I have a relative disdain for celebrity culture but, in recent years, as celebrities have not only become political but Hollywood has become another branch of government. Selena Gomez is effectively a US senator along with ever other A-list celebrity. While the nature if celebrity has changed in the recent cultural shift, the condition of being a celebrity has been democratized to everyone. One of the reasons there has been a push, not only for Confederate statues to come down, but all statues of likenesses with any indictments searchable in the first three pages of a Google search. Recently, figures such as Ulysses Grant and Mohandas Gandhi have been taken down. I assume the character Taylor Swift is playing in the frame on the homepage of this website held some objectionable views as she is dressed 18th Century attire and I will at some point have to remove it. The reason for that has a lot to do with what your average jane has in common with Taylor Swift. We live in a culture where normal people’s lives become the subject of scandals and stories, background checks, where every second-degree connection they have knows who they are, people get mail from those people, and people ghost.
Ghosting is something done often by celebrities because hundreds of people probably send them stuff per day and they can’t respond to all of it. They also have legitimate fears of people since anyone can come out of the woodwork. Nowadays, the average pretty girl is almost as afraid of stalkers as rich and famous ones. Whether there is an increase in truly creepy stalking (not just annoying messages) among the population or just an increased fear, I don’t know. However, the explosive popularity of serial killers and horror films in recent years has probably hyperbolized the fear. As 90% of rapes are committed by acquaintances in domestic settings, the average coed is statistically safer on the street at night than at a frat party but they feel safer at a frat party. Frat boys (3X as likely) and jocks like them are also statistically more likely to rape. Alcohol also drastically increases the likelihood. No girl has ever wanted to date me but, statistically, as a sober beta-male political nerd, I am extremely safe to date. Girls are ironically more attracted to more masculine personalities which are the same personalities more likely to have domination complexes and entitlement complexes and thus a much higher rate of being abusers and rapists. Also, ironically, girls are more likely to think the jocks aren’t “creepy” and the nerds are. Note to girls: you can eugenically lower rates of abuse by procreating with men your body tells you not to procreate with.
All of that is to say, the people, now, have both the propensity for reputational damage and the same fears as celebrities. They live lives that feel and are, to a degree, very exposed. The response to that feeling of exposure is to weaponize the exposure. Political celebrities live in a constant Verdun of virtue signaling and public shaming and grandstanding over someone else’s flaws. Since everyone is a political celebrity, they have to gain political capital and virtue signal. This has created a culture where, as a means of reputation-insurance, people are incentivized to attack figures like Ulysses Grant. I don’t really care that much whether Ulysses Grant’s statues stand or fall except that it is curious that his likeness would be the subject of physical attacks given he defeated the Confederacy among a myriad of other reasons. Grant went down for the same reason Al Franken’s #metoo scandal brought him down. In a world where everyone could go down and no one has privacy, the safest defense is to rack up goodie points.
In the old world where people were not in constant fear of their pasts or their personal lives becoming public, there was much less desire to unmask the follies of others. There were downsides to that setup. Yes, lots of abuse went unreported and the inner-lives of people, often dark, kept the Potemkin façade of normalcy. Now, almost every minor incident increasingly, warranted or not, gets the police called or some type of punitive authority involved. On a level, this is cathartic and redemptive, the quiet houses where horrors occurred unstopped as late as the 1990’s now regularly get busted. Yet, it is also scary since there is a pervasive surveillance and a lack of privacy, among many other reasons. The metaphorical Julian Assange with get sunlight into every dark corner and with that comes both many perks and curses.
We shouldn’t go back in the sense that we stop the exposures. That is the best means of positive change. But to ensure that when exposures happen, we are more forgiving and excusing. That we allow people to be flawed and broken and work to make a better future. As people are not very capable of forgiveness, that will likely not happen. Generally, after slights, people hold lifelong grudges and that isn’t likely to change. Still, an effort needs to be made to reduce the amount of shaming and scathing exposure and replace it with exposure meant to heal and create. In a world where everyone is a celebrity, we need to make sure that social media isn’t a TMZ or National Enquirer for everyone. We need to accept that everyone has flaws and that to coexist we must tolerate them. We have to acknowledge that we have our own and have cognitive biases that blind us to them. Hopefully then we will have a more loving and kinder world.