Celebrities, Sycophants and Hangers-On

Celebrity, as defined in Wikipedia, is “a condition of fame and broad public recognition of a person or group as a result of the attention given to them by mass media.” Let me stop here and ask why mass media uses these people in this way? Is it to sell their publications or in the case of social media to use them in the form of click-bait ads?

The definition further states that “an individual may attain a celebrity status from having great wealth, their participation in sports or the entertainment industry, their position as a political figure, or even from their connection to another celebrity.”

Undoubtedly, many of these so-called celebrities have used their own publicist, agents and public relations people to push their brand and to make themselves popular among the gullible.

The media often refers to “celebrities” as high-profile people. Does that imply that the rest of us are low profile, no accounts?

As a society, we have somehow become accustomed to treating “celebrities”, “leaders’ and the rich with a large amount of deference. So much so that these people often get off scot-free when they run afoul of laws that would put us no accounts in prison.

Another observation regarding these privileged people, especially politicians, is their conspicuous use of entourages. What is the purpose of all these folks who are seen following a few steps behind a “leader” as if in a parade? Perhaps some of them are body guards. But who are all the others that make up this retinue? Are they just hangers-on or groupies? Some, it seems, are paid staff. But who needs all this staff to do things for the “leader” that they appear perfectly capable to do for themselves? One gets the impression that the entourage is for show and serves as some kind of status symbol.

The bizarre adulation that people heap on celebs takes many forms, most notably in the purchase of celeb specific merchandise like shirts with their name on them or products and services that they are paid to endorse even though they may not personally use said product or service.

The sale of celeb merchandise is most prevalent in the sports entertainment business, where much of the hype comes from “color” broadcasters talking up the personality and performance of players. Some people I’ve talked with derive a great deal of pleasure by following the trials and tribulations of one player or another. But why would one care so much about a player? This care is all one way. The player doesn’t know or care about the follower. Perhaps it’s the escape factor that makes fandom popular and enjoyable for many?

Admittedly, this is not the case when observing an event where you are related to or personally know a player or performer.

That brings the discussion to the second part of this essay; the bizarre behavior of sycophants and hangers-on.

Sycophancy can be defined as the insincere praises of powerful or rich people designed to win favor. Among the many synonyms are: ass-kisser, bootlicker, brownnoser, yes-man and toady.

Sadly, we have seen sycophancy played out on a grand scale during the term of our 45th President and continuing since his departure.

What is amazing is that this behavior was and is perpetrated by seemingly intelligent and educated people who, you would think, know what sycophancy is, yet they do it anyway. These folks probably would say that what we see as sycophancy is their expression of loyalty. But regardless, are the potential rewards and fears that great that these people would sacrifice their integrity?

Hangers-on or groupies is a form of sycophancy usually associated with bands and musical performers. These are people who worm their way backstage to ingratiate themselves with the performers, often by being an unpaid gofer, then follow them around from one venue to another. Presumably, they do this in return for attending the performance without buying a ticket. But that’s not all together clear.

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Influencers and the Influenced

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Maybe it’s just me, but I see the word “influence” bandied about frequently these days. But just what is “influence” and what role does it play among us highly social human beings? In this essay I’m going to take a deep dive, well, perhaps not so deep, into who are the influencers and who are the influenced in our society and what is their motivation with regard to social media?

The dictionary tells us that influence is the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways. In other words, to sway a person’s way of thinking and behaving without physical interaction.

Historically, you will find that influence has been practiced since the dawn of human existence, beginning perhaps with the Biblical account of Adam and Eve. In more recent history, it has evolved from a speaker in the public square to the use of print media, radio, TV and now the internet.

Our first experience with influence happened with our parents and teachers who were attempting to teach us life lessons and the skills, professional or otherwise, to survive and have a good life. Sure, there were rare moments when some form of punishment was necessary to get a point across to a rebellious child.

Perhaps the most pervasive purveyors of influence we have to suffer with in our daily lives are salespersons and politicians. Others include scammers, con people, and preachers.

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Re-Roof Ripoffs

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It all started with a letter from my property insurance company, let’s call them ABC Insurance Company, informing me that they would not renew my insurance because the roof was old. Actually, it would be three more years before the 20 year life expectancy of the roof was reached. But as fate would have it, the property insurance industry in my state had, unknown to me, declared all roofs when they reach 15 years of age too old to insure. Presumably this was done to reduce insurance claims because a new roof is less prone to windstorm damage than an older roof. But that doesn’t lessen the pain of having to replace a roof prematurely.

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Drain the Swamp

The phrase “drain the swamp” can be traced back as far as 1830 but has frequently been used since the 1980s by American politicians [1].

Since the 2016 presidential election the old phrase “drain the swamp” has taken on a whole new meaning and brought to light that perhaps there are two swamps in Washington. As an aside, the phrase in question does not mean a literal swamp, which are actually environmentally valuable ecological wetlands, but refers to the skullduggery that goes on in our nation’s capital.

The two swamps in question are: the White House (WH) centric one and the one most of us are familiar with in reference to the shady dealings among our elected representatives especially when it comes to lobbyists. Continue reading

The Immigration Dilemma

We often hear people say that “we are a nation of immigrants” or that “this nation was built by immigrants” as if that somehow justifies the liberal attitude many people hold regarding immigration. These comments seem to have their origin in the great migration from the late 1800s to early 1900s when many people emigrated from Europe. Some of the immigrants who arrived no doubt had criminal intents but most, like my great grandfather, who immigrated to America legally in 1882 came mostly in search of greater economic opportunity and to fully assimilate into the American culture. This was 66 years before the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 which authorized for a limited period of time the admission into the United States of 200,000 certain European displaced persons for permanent residence.

I, like many others, was born and raised in a city with several large immigrant populations. Among them were the Germans, Polish, Italians and Irish many of whom who came to the city to work in the steel mills or came with skills to start their own businesses as my great grandfather did. While some members of these populations tended to concentrate in their own ethnic neighborhoods they also brought an enjoyable diversity of culture and foods to the city as a whole; a process that has repeated itself in many major urban areas of our country. Perhaps this is why today’s immigration problems are so heart wrenching and difficult to discuss.

The intent of this blog post is to present some history on the complex problem of immigration in light of some issues that have come up in recent years and to finally offer some suggestions for change on both sides of the immigration equation. Continue reading

Thumbs at the Ready

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that children spend more than 7.5 hours daily in front of a screen which is a concern among two-thirds of parents. Even teens are beginning to recognize that they spend too much time in front of screens. Some parents are taking steps to reduce their children’s screen time and technology companies, in order to address this screen addiction, are implementing features to measure and warn people of excessive screen time.

I was recently reminded that the issue of screen time is not new. There was a time that children in particular spent hours sitting zombie-like as if in a trance within a foot of a 20 inch TV. Responsible parents in those days would admonish their children to back away from the screen for fear of damage to their eyesight. Children usually ignored these requests and the parent would just have to turn the boob tube off.  This is much harder to do these days what with the proliferation of the small screen devices such as tablets and smart phones that children as young as 3 have in their personal possession. Continue reading

Say No to Social Media

The revelation regarding Facebook, reported here and elsewhere, and a collection of bad actors consisting of Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communication Laboratories aka SCL Elections and third party apps that use Facebook’s own API developed to collect and use your personal data has, hopefully, brought to light that you are the product that is being sold for their profit. Ad revenue alone for mostly Facebook and Twitter was estimated at $41 billion worldwide in 2017 and this does not include the lucrative repeated sales of your personal data through the so-called dark web, as reported here. The ad revenue alone amounts to some $6 per year for each of the 7 billion people on this planet. Continue reading

Use *57 To Trace Spoofed Caller IDs

The phone rang and the caller ID showed a local number. Even though I’m aware of “neighbor spoofing”, a popular devious and fraudulent trick used by telemarketers, I uncharacteristically answered it instead of letting it go to the answering machine.

“Hello,” I said, which was followed by silence on the other end. I was about to hang up when a voice, obviously a recorded message reading from a script, said something to the effect that my credit was fine but I was to press 1 to contact a representative to setup a plan to pay off my credit card debt or I could lose my high credit rating. Continue reading

Targeted Divisiveness

Targeted divisiveness primarily refers to the use of social media by an individual or organization, especially through the use of bots, to search through user posts and profiles looking for characteristics that can be used to target that individual with multiple messages to amplify a cause that would pit one group against another. This could correctly be called propaganda. The difference nowadays with social media is the ability to target specific individuals based on self revealed preferences. Ads on social media work in much the same way except they are focused on selling a product or service. Continue reading

Caught in Telemarketing Hell: 7 Tips On How To Deal With Nuisance Phone Calls

Until the early 90s most of the phone calls we received were from friends, family or the occasional wrong number. By 1991 telemarketing became a big business which led to widespread abuse and resulted in the passage of the FTC Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. This act established the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry  but it was not until 2003 that registration on the Do-Not-Call list became available.

Unfortunately, most of us know by now that listing your phone numbers on the federal Do Not Call Registry is, for the most part, a joke but it is something you must do. Among the loopholes are provisions that election campaigners and organizations that you have done business with in the past can ignore your entry on the list.

This last provision is particularly troublesome. How many times have you received a call from a telemarketer whose charitable organization you have never heard of before thanking you for your previous support?  If this has happened to you then your phone number has been shared on a sucker list with other similar unscrupulous organizations. Continue reading