled certainty that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in.

And we all know how that shook out.

How did the polls get it so wrong? I am sure the answer is obvious, but I’ll reiterate; it’s because those surveyed weren’t being honest.

When the media is telling you that a candidate is one of the most horrible people on the planet, is the next version of Hitler, and is ultimately going to cause the implosion of the United States, whereas the other candidate is going to be a history-making President, who are you going to tell others you support?

So when a young pollster with a clipboard thrusts their survey in your face, and you have to choose between the widely denounced Nazi and the widely revered stateswoman, you’re not exactly going to pump your fist in the air with a proud sieg heil.

As it has been said by countless others, people can say all they want out loud, but when they’re in the polling booth with no judgemental eyes on them, they can choose whoever they like, without the discerning glare of a pollster silently asking, “Really?”

However, this has extended in polling in approval ratings, I feel. The media is still, despite the lesson being very clear in the lead up to the election, attacking Trump at any angle they can find. He is still being labelled as some of the most horrible isms you can care to unearth. So is it any surprise that Trump’s approval ratings are so low?

I am not suggesting that his approval ratings are the opposite. Oh no. I am just saying that there are just as much reason to believe the polls as there is to not believe them. There’s a reason why “Pulling a Takei” is now a thing. Polls could reveal tomorrow that Trump’s approval ratings are the highest of any President ever, and I’ll still call bullshit on it.

The surveys can reveal all they want, but I am forever dubious on their sources until the media pulls their head in. The smear campaign against Trump, whether warranted or not, has sullied and tainted any poll or survey on him.

Polls are useless. They aren’t a good method of surveying anymore. Polls are dead.

Who’s the real resistance?

Another day, another celebrity proclaiming politics. At what point does this kind of behaviour turn from actual political activism into blatant marketing? It is becoming difficult to tell who exactly is genuinely looking to protest, and who is hitching their wagon to the hate machine.

Today saw witness to the unholy ritual of hedonistic navel gazing that is the Grammy’s, and Katy Perry made no secret of her stance – for any of us who might have missed her declaration of allegiance during the campaign trail. Her uniform for today’s sermon is viewable as thus:

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A white pantsuit with armband emblazoned with the word “Resist”. I am sure many would attempt to mock the costume for its lack of subtlety, however I would ask those people to review pop culture for the past decade and ask exactly how a lack of subtlety is surprising today.

The ginormous question mark I have regarding this statement from Perry relates to whom exactly is the resistance?

Because, I really don’t know anymore.

Those who would vote Clinton would consider themselves the resistance to a boorish, contemptuous man who embodies everything distasteful you can find in a human being. However, those who would vote Trump would consider themselves the resistance to a corrupt establishment who embodies everything distasteful you can find in politics.

One has been in power for nearly a decade and has enriched their contemporaries and chums. One has been in power for nearly three weeks and is an enriched billionaire who probably has already-rich contemporaries and chums.

I detest labels, but if i must affix one to myself, I might as well do it in a manner that properly positions myself on the political spectrum. Yes, I consider myself a moderate, which is probably the most heinous thing one can be in this world of extremes.

So, now that I’ve pissed off anyone who might have mistakenly fallen in here, I might as well say it; Perry’s side isn’t actually the resistance.

I have difficulty believing that someone as prominent, wealthy and connected as Katy Perry being part of a “resistance”. This is not some grassroots movement, but big money trying to get everyone’s eyes on the “correct” people. Look, I don’t doubt that Perry believes she’s part of something special. I genuinely think she believes in this. But I think she fails to realise that she is just another tool of the ruling class, and like Meryl Streep before her, is simply preaching to the already converted.

The resistance, I think, would be the working class people across the United States who took the only thing they had that resembled power, and utilised it against big money. The resistance are the poor who wanted to say “enough” and send a message that they too mattered.

I can only really see the conga-line of braying celebrities as an enormous meltdown because they didn’t get their way. That is not a resistance. They pushed so hard during the campaign, and they desperately wanted to “make history” again in electing the first woman President (to follow the first black President), but to have that snatched away by a man who embodies everything they hate has made them snap. I have trouble believing in a resistance lead by ultra rich people who never have to worry about a single monetary problem in their entire lives.

This is how big money throws a tantrum.

By pretending it’s something its not.

Celebrity delusion and detachment

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I think there is something that prominent people and celebrities need to realise, and realise fast. However, I do understand that they may find it difficult to make this realisation as the position they now find themselves is new and alien. But now it has been smashed upon them with the haste of a bowling ball hurtling down the alley.

For the rest of us, though, the writing was on the wall.

This is because we have been expressing our distaste to the thoughts and concerns of the wealthy celebrity class, and typically it has gone unheard. The wealthy celebrity class would not know of any kind of dissent with the commoners, as we all were still buying movie tickets, music and other forms of entertainment. For the most part, we were still on-board with our alliance to the “correct” people and our distaste for the “bad” people (who were typically conservative). Those who denigrated the work of these artists were just trolls who weren’t to be taken seriously.

So, all was good while we watched the movies, listened to the music and elected the correct people into the White House.

But suddenly it turned.

Peoples’ wealth was decimated in the crash of 2008. Jobs vanished, and the worth of our pile of bricks on land dropped through the floor. Everyone tightened their belts and tried to do their best to stay sheltered and fed. The Global Financial Crisis was pointed squarely at Republican excesses and deception, and as a result the people voted for change. They voted for Obama.

Cut to 2016, and the much promised change didn’t eventuate. In fact, if anything, there was a very clear impression that (with the wealth gap growing) it was only the poor people who had to shoulder the burden of Bad Times. So, while everyday Jill’s and Joe’s were searching behind the couch cusions for candle money, this kinda shit was going on.

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Yes, throughout all these hard times, sales boomed for cars that cost three times as much as a modest house.

The message, whether intentional or not, was clear: economic recovery wasn’t for the poor people.

Of course, celebrities are acting with shock and incredulity that the commoners dare to not follow their instructions on how to vote. They act outraged that Trump seems to follow through on his campaign promises (which is very un-politicianlike), yet they still decide to not honour their promise (which is very politicianlike) to move to Canada in the event of Trump’s victory. Yet they continue to stand at lecterns and repeat their sermons in the hope that they can set the flock straight again.

But what this all boils down to is something simple: Celebrity opinions have been rejected.

The people aren’t listening anymore. If anything the people are quite willing to move against a celebrity’s voice. Heck, those celebrities who threatened to move to Canada in the event of Trump’s win didn’t realise that what they offered the people wasn’t a threat, but actually an incentive to vote for Trump. Celebrities, I feel, are over estimating their value.

Lena Dunham said she’ll move to Canada? So did Jon Stewart? Well, shit, if that isn’t an excuse to troll them and send them away, I don’t know what is.

People, I have learned, typically tend to know when they’re being preached to, and they resist dogma. This can only be highlighted by Shia Labeouf’s art project, in where people trolled it, recognising and mocking the lunacy of celebrity excess.

Merryl Streep can challenge Trump all she likes – she is welcome to – but I think her and her ilk fail to understand that all they are doing is preaching to the already converted, galvanising their opposition, and doing precisely zero to convince people in the middle that they shouldn’t vote Trump again.