In order to understand why capitalism places so much of its focus (and ours) on annoying white celebrities, we probably need to understand why the capitalist media works the way it does. We already know that the overall system of capitalism only cares about profits, not people, and so greater wealth for the ruling class of this system is the reason it lies, murders, steals land and resources, appropriates culture, exploits workers … or does anything. And because the only aim of capitalism is to make profits grow, the media that this system controls must continually place its focus on any narratives that create more wealth, while at the same time erasing narratives– and lives– that may threaten its wealth.
So if you turn on the TV and you see that a crime– or “crime”– has been committed in what white people call “the bad part of town” (where there’s all that “gang violence” and a lot of “minorities”), you might wonder why it is that the thin white news lady with blue eyes and blond hair is talking about this particular incident. Or you probably won’t wonder– not if capitalism has its way. You’ll just watch ten minutes of “news coverage” and seven minutes of commercials, and hopefully then go out and buy the stuff that was advertised. But why would KGW– “where the news comes first”– feel it is so important to cover this particular story, when millions of people are dying and are hurting from poverty, hunger, war, disease, deportation, imprisonment, murder of their loved ones by the police, and theft by the banks, and lies by politicians?
The reason for covering this story– other than “if it bleeds it leads”– is that capitalism wants us to believe that crime is an individual thing. This person shot that person– one criminal. Another person robbed somebody else– one criminal, that’s all. Each incident is isolated. And then we’re supposed to believe that the police are there, first, to prevent these crimes. And yet, there are so many of these crimes, and usually where there are so many of these cops. Obviously, the police don’t keep the crime from taking place. This means the police must be there to catch the bad guy– this one person who committed the crime– after he already killed or robbed another person. And this is suppose to make us– white people, that is– feel safer.
But how do you feel when you see a whole bunch of cops in your neighborhood? If you’re like me, you think something bad already happened. The sight of a cop is never a good thing. They slow down traffic, they go around acting like they’re in charge of everybody: beefy shaved heads under their hats, chests way out, legs wide apart moving aggressively, as if to say “Get out of my way, I’m a cop.” And that’s only what happens when there’s the unwelcomed sight of a cop in a white neighborhood. In other words, not often. Let’s face it– historically, nobody has liked cops. And we would continue to dislike them if they didn’t receive free advertising from the capitalist media and its coverage of the “news.” But the actual news is: the media must convince you and me that we should like cops, and that we should want even more of them– the same way a car dealership just wants to make us happy. Ri-ight.
But capitalism gives nothing away– for free or otherwise. So, in return for its continually repeated marketing campaign to make the police look better (or good at all, when there is no such thing as a good cop), the police move to protect the property of the advertisers, and the multimedia conglomerates who depend on this advertising for revenue, and the millionaires who grow wealthier off this entire arrangement. If the news coverage focused on how much damage these millionaires, and these corporations, and these cops (as well as the military) inflict on people all around the world, we would be outraged and would organize to move against them, and we would overthrow this arrangement.
The media recognizes this threat in advance, and attempts to distract us from the root cause of crime, and the basis of all oppression and violence: it’s not an individual thing, it’s at the level of a system, a system of power which is controlled by the few at the top who are rich, and who are typically white. The media needs to dupe us, to take our focus off the real criminals, as it leads us in one direction and the criminals– the racist capitalist class– haul their stolen goods in the other direction, or drop more bombs on people who don’t look like us (if we’re white). There’s a whole war going on against Black people, colonized peoples, the working class of the world, but the local channel wants us to focus on one store that was vandalized last night. And if we enjoy the most benefits from this war on colonized peoples– which is to say, if we’re white people, or colonizers– then we’re probably going to allow this violent, exploitative arrangement to continue. It’s in our interests. “Just let me get richer, or at least keep my job; let me feel safer and more comfortable, and the capitalists can mislead me all they want: shoot, my uncle is a cop, and he’s a good guy.” That’s the way it works.
And that’s also why the capitalist media focuses on “murder mysteries” and “real crime stories.” These programs usually focus on rich and middle-class individuals– usually white– where the husband suddenly decides to murder his beautiful wife. Or their handsome white kid (who was so nice and quiet) decides to murder some random stranger, just to see what it feels like. You know, typical white-on-white crime. Except this violence is only the tip of the iceberg, or ice pick, or some gruesome image– like the image of the fighter jet that costs fifty million dollars, or the growing expense of locking up Black and Brown people, or the salary of an executive. With so much crime being carried out by the military, the courts, the cops and the wealthy few, it’s no wonder that some of this violence trickles all the way down and eventually leads to the next door neighbor hacking up his blond wife, as we learn at the end of “Dateline” (wow, it wasn’t her cousin after all). But the capitalist media would have us believe there is a crime wave of “senseless murders”– these countless “great mysteries”– going on all across the United States, and not only in Cabot Cove.
Yes, white people are that violent. There is a lot of crime, but it’s not senseless or mysterious. Our violence is easy to explain, and makes perfect sense when we recognize that we are colonizers who depend on genocidal violence for our very existence on stolen Indigenous land. The only mysterious thing is where our humanity went. Next week on “48 Hours.”
So this takes us to those annoying celebrities. And what’s almost as annoying as the celebrities is the sort of person– the elitist– who tries to make anybody who watches “Entertainment Tonight” or “Real Housewives of — Wherever” feel like trash, like they’re dumb or they don’t know the difference between right and wrong. Let people have their guilty pleasures … and eat McDonald’s while they are enjoying these guilty pleasures. Because we can’t boycott all of capitalism. It’s true, we just work here, we’re not the boss– but we do need this job. We need to eat. And sometimes we need to watch bad TV and eat Doritos. Nobody is going to support socialism if revolution sounds like: no TV, no snacks, and no gossip in the break room about celebrities. Well, it would still probably be supported by me, but those “masses” we always talk about won’t support anything if we act like elitist, know-it-all, holier-than-thou, out-of-touch grumpy do-gooders (fellow white vegans, take note).
OK, now that we have that point out of the way– what about these annoying white celebrities? As you might guess, one of their functions in capitalist society is to distract us. You may have seen that one coming from a mile away. But it’s still true. And capitalism knows we need these distractions because– after dealing with work, rush hour traffic, higher living expenses, medical issues that are no longer covered by our insurance, smog, anxiety, the fear of another terrorist attack (or maybe a more likely attack by a white guy), migraines, the Mets, and Comcast– we’re tired. We’re not dumb, or mean, or undisciplined– we’re just tired. But we shouldn’t think for a moment that capitalism doesn’t know this, and doesn’t try to exploit our sad situation, as it creates more profitable coping mechanisms for dealing with its oppression (and then raises the price on them).
But annoying white celebrities have another purpose in capitalist society. We look at them doing all these, well, annoying things, and we make fun of them. We might even call them dumb, mean, lazy, or whatever. And then we think– you know, these wealthy people sure have messed up lives. When they aren’t hacking each other up on their yachts, they are still always getting into trouble. Of course, they always get out of trouble– they’re rich, and white. Even so, my middle-class lifestyle is looking pretty good right now. There are those poor people over there– supposedly, since we never see them, unless they’re being removed to make room for a new Starbucks or Whole Foods. We don’t want to be like them– lazy, criminal, uneducated. But we don’t want to be like the rich either. So let’s support a system that helps us stay right here in the middle. Ah, that delicious white mediocrity, it’s so … bland. But it’s safe. And it’s better to play it safe in this increasingly dangerous world (according to NBC Nightly News): a world of Black gangsters, Muslim terrorists, Mexicans going across the border with illegal drugs (unlike our own medicine cabinet full of drugs advertised on World News Tonight, or this joint we’re legally smoking at the end of a suburban cul-de-sac).
The capitalist system in the United States works on the contradictions of a society controlled by the wealthy few– most of whom are white– by resolving these contradictions on its own terms. What does this mean? It means: yes, we do hate the rich– they’re spoiled, they’re lazy, they’re entitled, and they’re just plain annoying. And that’s the “American” way– to hate the rich. But we also envy the rich. We’re jealous that they have it so easy, while we’re struggling from month to month, barely paying the bills. And capitalism knows this. So it showcases a few of the more entertaining members of the ruling class, who are always eager (or greedy) to make an extra million or ten. And we watch these wealthy individuals with all their problems, as well as their big egos, and the constant drama one way or the other, and then we realize that we should be content living off the stolen labor, resources, land and culture of the world. Actually, we probably don’t realize things in those terms, but on the terms dictated by the ruling class: instead, we are hard workers, and we’re lucky to have a job, a home, a widescreen TV, and credit to buy an even bigger widescreen TV (not recognizing that all these benefits come from racist, imperialist capitalism’s violence against the majority of people on the globe, and the planet itself).
This constant focus on annoying white celebrities– who are famous for being famous, and then for cashing in on their fame on HSN or QVC– is meant to be a sort of safety valve that capitalism controls. Capitalism has violently created the white middle-class as a barrier between the wealthy few and the masses of oppressed people around the world. In exchange, it wants our loyalty. It’s OK if we make fun of the rich, even if we hate the rich. Just don’t move against the rich. And who wants what they have anyway– other than their money– when they are such a messed up group of childish brats?
So let the rich act selfish and foolish– and grow wealthier in the process of such “foolishness”– while we in the white middle-class play it safe, go to work, and vote Democrat (or Republican, what’s the diff?). And if we ever win the lottery, or start our own business, and become rich ourselves– we know that we won’t act that way, like the rest of the rich do. Why? Because “America” has taught that (like itself) we’re exceptional, we’re special– each one of us is unique. No, we’re happy and content just to love the United States, support the military, celebrate the Fourth of July, and trust it will all work out at the end of the day … but if only we could elect some average guy, a straight-talker, who isn’t one of these arrogant, loud-voiced, annoying, airhead celebrities with bad hair.
After all, the contradictions of this backward system are being exposed, and capitalism is failing. In case you didn’t notice.