I was listening to a movie review recently on NPR of Sweet Smell of Success, a memorable film produced in 1957, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. The film, loosely based on the life and sleazy work of Walter Winchell, has been gussied up and re-released.
The NPR reviewer, wanting to provide a bit of context and a sense of the moral bankruptcy at the heart of the film, used a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt to begin his report. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
Long ago, when the information highway was patrolled by hacks and closed to the public, gossip columnists like Winchell had the power to make or break celebrities. His weekly column was filled with truth, half-truths and lies.
Winchell’s work was all about people and Sweet Smell of Success is a heartbreaking indictment of the damage that can be unleashed by small-minded hacks focused on the daily drivel of life. With the explosion of the web in recent years, there are now thousands of Winchell wannabes; many freelance bloggers, others part of huge media enterprises.
I fear that if Eleanor Roosevelt managed to rise from the dead, she would look about, hear all the meaningless nonsense that fills the airways, blogosphere and celebrity rags and correctly surmise that her once great country is no longer the home of the brave but a land of small-minded fools.
Instead of ideas and events, it seems the majority of folks today are much more interested in Charlie Sheen missing his twins birthday, Scott Disick’s – no, I’m not at all sure who he is and care even less – struggles with sobriety; and Richard Hatch’s return to jail. Then there are the continuing ups and downs of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie; Jewel, Cher and Lady Gaga; Snooki and, ah, the Situation – what the hell is that all about; the housewives of New York, Beverly Hills and Atlanta; and some guy named Bieber!
Have some of our fellow citizens become so bored with life, unwilling or afraid to pay attention to the real issues of the day, that they need the constant buzz and distraction of celebrity boobs screwing around and screwing up their lives? Such crap has always been part of the fabric of life, but as we push into the 21st Century the sideshow seems to have taken center stage and the next generation has lost its focus on what’s important.
At first blush, it seems the only people discussing ideas are screaming bloviators – a really dismal piece of news, if true. But when you stop and exam all the Sturm und Drang filling the airways, it becomes clear such pundits are talking not so much about cosmic ideas of change, but instead focusing their spleen and venom on, you got it, personalities.
If given the opportunity, I’d tell Eleanor to remain buried. Even if she managed to find her way back to life, all the small-minded talk today would bore her to death.
MIND ROT: This would be Snooki (photo above), the latest in a long-line of talentless schnooks wasting our time and filling the airways.