Celebrity Worship

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There is something you should take note of while you are being bombarded with media coverage of Michael Jackson’s trial on charges of molesting a boy.

In recent years, whenever somebody came forward and said some Catholic priest had molested him, even if it was 20 years ago, the media attitude was: Of course, that’s true without any question. That’s despite the fact that most of these cases were all he-said, he-said cases without any physical evidence.

In fact, I got quite a chuckle recently when one of the TV airheads, her brow knitted to signal an important statement, said of the allegations against Jackson, "Well, there are no witnesses to the molestation." No, dear, most sex crimes take place in private.

The point is that the media are showing all kinds of skepticism when the charge is filed against a celebrity, in contrast with their easy acceptance of allegations against priests. Why is that? I think we might have a new religion in America: celebrity worship. Not only do many in the news business join the masses in worshipping celebrity; they want to be celebrities themselves.

Look at all the airtime and print devoted to the Oscars, much of it about the gowns the various celebrities were wearing. Pardon me if I think the news business has gone nuts. The ratings show that a minority of Americans — 41 million — watched the boring trade show. The media can’t claim they are just giving folks what they demand. The fascination is on the part of the media.

I didn’t watch the show, and I haven’t seen any of the movies that were nominated, though I might catch the one about James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, if I get a chance. As for the others, I stopped paying Hollywood to depress me a long time ago. I can get depressed for 25 cents just by reading a newspaper. Why should I shell out good money to watch a story about an amateur abortionist or the biography of an immoral and crazy billionaire?

Science is important. Politics is important. Foreign affairs are important. The environment is important. Agriculture is important. Energy matters are important. Human achievement in those and other fields is important. Hollywood is not important. British royalty is not important. Television personalities are not important. For that matter, journalists are not important. Hollywood is just a business that produces fantasy and is currently in a creative slump. Most of its product is junk, no matter how technically well-executed it is.

As for Michael Jackson, I don’t know whether he’s guilty or innocent. He’s one weird dude, and, in fact, about the only people weirder than he is are his fans. He deserves a fair trial, however, and not a media circus. His lawyers will attack the boy’s mother, but keep in mind it could be true that both the boy’s mother is a hustler and the boy was molested. One bad person doesn’t mean the other person is a saint. I think I will just unplug the television set until it’s all over.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone forgo entertainment. Recreation is important, but celebrity worship is a false religion. Celebrities are just plain people who happen to make a lot of money and are easily recognized. Some are not even talented. Some are nice folks; some are not. But in the greater scheme of things, entertainers don’t count for much. The only actors you will find in most American history books are John Wilkes Booth and Ronald Reagan.

Years ago, a screenwriter described actors as children in grown-up bodies. That’s probably a fair description. After all, they make their living playing make-believe. I would suppose it might even be difficult for some to know who they really are after pretending to be so many other people.

At any rate, let’s not get hung up on pretty faces and borrowed gowns. The people of real achievement in this country are not to be found on the famous red carpet. They are all around you — the good, hardworking people caring for their families and their neighbors.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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