Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Celebrity culture

I had a piece in yesterday's Canberra Times, 'Celebrity culture brings out the worst in us'

Riffing on Clive James' Cultural Amnesia, I'm discussing the rudeness that fame attracts and encourages. A sample:
Autograph collectors, wannabe writers, stalkers - a well-known name collects these. And to negotiate the constant letters, outstretched hands, phone calls and tweets of ressentiment, rudeness is sometimes necessary. From silence to surreal rejection (George Harrison to autograph buzzards: "It's Thursday"), sanity asks for a little discourtesy. 
And this, James argues, takes us back to uncivilised times, when humans were obliged to fear foreigners. "Being rude to strangers," he writes, "was the only way to stay safe." Whether James' observation is correct is best left to anthropologists and historians, though we humans can be surprisingly diplomatic when cornered. Sometimes unknown players demand caution and courtesy, not bad manners. But James' chief message is characteristically clear: fame makes it difficult to be polite.  Even in my own D-grade case, some letters and emails can be hilariously intrusive - or would be funny, if they weren't so aggressive or petulant. And then there is Twitter: among other (wonderful) things, a carousel for cranks on hobby horses. 
This is not to say that manic or fractious correspondents don't deserve sympathy - they often do, and perhaps more than I. The point is that the constant revolving ride of insults and requests is exhausting and harrying, and sanity mandates a lapse in etiquette now and then. 

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