Sam Biddle, senior writer at Gawker – one of those tabloid things that makes its money invading the privacy of celebrities – did an interesting word dance as a tv guest Monday morning.
Ronan Farrow, who hosts tv’s “other” “Daily” show, pursued the latest in Gawker’s ongoing pattern of publication of personal emails and other private communications that were obviously obtained illegally by hackers.
Biddle offered Farrow a series of justifications based on the notion of, “These are public figures.”
Farrow noted that Gawker’s use of things “obviously hacked from personal files or computers” was “a clear violation of federal communications law, including both the Data Protection Act  and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act [18 U.S.C. § 1030, a 1986 amendment to the Counterfeit Access Device and Abuse Act of 1984].”
Biddle seemed mildly amused.
Farrow then included the publication of Sony’s private communications obtained in North Korea’s massive hack, noting most of the people whose communications and, in some cases, personal information, exposed by Gawker and others were not “public figures.”
Biddle invoked some reasoning that varied from obtuse to convoluted to avoid squirming or admitting any mea culpa.
But the most interesting thing occurred when Biddle shifted the conversation to declare (we’ll summarize it), “Look, celebrities are fine with revealed emails when they can craft the message, or when it’s crafted for them in a way that benefits them.”
Biddle wanted to use that for a point he never made clearly – because, well, he couldn’t.
His purpose was obviously to argue that “we” – he and his core audience, anyway – have the right to see exposed private communications having anything to do with celebrities, regardless of whether they were written by celebrities, because those differ from what the celebrity-publicity establishment feeds the celebrity-tabloid media. Supplied by the former to be lapped up with the spoon that’s supplied and licked by the latter.
Of course, he couldn’t quite say THAT. It would, after all, reveal his entire sector of faux-journalism to be in cahoots, hand-in-glove, with the attention-craving celebrities and their attention-delivering publicists.
Farrow initially looked well-prepared. But he missed his chance by sticking to his plan. Had he been quick on his feet, we could have heard a key celebrity tabloid media figure confronted with the big question: whether any of those photos of a celebrity behaving badly is, in fact, the planned outcome of a publicist saying, “You’re not in the news cycle enough. Time to act-out.”
Well, yes, we do already know the answer. And we know it all applies to political celebrities, too.
We see it expand in scope every day, now including a new notion in the age of Fox and wingnut radio hosts and “newsertainment” shows wherein we see this source-as-celebrity crowd of know-it-all book authors who trandcend Marshall McLuhan’s old adage, “The medium is the message.”
Indeed, we know. And we’re beginning to understand that it’s not what we though of as merely “a celebrity disease.” It’s a highly effective tactic for the self-absorbed that works in a celebrity-obsessed society:
“Time for you to get in a yelling match outside a club on Sunset.”
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
“The helicopter I was in was hit by RPG fire.”
“Time for you to get a pet monkey and cause a scene at the airport.”
“Fox News has chosen to embed on its website the video of Islamic State burning a hostage to death, a move which makes them the only US media organisation to broadcast the video in full.”
“Time for you to do something crazy on Hollywood Boulevard.”
Vastly different consequences. Same sense of entitlement to attention. Same media that flocks to cover wackadoodle pontifications or the latest version of Chevy Chase falling down the stairs. Same propensity for bright lights that leave in darkness whatever else is on stage. Same tactic for diversion and obfuscation. Same publicists and image-makers get all the work, and don’t even need to say, ” Wait ’til the paparazzi gets there.”
Same celebrity-obsessed society – even when the source is the celebrity. Same mentality. Same dependable outcome.