We've come to doubt that anyone except anointed denizens of the media realm can know much of anything significant.
One of the purposes that mythical proxies and champions have traditionally served is to help us vicariously transcend our own sense of smallness and powerlessness in the world around us.
In past ages, when the world was a more physically dangerous place, our heroes and godheads tended to be indomitable warriors. In our contemporary world, where the kind of visceral unease thats felt day-to-day tends to revolve more around issues of anonymity in a vast and almost unknowably complex system, our heroes embody an ability to burst through the perceptual clutter.
Not surprisingly, one of the most significant uses of celebrity power today is to promote ideas.
In a relatively unevolved form, celebrities may simply back political candidates. While the opinions of actors and musicians and the like might not logically have reason to carry much weight in our evaluation of public office seekers or political and social policies, the fact of the matter is, they do.
As techniques of using celebrity to gain popular acceptance have evolved, celebrity status (in its broader sense, which is enoyed by such figures as Henry Kissinger and George F. Will) is also rapidly becoming a tacit requirement for the formulation of insight and commentary.
Our bookstores are thus becoming crammed to overflowing with celebrity nonfiction titles on all manner of subjects, while works lacking such endorsements are fading from view. At the same time, newspapers once noted for their wealth of first-rate local columnists are reduced to printing little more than the output of the same set of Name Brand Commentators that can be found in virtually any paper in any city.
To simply ascribe this growing need for a celebrity imprimatur to generalized considerations of "marketing" is to miss an important point: Why is celebrity status now so essential to public acceptance?
(c) COPYRIGHT 1998 ROBERT WINTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Without realizing it, most us have abandoned the Western intellectual tradition of knowledge through direct observation.
Undervaluing non-celebrity observations cheats us all--but is consistent with other forms of contemporary communication.