Back in the mid 90’s there was a brief but tacky series of television shows called “When Animals Attack.” It was produced by Fox, the network that serves up conservative values with a side order of scandal, and celebrities in bikinis. The series depicted graphic animal attacks on humans for an audience unlikely to ever be close enough to a wild animal to risk an attack, but there is no limit to the dangers we armchair warriors are willing to face in the virtual world.
Last week the virtual world erupted (steady, no need to duct tape the virtual windows just yet) when some images circulated of Celebrity, Ellen DeGeneres watching a football game in the company of Celebrity, Former President George W. Bush. The two appeared to be quite comfortable with each other. In fact, they actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. Ellen later revealed that she even considers Mr. Bush to be a friend.
The virtual world is particularly dangerous when celebrities attack. A sampling of the headlines, the tweets and posts would have you shivering in your virtual shoes. There was outrage, firestorm, ripping, lash and backlash (presumably you can’t have one without the other). Celebrities were divided. Ellen was forced to push back.
The “push” that preceded the push back was the accusation that she, as an individual admired by the left, should not be seen to be “rehabilitating the image” of someone like the former president, accused of being responsible for much death and destruction during his administration. (Apparently champion weapons dealer, Mr. Obama, and Hillary “We Came, We saw, He Died” Clinton are in no need of rehabilitation, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
It’s likely that quite a large portion of the country was unaware that the former president’s image was in need of rehabilitation. That, too, is a discussion for another day. But putting politics and the history of warfare aside for a moment, Ms. DeGeneres in one of her backlash push backs spoke truth when she said, “”Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do.” Ellen went on to say, “We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different.”
Simple truth, and utterly devastating to the virtual world that profits from our addiction to drama.
Humanity has a long history of fawning over celebrities and allowing ourselves to be influenced, led, dominated by the famous and the infamous. We often remind ourselves of sheep in our blind allegiance, or cattle in our tendency to stampede.
But goats gather here, my friends. We are independent, cantankerous and often contrary. However, the times we live in now call upon us to be shepherds. This is the relative lull before the storm as desperate partisan parties ramp up their efforts to capture the White House, dragging us all into the conflict with no concern for the collateral damage to the country.
We will begin to see it again soon, as bad as it was in 2016 or worse. The celebrities will step up their attacks online and over the air, and our friends and neighbors will parrot their words and respond to their entreaties. At family and social gatherings, at work, or even at church, we will begin to see the stampeding of emotions. Did we lose any friends in the last election? It can happen again.
When the herd begins to get restless, like the singing cowboy out on the range, perhaps a word of calm might ward off the stampede. Keep in mind, however, that the herd does not listen to reason. You can argue until you are red or blue in the face. The herd no longer responds to the great minds, to scholars, philosophers and poets. The western herd does not even hearken to the divine.
Our ability to recognize truth has been degraded, lost in the virtual world of shiny waxed apples and artificial coloring, makeup artists and sound bytes and computer generated graphics. They’re not going to listen to truth unless it’s delivered on the narrow band that spans our collective attention.
But they might listen to their celebrities. “Be kind to one another.” “We’re all different, and that’s OK.” They’ve heard it a thousand times, from countless sources. They’ve even read it in the Bible and heard it in church. But if Ellen said it, they might actually listen.