Sa vile Row
Lord Acton said, “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”. Fame gives additional power because the famous tend to escape scrutiny and when feted tend to believe that they are omnipotent. That can lead to all sorts of abuse.
- City traders who are not well-managed believe they can do what they like – even betting the bank (and losing).
- Over-powerful Chief Executives of major banks can buy basket case companies without being challenged (and bring their bank to the brink of destruction).
- MPs who believed that we had no right to know what they took in expenses and allowances.
- Leading sportsmen (and women?) can believe that they can artificially enhance their performance without being caught – (and if caught may still get away with it).
- Leading footballers seem to believe that 12 points on your licence does not necessarily lead to a ban and they can “miss-behave” on the pitch and in nightclubs, bars and hotels.
- Performers – particularly DJs and some musicians attract groupies – and they believe that the groupies’ age and maturity are irrelevant when considering how to use them.
- A leading philanthropist seemed (not yet proven, but the revelations are worrying) to believe he could sexually molest children.
Are we still making people more “famous” than they can safely manage – or indeed more famous than they deserve to be?
I don’t want to attract the lawyers, so no names – read the papers, but how do we know that others were not or are not now doing the same? In all the above cases temptation is placed in front of flawed individuals – whether it is other people’s money, drugs, fast cars, young women or children. Just because you have cut a few good deals, won a few races, scored a few goals or raised lots of money does not mean you are any better equipped to deal with temptation than the rest of us.
When we “make someone famous” they become role models who influence the culture – either setting it or sustaining it. If their behaviour then conforms to that culture’s norms, does it then become acceptable – or at least unchallengeable?
Fame is often sudden with a large element of chance – thereby encouraging “the famous” to believe that they are different – when they are actually just as flawed as us ordinary folks, but they are placed in an extra-ordinary situation. Your moral compass may not work if you live and work alongside a massive media magnet.
Can we get away from this concept of fame. Is it necessary to celebrate all who for some reason happen to be notable?
I am not saying that this is the solution but I believe the problem has to be approached from multiple directions:
- Be less in awe of those who are “successful” – do not put them on a pedestal from which they can escape scrutiny.
- Be suspicious of the media trying to pump the fame of individuals.
- Be willing to see assistance offered to those who achieve sudden fame – whether through the X-factor, the Olympics, The Premier League, The Lottery etc – many of these operations offer some coaching; is the scope broad enough? For instance are our Olympic medalists (who we all hope are upright moral members of society) warned about how not to get compromised when for instance visiting schools and sports clubs?
- Be wary of putting temptation in the way of mere mortals (never mind the really perverted)
- Be careful when mixing the impressionable or vulnerable with anyone with “celebrity” status – common sense should indicate that an otherwise unqualified celebrity should not be in a position to have unsupervised access to minors.
- Be conscious of sending mixed messages to the young as to how they are to behave – should they have expectations of visiting “night-club” type venues and being pseudo-adults? Should popular newspapers and some magazines make young girls think that the size of their breasts will unlock success and allow them to access “the glamorous world” of pop-stars, DJs and sportstars?
- Be unafraid of challenging apparently inappropriate behaviour – at the institutional or individual level.
Society at the moment is celebrity obsessed with many believing that they can achieve celebrity and all its trappings through various “easy” routes (X-factor, Sports, the Lottery). For the vast majority it does not work like that. Shaping society should be a political priority.