Why Social Media is the End of Celebrity as We Know It (R Kelly, Barack Obama Edition)


I've got a new column up at Time that brushes past the Duck Dynasty flap and argues that something far more important (and fun) is happening: Fans and citizens are finally able to talk back to their idols and leaders in ways that just weren't possible even a few years back.

Earlier this month, for instance, the controversial and quite possibly criminal singer R Kelly released a new album (Black Panties) and went on Twitter to get real with his immense audience. Almost immediately he was pelted with questions about his revealed preference for jailbait:

To celebrate Black Panties, Kelly hosted a chat on Twitter for his fans and followers. "Getting ready to answer some of my favorite #AskRKelly questions!!" he wrote, "Start tweeting!" Almost immediately, the singer was deluged with snarky comments related to his past indiscretions and scandals. "My lil cousin jus bout to finish 10th grade … Seems like she ready?," wrote one correspondent. "What's your favorite bedtime story to read a date?" read another. "So @rkelly only answered 16 questions,the perv really cannot do anything over 18," summarized one commenter while another asked, "Were you high off something when you started this hashtag? Where tf is your PR team?"

Being able to mock singers in open view is one thing but the same dynamic is at work in political discourse too, such as when President Obama tweeted out the pic of "pajama boy" sipping some cocoa and girding his flannel-clad loins to #GetTalking about health insurance over the holidays:

Almost immediately, the image went viral, though not in the way Obama meant. "PajamaBoy" became its own hashtag and countless parodies and reappropriations spread across the Internet. "Mommy Said I Could Stay Up Late," read one, while another attested, "Why Yes I Am a Thought Leader," and a third asked, "How did you know I went to Oberlin?"…

Power is shifting from the top of the pyramid down to its lower reaches, where anyone with an opinion and an Internet connection can at least speak her mind and circulate that opinion to an audience that is potentially in the millions.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: Consumer Confidence in Germany at 6 Year High

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  1. Might as well be first.

  2. Sarah Palin use to be hot but ever since that last baby...man, what a tragedy.

    1. *used

      1. She has lost a lot of weight.. needs to eat a sandwich or two.

    2. She is got to be close to 50. You have to judge her by her weight class. Compared to some 20 something model or actress, she doesn't stand a chance. But in the over 45 mom class? She is still pretty good.

          1. The big breasted porn star with nipples that point in opposite directions who played Palin in the porn.

    3. I can't see the alt text from my front porch anymore.

  3. So @rkelly only answered 16 questions,the perv really cannot do anything over 18

    i'm going to store this away to laugh at when I'm in a bad mood. All the comments are hilarious.

    1. The winner for me is: "How did you know I went to Oberlin?"

  4. Power is shifting from the top of the pyramid down to its lower reaches, where anyone with an opinion and an Internet connection can at least speak her mind and circulate that opinion to an audience that is potentially in the millions.

    And this is why the big media is constantly bemoaning how the internet has ruined everything. They no longer control the narrative and can no longer lie with little worry of anyone noticing.

    Think about it. Before the internet a newspaper could print some complete bullshit lie about a subject and unless it was about a subject everyone or a large portion of the population was familiar with, no one would be the wiser. Sure some gadfly would notice it. But what was he going to do? Write a letter to the editor?

    But when the internet came around a lot of smart people who did know something about various subjects had a platform to take the things published by the major media apart. It started with "Fisking", people just destroying the bullshit journalist Robert Fisk was putting out. And it went from there.

    1. I wouldn't get too attached, John. They're already pushing to delineate journalists from bloggers for the purpose of protected speech, and no doubt by the end of the decade we'll see fairly strenuous efforts to hold providers responsible for venues like comment boards and blogs ("public accomodations," anyone?). Congress will strangle this medium.

      1. "public accomodations,"

        +m. FML

      2. They are trying. The big media would love nothing better than to go full state run and be able to lie with impunity and have the power of the gun to keep anyone from pointing it out.

        I think they are pissing in the wind though. Short of just getting rid of the internet, something that won't happen, there is no way to stop people from communicating.

        1. It's a few years old, but someone covered this in detail regarding a lawsuit against Sony alleging that online games discriminate against the blind, using a public accomodations argument. Given the protections against "discrimination" afforded to a progressively wider scope of grievance groups, I can't see the wild west natue of the internet lasting indefinitely.

          Short of just getting rid of the internet, something that won't happen, there is no way to stop people from communicating.

          But they can target publishers and media venues.

          1. And worse they can control things like google and facebook. Both of those companies happily suppress ideas they don't like. Google can just make certain sites and ideas disapear from their search engine. Facebook resolutely bans and takes down photos and posts and users it doesn't like. There is some photo of what is alleged to be Obama's student ID at Columbia which lists him as a foreign student from Kenya. I have no idea if it is legit. But Facebook has been waging an endless war banning any account that posts it and taking it down wherever it appears.

            That kind of shit ought to send a chill down your spine.

            1. It's pretty obviously a forgery (that is not a 20 year old B.O. and that is not the ID format of 1980), but i would want more evidence that the reason the accounts got banned was the image.

              1. I doubt it is real. But that is not the point. The point is that if Facebook can hunt that down and kill it, they can hunt anything down.

            2. Plus more and more websites are requiring Facebook accounts to post comments, so they can track you down.

      3. Congress will strangle this medium.

        They'll try and fail.

        1. They don't have to succeed 100%. They just have to paint the open internet as a hangout of pedophiles, and drug dealers, all while providing a corporate / big media controlled alternative, and you'd move a lot of the non technical people off the internet and into the alternative.

          1. that should read government / big media. Don't know why I put corporate.

    2. The media narrative on Newtown and Zimmerman was shot down on take-off. War on Women still got through though, so maybe it doesn't work during a presidential election?

  5. social media gives you a good view into who people really are. The send-before-you-think nature of it, that it almost always occurs outside of handlers and PR folks and image managers, and that it is two-way.

    1. I really don't understand why professional athletes participate in social media. What is the upside of it? No one ever got an extra passing yard or a bigger contract because of their twitter account. But a hell of a lot of people have managed to make buffoons of themselves and cost themselves reputation and endorsement money for saying something stupid on twitter.

      1. I enjoy following my favorite celebs.. so I beleive they realize the value of staying touch with fans, especially your B and C actors.

        1. B or C actors or music groups I can totally see doing that and in fact needing to do that. But athletes get little benefit at the price of risking saying something someone finds offensive.

          1. Well, do they not get percentage of merch, or some foundation they care about. I donated to a charity in contest to have the possibility of Jeri Ryan following me.

            Real question is do we blame Jeri Ryan for bringing Chocolate Nixon into power.

            1. No. Her ex-husband though....

            2. Zoe Deschanel's Facebook feed is actually quite entertaining.

          2. Most (all?) athletes aren't even interesting to begin with.

            1. Very few of them. And the ones who are are ones like Charles Barkley who interesting because they are willing to say nonPC and "offensive" things.

              1. Best Twitter feed by an Athlete. Ever.


  6. So....R Kelly is an alternate spelling for 'Creepy buckshot sponge'?

    1. Has he even had a hit this century? He is the "I Believe I can Fly" guy right? That was back in the 1990s.

      1. "Piss On You" in 2003.

      2. Ignition (Remix) was #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2003. Not sure if he's had any hits since.

  7. Jimmy Kimmel does a great bit called Mean Tweets. Celebrities read actual mean tweets about themselves. Friggin hilarious. It would take some serious effort on the part of celebs or politicians to maintain a sycophantic bubble because the public is brutal and unavoidable.


    1. Fame just goes straight to some people's heads. Once you get famous you get all of these hangers on who come to you and tell you how cool you are. Some people are grounded enough to see through it. Others are not and actually believe.

      The late founder of the Rolling Stones Brian Jones was one of those people. The rest of the band hated his guts once they got big because the fame went right to his head. He honestly started thinking the bullshit he spouted while stoned was really profound and that he was too important to be bothered with the workaday life of a musician. He was famous and important now.

  8. Just like internet information on car sales and such helped consumers immensely by giving them better products and lower prices, more open information consumers have about the media they consume should have, in the long run, a positive impact.

    Of course that means the market place is working - and since it's not evil (along with freedom, capitalism, etc) - we may well reverse this trend.

    But for now - I think this shows what most people believe instinctively - the more information available to the average citizen the better their decisions will be - and in a market place, the average citizen's decisions will affect corps/people/etc as it will impact those group's money.

    Until we outlaw the market - because we're sooooo smart now that it's 2013 🙂

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