Now that everyone is rejecting fake news whether or not it is real, why are we still so obsessed with words that mean even less? Whether we are talking about inappropriate remarks at a Hollywood awards show or Trump’s latest Twittering, Americans hang on the words of prominent people as if they mean something. Sometimes they do. Most often, they don’t.
Who do celebrity words matter to?
For our overcompensated glitterati words are attention getters. They attract the spotlight. The sad thing is that so many of us treat what they say like news that has some relevance, even when it comes to views on politics and social issues that have been distorted by fame and fortune.
Words from public figures take on a life of their own, but words are not facts. They are not news and they are certainly not laws or policy, though celebrity types often get confused and think their utterances should influence our thinking and how the country is run. The problem is that we let words manipulate us, especially then they come from those we respect for no good reason other than their wealth and fame.
Obviously Meryl Streep thought she had something important to say when she accepted her achievement award last weekend. She had the world’s attention. It was her night. Why did anyone give any weight to her words or to Trump’s characteristic retort? Because famous people attract attention. We obsess about what they say and give their remarks undeserved attention, as if being famous makes your opinion more credible.
Americans react to words in anger
Words create knee-jerk reactions like anger and fear. Politicians, activists, and others who deal with social issues know this too well, as we saw throughout last year’s election cycle.
“Threat to democracy” is the popular phrase going around liberal Democratic circles these days. It means absolutely nothing outside of the fake news and disinformation swirling around Putin and Trump.
Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, the 1%, nation of immigrants, fair share, and other clever phrases take advantage of our weakness for reacting to words. All of these lefty favorites assume a negative:
Black lives don’t matter to white America;
$15 wages are unfairly denied to hard workers;
Wealthy elite cheat the rest of us;
Illegal immigrants are no different from your parents and grandparents;
You are entitled to more than you are getting from the government.
A hard lesson from Trump?
Next week President Trump will take up residence in the Oval Office. He has a habit of firing off remarks that might best be kept to himself. The media, Democrats, and the people will hang on his every word. For many, it will not be out of adoration.
Americans may learn more about the impact of words from Donald Trump than we ever knew, especially if his handlers fail to introduce some modicum of restraint. There is a difference between a Hollywood celebrity and a president, though. What Trump says matters. He runs the country. He has an impact. What actors, actresses, and sports figures say may draw attention, public adoration, and box office receipts, but don’t kid yourself.
Their words don’t matter a damn.