Fame is a terminal disease. It screws you up worse than your mom and dad. Somewhere in the late twentieth century the pursuit of fame became a way of life. Suddenly everyone wanted to be fa¬mous. Newscasters, journalists, weather men, astrologers, cooks, interns, even lawyers for God’s sake, everyone went nuts trying to grab their fifteen minutes of fame promised by the pop philosophy of Andy Warhol. It replaced life after death as mankind’s greatest illu¬sion. Fame! You’ll live forever. Fame! Your chance to revenge your parents. Fame! Take that, you nasty kids who were so cruel to me at school. Fame! A chance to screw yourself across the flickering face of history.
Fame, fame, fame, fame, fame.
This syphilis of the soul was caused of course by the arrival of television and the instant attention of the new mass media. If the medium was the message, then the message was crap, for the TV screens were filled from morning to night with a constant twenty-four-hour shit storm. No one was spared. Not presidents, not princes, not popes, not people’s representatives. Knickers off, panties down, coming live at you in ten, nine, eight . . . Kiss and tell, kiss and sell, bug your neighbors, tape your friends, grab an agent and sell, sell, sell. Intimacy? Privacy? Forget it. Notoriety? Shame? No such thing. Fame. That’s the name of the game. Private life was washed away under the tidal wave of freedom of speech. It didn’t matter whether you were famous for murdering a president or inventing a pudding, now fame could travel at the speed of light, everyone was just a sound bite from stardom.
No one remembers the name of the anarchist who started World War One by murdering the archduke in Sarajevo in 1914. Everyone remembers Lee Harvey Oswald. Fame! A rifle shot away. Providing you have television. Fame, the intellectual equivalent of waving at the camera. „Look at me, Ma! I’m here. I’m real. I’m on TV.“ Sad, sick, and deplorable, isn’t it? I mean in the 1990s even agents be¬came famous, for Christ’s sake. And what do we call the famous? Stars! I mean hello. Have we no sense of irony? Look up-look up at the real stars. Billions of them? Billions and billions of the buggers. Don’t we get it? There is no fame. There is no immortality. There is no life after death. There are just millions of tiny grains of sand scraping away at each other. We’re on the planet Ozymandias, peo¬ple! Look on my works ye mighty and despair! The grains of time, grinding away at our insignificance . . . well you get the picture. You’re intelligent. You’ve read this far at least.
But who the fuck are you to lecture us on our insignificance? I hear you ask. Not unreasonably. OK, my name is Reynolds. Given name William. Better known as Bill. Actually, Professor Bill, which is better than William, and much better than the quite awful Billy. And that’s what I do: I lecture on insignificance.
From „The Road to Mars“ by Eric Idle