29 June 2009

Celebrity deaths and the media

Many people have commented that the media obsession with the deaths of celebrities like Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett (what happened to the "Majors"?) over the last couple of days was way over the top, and some, including me, attributed it to declining standards of journalism.

But it seems we were wrong, and the media have always been like that. Hat-tip to Santos Woodcarving Popsicles: No person is lost in the crowd for pointing me to this example: Irenic Thoughts: Titanic Mistake:
The Titanic sank, in April of 1912. The next day, the headline of a famous newspaper was devoted entirely and exclusively to the death of the multimillionaire, John Jacob Astor. At the end of the article, the newspaper almost casually mentioned the other 1800 people who died. The other 1800 were not that important. Such is the attitude of the world and many public media, but not God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is concerned about every single person and no person is lost in the crowd, however unimportant that person may be in the eyes of the world.

—William Barclay

The media will say, of course, that they are just giving the (paying) public what they want, and that is quite true. Apparently the celeb followers' tweets jammed up Twitter so much that protesters in Iran, for whom Twitter was almost the last line of communication, were cut off from the rest of the world.


Yewtree said...

I have often thought that the contemporary obsession with celebrities (or even cebebrities) is a substitute for religion.

Now maybe if saints were a bit more diverse... not actually "sinful", just, you know, it would be good if the people who got canonised were the ordinary everyday people who do good quietly with no expectation of reward, whilst still being, uh, normal. Just thinking about my personal heroes, they're a bit more radical than most saints.

James Higham said...

Celebs would be more bearable if most of them were bearable.

jams o donnell said...

As with the death of Jade Goody earlier in the year I have tuned out news of Michael Jackson.

CherryPie said...

I think the media seem to hype up these events in a sensational way and whip up hysteria which unites people irrationally.

Steve Hayes said...


Yes, it is religious, or quasi-religious. The deaths of the likes of Michael Jackson and Princess Diana have shown that the term "celebrity cult" means.

Cherry Pie,

Yes, just as they tried to hype swine flu, and were desperate to whip up hysteria about it. One could see TV reporters desperately trying to get medical experts to come out with a doomsday scenario, and clearly being frustrated when they didn't succeed.

But they would then switch to shots of people at airports wearing face masks to get the point across anyway.

Dymphna said...

I don't know whether to be relieved or saddened by the fact that the media have apparently always been sensationalistic celebrity worshipers. I still have the feeling that it has gotten worse in the past couple of decades.

Phidelm said...

As Chesterton commented, when people stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing - they'll believe in anything (or anyone). So I suppose for many people celebs take on some form of pagan deity (pagan as both good and bad present, sometimes at the same time).
As for the media hype, largely lazy journalism as the 'sleb' PR machine tends to set the agenda, with advertising muscling in to demand certain content accordingly.


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