Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

The Dangers of a Culture of the Infamous and Stupidly Famous

If you want to become a “legend” in our current culture, there are several paths that one can follow. You can create a Youtube video of yourself doing something inherently stupid. You can go on a reality television show where you will be challenged to do stupid things on primetime, like eat scorpions or build a primitive hut while being filmed by ten thousand dollar modern television cameras. You can shout something vile at politicians, be it your local congressman at a town hall or the President of the United States from the House of Representatives.

If you are already famous, then you can do something idiotic to get more press… like take a young woman’s mic away at an awards event to say someone else should have won, or yelling at a line judge that made a call you did not like that you were going to kill them or some such. Such attention getting tactics work twice, because you get the coverage when you do it, and again when you “apologize”.

We have created a culture where the way to fame, to being known and noticed is not through skill, values, talent, or good works, but rather through notoriety for some act or statement that might be controversial, stupid, or just plain insane. People come into the popular mind not for intelligence or good works, but by being as bombastically outlandish, controversial, or stupid as possible.

This trend is why certain radio and television hosts, both on the right and the left, are still on the air. One on the right calls the president a racist… one on the left refers to certain politicians spouses as vampires. We listen because we have been imbued in a culture that celebrates such stupidity. Rush Limbaugh has made is career understanding this celebration of stupidity.

Certain politicians, like a congresswoman from Minnesota, a liberal Congressman from New England, or a former Vice Presidential Candidate have also latched on to this trend in our culture and tried to craft from it a political base. It does not matter whether they believe the things they say or not… what they have learned is that the more outlandish they are in what they say and do, the more attention they get, and the more “famous” they feel. Thank God that the majority of society has not yet translated their love for “reality based” television shows that celebrate buy imitrex us shock and stupidity into their political views, but that transition appears to be happening.

What concerns me, as I have said before, is when this concept of notoriety through outlandishness is connected to violence. It begins with such things as “backyard wrestling” (where teens and adults beat one another bloody so they can film it and become “famous”)… but it does not end there. I believe that the act of carrying a loaded firearm (legal or not) to a political rally is just exactly this kind of attention seeking stupidity for the sake of notoriety… for the sake of getting your face and perhaps your sign on national television shows…

And it works. One guy in a tiny little state did this, and not only did he and his sign get attention for days, he personally was interviewed on television talkshow after television talkshow. He became a darling of the “internet right” (admittedly, I’m part of the internet left) and for a short while he was famous to some, infamous to others. Our society has taught this kind of behavior and attention seeking as the norm.

Military Psychologist and Professor Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has connected this same kind of attention seeking through violence to the motivations of school and workplace shooters around the world, in his series of DVD’s “The Bullet Proof Mind”. Colonel Grossman claims, with some validity, that the true motivation behind most school and workplace shootings is not revenge (as commonly thought) but rather an expression of this societal trend towards seeking fame through stupidity… taken to its most extreme… except perhaps that you can understand international terrorism through this lens as well. Violence of this type becomes the ultimate in the stupid gesture, and the way they top others is not through the number of scorpions they eat or the number of times they hit their friend with a 2X4, but rather by the body count.

I have hinted before that what concerns me is the intersection of these three trends… a society that celebrates stupidity with fame, added to a society that gives attention to the political views of those who act outlandish and say amazingly inept things, and a culture of growing violence committed primarily to get attention… to become infamous. At the intersection of these three trends lies an outcome of attention seeking violence justified by stated political ends…

Yours in Faith,


5 Thoughts on “The Dangers of a Culture of the Infamous and Stupidly Famous

  1. What’s your evidence for growing violence? TV’s certainly grown more violent and sexual. Is that part of the problem? Do you think our popular culture is cruder than thirty or forty years ago? Who’s responsible for that?

  2. I was going to just comment about your standard “people are more messed up now” argument, retorting “people have always been messed up, but now they can do it in front of a larger audience.” Technology – camcorders, YouTube, network remote live hookups – and the profit motive (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – controversy brings ratings, reality and talker shows cost less to produce – are the proximate forces behind what is happening today.

    And remember, you’re talking about becoming an instant legend and fading into obscurity very quickly. To become a true legend, you still need to be noticed “through skill, values, talent, or good works.”

    However, when I googled “The Bullet Proof Mind” I became pretty disturbed. First I read some of the subtitles that this dvd uses:
    Prevailing in [or What it Takes to Win] Violent Encounters … and After
    Mental Preparation for Combat

    Then I found that Col. Grossman’s own site, http://www.killology.com. Apparently, he sells his services to police forces around the country. Fine, but he knows his market is far larger than that. The most recent press he cites, from the Buckeye Firearms Association, says “The Bullet Proof Mind” is “a MUST for every concealed-carrier.” Read it: http://www.killology.com/art_buckeye.htm.

    He has now joined the Warrior Science Group, http://www.warriorsciencegroup.com, which for some reason has the video of Reagan’s 1964 address to the Republican National Convention on its home page. If Grossman only spoke on the reasons violence is prevalent in our society for a general audience and limited his other services to police and security organizations (government), that would be great. But he offers retail services to anybody who has a gun. Scary.

  3. Bill,

    In the article, the violence I spoke of was specifically the dramatic increase in school and workplace shootings in the past 25 years… and specifically since Columbine. You can find documentation of that dramatic increase just about anywhere.

    My supposition in the article is that, at the intersection of the three trends I highlighted I believe lies the increased possibility for political violence. i fully admit in the article that this is a supposition.

    Norwegan Shooter…

    Gosh, I would dearly wish that everyone who owned a gun would listen to Colonel Grossman… perhaps then we would not have so many violent acts caused by anger and hatred.

    Admittedly, he and many of his colleages are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from I… but I think we liberals make a deep mistake if we only listen to or engage with those who mostly agree with us. In fact, I think those whom we disagree with probably have the most to teach us.

    Before you rush to judgement, I highly recommend you read the books “On Killing” and “On Combat” by Colonel Grossman… or listen to the Bulletproof mind. You wont agree with it all (I dont either) but he will challenge you to think in new ways.

    There is a reason his books are used in both classes on society at UC Berkely and in classes on military science at West Point… Because as with the best intellectuals, what he says is profound no matter what end of the political spectrum you are on.

    Yours in Faith,


  4. “Gosh, I would dearly wish that everyone who owned a gun would listen to Colonel Grossman… perhaps then we would not have so many violent acts caused by anger and hatred.” I hope that you’re right. I found the Bulletproof Mind lecture on youtube and I will listen to it.

    My point is the fine line between studying and promoting, regardless of the intention. If the audience targeted is limited to security professionals and university students, great. But what about the lone gunman archetype? Is this material appropriate for everyone to digest without any context or feedback?

    My remarks had nothing to do with politics, I only thought it extremely strange that Reagan’s speech was posted to the home page. I agree that engaging with the other side is often productive, I try to do it myself.

  5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/24/census-worker-death-very_n_298433.html

    I hope not… but if it is this is exactly the kind of event I was thinking of…

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