About this Blog

"In the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes." So said the bleached-out, late lamented artist Andy Warhol. Having lived and worked in New York City, Warhol came to fully grasp the hold celebrity has on us. In this very famous sentence, he meant to point out that in a culture fixated on fame, many people will suddenly flash brightly onto the public screen, then--poof--will just as quickly disappear from public view--like shooting stars. Other individuals derive their celebrity from one stellar accomplishment (one hit song, one iconic role, etc.) that they never again match.

This blog is devoted to the one part of our celebrity culture that no one has written much about: temporary/one-shot celebrities.

The pace of modern life has quickened, and now we hear people speaking of someone's 15 seconds of fame. These "celebrities with a lower-case c" who will appear in this blog sometimes come to us from the world of entertainment, sometimes from the world of news. All are fascinating.

The need of our communications media for a continual stream of new material assures that we will have no end of colorful people who go quickly, where celebrity is concerned, from zero to hero (or villain) and back to zero. Now you see 'em, now you don't. What a crazy world, eh?

Temporary celebrities coming from the world of entertainment include one-hit recording artists; TV and movie icons who, although they might have had a great many accomplishments in their career, are remembered for one big role; standouts of reality TV; sports figures remembered for one remarkable accomplishment; and people whose celebrity came from one big role in a commercial or print ad.

News-based temporary celebrities come in many forms: mass/serial killers, other murderers of special note, sex-crime offenders, disgraced figures of government/military/business/media/religion, spies/traitors, hoaxers, femmes/hommes fatale, heroes, whistle blowers, inventors/innovators, and victims.

Celebrity Blogsburg will consider each category in turn.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Victim Peter Arnett

Veteran journalist Peter Arnett was cut loose by both NBC and National Geographic in 2003 for daring to criticize the bungled U.S. invasion of Iraq. He was one of several journalists fired around that same time for opposing the Bush occupation of that nation.

Arnett, a New Zealand-American Pulitzer Prize winner for his reporting in Vietnam, was not the kind of journalist favored by the George W. Bush administration. Arnett actually spent significant time in the places from which he reported, and he had not had his teeth pulled by being "embedded" with the military as a precondition to being allowed to cover war news.

Bush was not the first president to dislike the independence of Arnett's reporting. President Lyndon Johnson had wanted to get Arnett fired or moved for not pushing the party line during Vietnam, but the owners of America's media at that time had not yet become so craven.

The excuses for firing Arnett in March 2003 were that he had arranged a 15-minute interview with Iraqi state television and that he had criticized the way war policy was being implemented by U.S. forces. Arnett easily and rapidly found work with anti-war media in Britain.

At the Wall Street Journal, correspondent Farnaz Fassihi was taken off the Iraq beat for having called President Bush's rosy assessment of U.S. progress in the war a disaster.

In Grants Pass, Oregon, columnist Dan Guthrie was canned by the Daily Courier for harshly criticizing President Bush's initial response to the 9/11 attacks, saying that the president had bolted under pressure.

In Texas, the Texas City Sun fired columnist Tom Gutting for writing that when George W. Bush was elected, everyone recognized that he was not our brightest president and that he had hidden out instead of leading boldly immediately after 9/11.

It is especially noteworthy that opinion columnists at American newspapers were fired for having expressed their honest opinions.

Being so ready to flee from controversy and dodge dissent was just another nail in the coffin of old-style American journalism.

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