Behaviours to leave in isolation: presidents, great pretenders and the race to be popular

Someone (thanks Hawkman Chris!) recently flicked me a video link of Nicole Arbour, Canadian actress and straight shooting comedienne, highlighting that being a thief pays.

She’s calling out Jay Shetty for his use of other peoples content claimed as his own. The golden child of facebook has apparently built a massive audience in no small part due to his benefactor’s manipulation of algorithms to help nudge the early needle.

I’ve seen some of his stuff and never really thought about it. Yet the case Arbour builds highlights a pattern of recycling, without credit or reference, other people’s efforts.

It’s not entirely surprising. In the past few years an army aspiring to be famous, celebrity for celebrities sake, have earned kudos for being little more than, as Arbour puts it, ‘professional meme readers.’

Maybe some have mastered some skills, such as figuring out a couple of very basic editing tricks on their smart phones. Copy-paste for example. This is part of the candyfloss social economy of empty substance.

A long, long time ago, well, perhaps ten years or so….

Many ‘content creators’ would have been called ‘blatant plagiarists.’

A multitude of ‘social media influencers’ would have been seen as ‘self-serving egoists’.

Trolls would have toiled to unleash their chaos so easily to the general masses.

Even the concept of the ‘Trump White House’ would more likely have been the broad-brush strokes for an unconventional new reality show. Perhaps to piggy back success of ‘The Apprentice’ contrived artifice.

The scripts, both comedy and horror, if we’re to relate to genres of family viewing entertainment, have been too numerous and varied to count.

The Washington Post some months ago reported in the first 3 years of his presidency, Trump had made well over 16,000 false or misleading claims.

I think they even hired extra personnel as fact checkers in order to keep up.

The job hasn’t proved complex. There’s a rumor (he provocatively gests) primary school children take up the positions as a weekend hobby or as part of home schooling. Surface level research, even child like common sense, can fathom airports weren’t around during the US revolutionary war!

Even hardened Trumpsters must be scratching their heads. Thinking twice about injecting disinfectant into the mass US population as a viable antiviral antidote.

Even if the presidential proclamation suggests it be done so in consultation with those ‘medical doctors’ as opposed to, I’m guessing, mad scientists faking it as elite advisors that Trump likely finds more appealing.

I think if the US reversed his proposed treatment, i.e. the mass population flushes the White House with disinfectant, we’d likely stand a better chance of eliminating a dangerous virus.

Only in this celebrity infatuated, selfie obsessed, impatient world (the digital age equivalent of the Wild West) would shitty, or is that Shetty, rules of civility, a lack of credibility or a lacklustre attitude towards accountability rule.

How else does one explain a reality show presidency or mass replication of plagiarised memes being perceived the equivalent of a pulitzer.

We’re all to blame really. We encourage them. Somewhere amongst the majority we choose to nominate, follow or vote for these folks. Enough of us must. It surely can’t purely be the fault of click farms or Russia.

And we ultimately can’t lay all the blame on the doorstep of dodgy analytical companies that treat rules of privacy as fuel to be burned, turning a bonfire of the vanities into a raging, uncontrollable inferno.

There’s plenty of evidence, daily updates and posts, highlighting millions of people, ordinary citizens, gamifying and clogging up social platforms clambering to follow in such footsteps.

Maybe because they’re constantly reinforced with evidence that success these days, well, the surface, shallow trappings of success, vanity metrics, fans, fistfuls of dollars, toys, gadgets and, well, stuff, is the pot of gold.

The more outrageous or self-congratulating one is, especially when doubled down with ticking virtue signalling boxes regardless whether you walk the talk, the more likely you are to find the end of the rainbow.

I remember glancing an article in the papers in my local coffee shop just before social distancing kicked in. Some reality TV stars found disappointment, not in themselves, more at the shows or the supposed fans they envisaged they’d pick up.

Apparently their cunning plans of becoming influencers, a primary or sole reason of wishing to being seen on TV in the first place, had backfired when follower numbers failed to lift off. They’d given up their jobs and didn’t have a back up plan given the new dream of how easy it is to become a public figure, or at least claim to be one, is spectacularly sold on social steroids.

At what point did we reach the tipping point conceding that in order to be elevated to the highest levels of success all you had to do was completely fake it or have nothing more than looks or an over zealous bravado?

One of my favorite authors, Bryce Courtenay (or perhaps it was Jay Shetty, it’s confusing times we live in) wrote a wonderful coffee table styled book, ‘A Recipe For Dreaming’, full of meme worthy ideas. A favorite being:

Each of us has been designed for one of two immortal functions, as either a storyteller or a cross legged listener to tales of wonder, love and daring. When we cease to tell or listen then we no longer exist as people.’

Well on the other side of COVID19, as we are all being challenged to our value system and what we truly value, we might ponder breathing new life into this perspective.

Indeed we all can be both of these immortal functions. We can be storytellers. The technology exists to help raise awareness of our stories.

And we are eager, cross-legged listeners. Our world, history, cultures and traditions have been built over thousands of years by listening to tales over burning embers and passing on legends.

Again, in an era where the title ‘legend’ actually meant something of substance rather than commonly thrown around as a status update.

Coming out of lockdown we could re-establish or apply a few basic ground rules. As a storyteller, be candid and clear. Share your story, fact or fiction, doing so leaning in to ethics and authenticity.

When adopting the role of an eager cross-legged listener, perhaps pay a little more attention to who you choose to listen to, elevate or follow.

If we continue to follow the fugazi, or if we continue to listen and support the same trends we have been, perhaps we will cease to exist as any semblance of sensible people.