In my day job, I work for a large (and I mean large) multi-national company with locations throughout the U.S., and headquartered in New York. Why should you care? Actually it doesn’t really matter if you do or not, but the CEO of this company (someone relatively well known, that I’m guessing you’ve heard of) has been visiting the company locations in Texas this week. Today, he visited my office, and the spectacle was surreal – throngs of employees (there are over 1,000 at my location) lining the parking lot with signs, cheering with looks on their faces not unlike a fanboy crush (as an aside, I was at my desk observing this display).
So it got me thinking; this was just the CEO of a company (albeit a well-known one on the par of say a Jeffrey Immelt), why were all of these people carrying on like star-struck fans? Then I thought about the current unpleasantness between the Obama administration and Bob Woodward over who is responsible for sequestration. The response from the lapdog media has been essentially the same as the employees at my company (not that it hasn’t been this way for the past four years). To some extent I can understand being in awe of a U.S. President, but to do his bidding without a second thought like an adoring fan? Something more is happening.
It seems like each year the Cult of Personality/Celebrity just continues to grow unabated. I mean when more people know who Snooki and Honey Boo Boo are than they do Bob Woodward (I’m looking at you, The Nation), you know something’s wrong with society.
I’ve seen suggestions that this phenomenon becomes more pronounced in difficult times, but it seems to me that it transcends that explanation. The last time there was such a cult surrounding the president, JFK and Jackie lived in the White House. Those days were before my time, but it seems like the cult was even stronger with that president, as it seemed the whole country was enamored of the Kennedys, and the psychological concept of “Groupthink” was borne out of that administration and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Also, who could forget the images of all those sreaming teenagers going absolutely bananas over the Beatles and Elvis?
Rather, I think it might have to do more the the cultural Zeitgeist. Back in the ’50s and early ’60s, it was a much more (I hesitate to say) innocent time, in that people were not bambarded with television, social media, 24 hour news cycles and the like. There were less distractions, and when something “unique” like the “Beatles” or other British-invasion bands came around, it was an entirely new experience, so it’s no wonder that people would get overly excited for such new experiences.
In the 21st Century, we seem to have the exact opposite problem: as a whole, we are distracted to no end. Add to that years of children being raised to believe that nothing bad is their fault and we have a population that’s forgetten personal responsibility and would rather lose themselves in their little distractions. Basically, people would rather forget how horrible they’ve made their own lives by living vicariously through people who are famous for no reason other than being famous and/or rich and dream about living like them, or we can take the opposite route and check out Snooki and whoever to convince ourselve that at least we’re not as stupid and bad off as them.
Little wonder, then, that when we have a historic president who’s fairly charismatic that people (including the media) would loose themselves in the Cult. It’s especially bad for the media because they’re supposed to be the watchdogs, not the lapdogs; but hey, they get to hob nob with the famous people (and maybe grab a little fame), and when they do what they’re told to do in exchange for some scraps from the hoi poloi, it’s not their fault if something goes wrong – they were just following along.
Somebody, anybody, needs to shake this country out of its stupor…and fast.