Hal Rubenstein

Stop Making Stupid People Famous

I was happily stunned by the quick and overwhelming response to the graphic of STOP MAKING STUPID PEOPLE FAMOUS posted yesterday on my personal Facebook website, which highlights such “luminaries” as Snookie, Kim, Donald, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, and Willie “Schmuck Dynasty” Robertson. The poster, awful as it is funny, highlights what is now an orange alert for our country. Because we have confused notoriety and bad behavior with earned fame, gleefully thrown money at the shameless in order to embolden them for our own amusement, and most unfortunate of all, confused the amassing of cash and ‘followers” as both signs of both abriterial power as well as enviable success, we have compromised our cultural integrity. There is no border between reality and reality show when someone’s every move is conceived as a window display and privacy is worse than absent, it is undesirable.

From authoritative newspapers and glossies to supermarket rags, from exclusive couture ateliers to fast fashion empires, from major to social media to dinner party conversation, no one is exempt from blame. What began as a guilty pleasure soon became spectator sport, then morphed into a curiously addictive obsession until now it is toxic and unstoppable. The elevation of the idiot has permanently damaged our standards, our morals, our civility, our arts and education, and is now on an impressive trajectory that will aim our future into captivating freefall.

When we have thousands mocking intelligence and science, when our news and information is readily digested in bites and characters, studded with quotes designed solely to amass headlines and clicks, when a candidate for the ultimate office in the world is cheered as he speaks with the level of a below average fourth grader, inventing random facts sure to instigate the gut response of the moment, then our lives are in danger of being no more real than any highly painted housewife who’s made room for a camera in her living room.

I’m not pitching a candidate. Regardless of the outcome, this situation does not end with the climax to the next election. I’m asking you to change who you pay attention to.   We have made fools of kings and queens and sorry, but they don’t rule. They’re “killing it” all right, as in all that matters.   No, everything isn’t awesome when stupid people take over. So wise up right now. Yes, it is always a bit humbling to turn your attention towards someone smarter than you. To have to listen instead of quickly respond. To have to think before you react. But that’s how we learn. At least, it’s how we used to when smart people were the ones held on high and we all wanted to be better, instead of simply famous.