29 July 2005

Counterfeit people

Bloggers happily consider themselves journalists. This goes much against the grain of old-school journalism which continues to stress the point that journalists are the original fact-finders, news-gatherers and reporters, not to mention editors of news; while bloggers are only commentators and/or reviewers of news. Journalists report real news, while bloggers simulate news stories.

Then, are bloggers really a tribe of counterfeit journalists? Do they ‘make news’ which really doesn’t exist? Is their writing fiction, as opposed to the clear nonfiction that journalists churn out everyday?

This distinction between journalists and bloggers had me thinking. Is this a unique phenomenon? Could there be another model or illustration in our lives from which we could draw a parallel? While these thoughts were crossing my mind back and forth, a friend happened to comment on a certain attractive model in Mumbai, who, of no great talent or genius, was seen in the celebrity pages of a leading publication on a continued basis. And he wondered why this was so. That’s what got me thinking about the distinction we make between heroes and celebrities.

If you’ve followed my blog through mid-June, discussing heroes and heroism in some detail, you would’ve learnt that heroes live for something bigger – willing to give up their lives for an ideal or a cause. They have values. They have morals. With celebrities, however, morality is of no consequence. Celebrities live for fame. It doesn’t matter what one’s claim to fame really is: heroism, achievement, good looks, talent or genius. So long fame is achieved, nothing else matters.

According to historian and author, Daniel Boorstin, a celebrity – roughly defined as a famous or well-publicised person – is "fabricated on purpose to satisfy our exaggerated expectation of human greatness… He is morally neutral... He is made by all of us who willingly read about him, who like to see him on television, who buy recordings of his voice, and talk about him to our friends. His relation to morality and even to reality is highly ambiguous."

Boorstin had defined celebrities as counterfeit people – whose identities are staged and scripted to create illusions that may not have any bearing on real life. However, he had added, celebrities do have a role to play from a socio-cultural perspective. They satisfy a human need: a need to leave the mundane and the drudgery of real life and escape into a world of fiction… a simulated world.

This had me thinking again. Are bloggers counterfeit people too? What role do they play in our lives – and in history from a socio-cultural perspective?

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