What do Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, Donald Trump and Dick Cheney have in common? They’re just a few of the thousands who have realized an important truth: attention is money. Regardless of their chosen professions, they have successfully made the leap to celebrity status, where being famous for being famous becomes money in the bank. They’ve reached the level where it can be nearly truly said of them that no publicity is bad publicity.
Short of murder (and even then its questionable), anything these people do is bankable if they play their cards right. It doesn’t matter at their level whether they are known for being good or bad–they are known, and that is enough. Sometimes it’s the negative reputation that’s worth more, really.
Take Dick Cheney for example. He’s got a book coming out. Suddenly he’s everywhere in the news. He claims his book is going to “make heads explode”, and the media covers it. He disses Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and the media covers it. Colin Powell responds, and the media covers it. He makes some statement about the Iraq War that liberals are sure to hate and the media covers it. Pretty soon there only a handful of people in America (there’s a sheepherder in Montana, for example) who don’t know that Dick Cheney has a book coming out. And his publicist had to pay very little to get the ball rolling.
What is particularly ironic is that the people who will likely do Cheney the most good are the people who hate him the most. Case in point: I have a Facebook friend who is a liberal and evidently dislikes Cheney (and I suspect I err on the side of understatement there). She reads an article in which Cheney claims that the Iraq War didn’t really hurt America in the eyes of the world. I’m betting she only read the article because that statement was referenced in the headline. She can’t not read the article. And now, upset by the article, she can’t not link to it with a derogatory comment on Facebook.
Now a large number of her Facebook friends who also dislike Cheney are nonetheless going to read this article. And there’s a good chance a respectable fraction will also comment on it to their Facebook friends. The fact that Dick Cheney has a book coming out is now going viral, spread by the very people who hate his guts! Some will even go read that book just for the vein-throbbing experience of hating everything he says! And even those who don’t will have nonetheless put the information about Cheney’s book in front of someone they know who may actually be interested in hearing what Cheney as to say. It’s a given that Cheney’s book will be a best-seller, and at least partly due to people who would claim to want his book relegated to obscurity and the trash-heap.
For myself, I will admit that I’ve gone out of my way to listen to a Lady Gaga song just to see what all the fuss is about. Of course I now wonder even more what the fuss is about. There’s much more listenable cover by a much more talented young lady on YouTube, truth be told. I’d much rather see her make money than Lady Gaga. But there is no way on this planet I’m going to escape hearing about Lady Gaga. Her main talent is attracting attention, though she might be slipping. Articles on the recent MTV Awards gave her attention only for winning awards, not for being outrageous like she’s known for (I’m thinking of her recent Grammy egg-hatching stunt).
As for LiLo (see, she’s even garnered enough attention that an old fuddy-duddy like me even knows her nickname), her life is a wreck right now, but you know darn well that if she choses to get her act together there will be plenty of people willing to fund her comeback. And unlike Robert Downey, Jr., I don’t think the world will be better for it. Downey seems to have wised up and is building a reputation for doing good work now–novel, I know, but it just might work for him!
And The Donald? Well, we’ll never know for sure how much of his brief candidacy for President was sincere and how much was more Trump self-promotion. The man is shrewd, and knows how to play his part on the stage of celebrity. I almost wonder if he knew a Trump candidacy was doomed, but did it anyway so that more viable candidates would look better by comparison. Not to mention furthering his own objectives. Certainly, for better or worse, he was able to put the Obama birth certificate to rest finally, for which all our tired ears owe him thanks. It also seems to have put him in a position to shape the national political dialogue to a degree.
Truth be told, I hate the “Shock your way to celebrity” approach to publicity. It elevates so many of the undeserving to positions of influence, when there is no substance there from which to turn that influence to anything positive. I do my best to ignore these people. I consciously try to avoid anything that might put money in their pockets–as if the lack of my dollar will even be noticed. But I can’t help but admire them. A game it may be, but they play it well.
So, Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump walk into a bar…
…and the joke’s on us.