Celebs, Politicians, and You: How much should we comment on others’ lives? [MMM]

Welcome to new readers of my Marshall McLuhan Monday series, where we engage the thoughts of prominent media philosopher and Catholic convert Marshall McLuhan with contemporary questions.

Last week, I re-posted a commentary on the superstate as an allusion to the NSA’s “Prism” scandal. This week, I want to engage the idea of private identity with our common experience of media — and tie in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

We often see — and engage in — the ‘study’ and critique of celebrities. Politicians, entertainers, and every kind of public figure — including clergy and religious — are the targets of our modern obsession to know everyone’s business and comment on it. Among Church circles, we’re often expected to have an opinion on what Bishop So-And-So said, or what Sister Such-n-Such did.

Hyper-connected culture’s mantra is “Privacy Settings” but do we care about anyone’s privacy except our own? Sometimes, I read Catholic blogs and social media feeds, and I wonder where we draw the line between “exposing scandalous behavior” and exposing a human person’s private life. Must we point fingers to each and every misstep by political leaders, whether related or not to public policy? Ought we bring to light every hint of strife from a celebrity’s personal life?

I wonder if modern technology have conditioned us to simply ignore privacy.

Our Catechism teaches the following, expounding practice of the Eighth Commandment:

Everyone should observe an appropriate reserve concerning persons’ private lives. Those in charge of communications should maintain a fair balance between the requirements of the common good and respect for individual rights. Interference by the media in the private lives of persons engaged in political or public activity is to be condemned to the extent that it infringes upon their privacy and freedom. (pp. 2492)

Pope Francis has recently spoken about our need to restrain our tongues — to fast from “the fruit of a tasty comment against another person”. All things considered, what say you? How much do you speculate about public figures’ lives? How often do you delight in commenting about Politician Smith and his failure to demonstrate his Catholicism? Or Bishop So-And-So’s actions when pastorally ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’? The examples are numerous.

As for myself, I’m praying for the grace to pray for others, far more than I speak of them … or far more than I “Like” a meme critiquing their personal struggles. If everyone practiced prayer more than pointless criticism, what a world we’d be.

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One comment

  1. Perhaps you presaged Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference otw back from WYD & his comments about distinguishing personal sin from crime. It was particularly edifying to hear him say that a repentant sinner has the right to have their old deeds forgotten : “When we confess our sins and we truly say, “I have sinned in this”, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger….”
    I think this is particularly applicable to our judgements about celebs whose lives are so intensely mediated/dissected for public consumption; i.e. who among us really knows what is up w/ Miss Cyrus’ heart?

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