Most of us, if asked, will say that we place a high value on our privacy, that we consider most of our comings and goings none of anybody's business, that the proper response to impertinent questions is stony silence. Of course, we don't extend this same privilege to figures in the public eye: we have to know every piddling factoid, every minor interaction with other persons, damned near every bowel movement. And we see no contradiction in these positions, which gives me cause for alarm.

For politicians and their ilk, no detail is too insignificant. And while the argument is often made that putting the pols under the microscope somehow gives an indication of "character", a nice nebulous election-year term with only the vaguest of meanings, no actual character studies are ever conducted; instead, it becomes an exercise in political manipulation, spin and counter-spin, full of sound and fury, and signifying only desperation. Does anyone seriously believe that if Bill Clinton had been a Republican, the GOP would be just as hot on his concupiscent trail? Or that the Democrats would pass up a chance — any chance — to trash a Republican in the White House?

Politicians, at least, are in a position to exercise some sort of power over the rest of us. People in the entertainment industry are not. Yet we are no less obsessed with our celebrities. George Clooney caught a measure of flak for suggesting that he might be better off thwarting the Hollywood hype machine — how dare he not make himself available for publicity stunts? Then again, what does George Clooney owe me, the fan? The rational answer is "Nothing," but then Tinseltown doesn't revolve around rationality. When we deify these people, we also anoint their disciples — and some of those disciples, inevitably, will turn out to be dangerous.

So maybe I should feel better about my state of obscurity. Nobody, not even MasterCard, is going to stake out my home or watch my every move. Hardly anyone, in fact, is even going to read this paragraph.

The Vent

18 May 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill