Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Fallacy of Celebrity Opinion

Once again, I pause to ask why we care what celebrities think. Even though some of them possess a kind of nominally activist sensibility that is minimally informed by fact, more celebrities speak in logical fallacies and possess as much maturity as an online argument. Aside from supermarket tabloids and a thousand small-talk conversations, I can't understand the need or reason for this kind of discourse.

I follow why we get sucked into this kind of moronic game. Contrary to what we might think, what makes many celebrities appealing is that they look average, much like the rest of us. Some celebrities win fame by being exceptionally physically beautiful, but most that grab our attention are members of a cult of talented musicians, athletes, and actors who look like regular people. Because they look like us, we find it exceptionally easy to identify with them.

By virtue of the fact that people care what they say and care about their opinions, celebrities are given a bully pulpit to convey information to others. Unfortunately, their prejudices and often very foolish beliefs show the limitations that come from being an average Joe or Jane. I have largely ceased to care what ill-informed celebrities speak and say, because they proport to be an expert on a supposed topic and are really nothing more than modestly gifted rubes. I tend to hold the opinions of academics, scientists, theologians, and writers in much higher regard because one tends to find a much higher standard of rational thought.

As we know, sometimes even the supposed experts fail us, but far less frequently than pop stars and popcorn flick matinee idols. While this is not always the case, as we know, I nevertheless fail to understand why most celebrities are taken seriously and given chance after to chance to form a kind of demented public opinion.

Enough soft news exists already to feed a thousand flame wars and manufactured quarrels between fevered egos. Remove the names and we might as well be talking about any lunch hour in a high school. And admittedly, a kind of Schadenfreude is present here, not simply because we like to see people fall onto a particular part of their bodies. Quite often we, either secretly or not, want to be celebrities ourselves.

The irony of celebrity status is not how difficult it is to achieve it, but rather the reverse, how easy it is to luck into money and to somehow achieve the privilege that gives us great influence over others. But we in the peanut gallery manage to get fooled over and over, not recognizing that wisdom, not facts, is always in short supply and anyone can manage to sound smart and inspiring by memorizing a few key sound bytes.  

The cult of personality we call celebrity is an odd construct. It exists to make money, of course, but it contains as many wanna-be winners as a lottery drawing or a day in a casino. Even if we know the risk involved, we're always ready for one more hand, one more two digit, six number sequence. And should that be our fate someday, all I have to say is this. Do your homework.

Your opinions might make you money, but it's just as easy for them to cost you dearly. Celebrity gives us the delusion that we are somehow in control of our fate, that we are the final spin doctor, and that we get the right to leave the game at a time of our own choosing. Be careful out there, and should you have the hankering to open your mouth, anything you say can and will be used against you.

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