This week I hired a publicist. This may not seem like all that uncommon of a thing to do, but for me it was profound. The truth is that my book, “Testimony,” is not doing as well as it could be. I have been told that I need more “Star Power.” Sure, I have a loyal following of people, like yourself, who read my articles, subscribe to my newsletter, or follow me on Facebook. Nevertheless, today that is not enough. Today, you have to have star power or celebrity status to really get your voice heard. Our culture tells us that it does not matter what you say, what really matters is who you are when you say it.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not bitter about this, really I’m not (truly). I am, however, in all honesty, frightened by it. We will form our opinions and take advice from anyone as long as they are celebrity. Reality TV stars become experts in social science, movie stars become equivalent to PhD’s in the field of environmental science, and cable newscasters and entertainers get to tell us what our political and economic beliefs should be. Meanwhile, there is a real voice of reason, expertise, and experience sitting on the sidelines saying “If only I were famous enough, my ideas could change the world.” Instead, we learn our history from Pawn Stars, our science from Myth Busters, business management from The Apprentice, and world news and politics from The Daily Show.
There are a lot of people out there smarter and even more educated than I am, but I believe in my message. I know that my writings come from a sincere heart and a love for truth and honesty. For this reason, I am willing to do whatever it takes to help my message be heard. I don’t claim to have all the answers; however, I also don’t claim to write or speak about anything that I don’t understand. I am the first to admit when I don’t know something and I am always eager to learn. But this is really not about me (I know that’s not the best thing to say for one trying to gain a little more star power). This is about a realization that I was hit with this week, a realization that truth is being ignored or replaced by… I don’t know what. I am frightened by the fact that sincerity and honesty is outweighed by celebrity egos who can’t admit where their expertise ends or begins. I am frightened by the fact that star power commentary holds more weight than real knowledge and understanding. Mostly, I am frightened for a future in which a world looks to entertainment for facts while questioning or ignoring real insight.
People used to buy books based on the content in them and even well-known authors could enjoy a life of anonymity, focused solely on providing well-thought-out, meaningful content that could empower and impassion their readers. This allowed authors the freedom to continually learn and grow and, in turn, their books helped others do the same. Today, authors are not allowed this freedom. Their time is spent gaining star power instead of knowledge. More books are being sold than ever before. Information is everywhere, but what of the content of the books? People choose known faces over expertise, passion, and even truth.
Just in case you did not catch it, the point is that we need to reevaluate how we ascertain quality, truth, and information. Mass media has transformed the way that people learn, grow, and experience life. This is an amazing thing, but we must learn to recognize the difference between entertainment and knowledge. This is not to say that gaining new insights can’t be entertaining, but there is a huge difference between knowledge presented in an entertaining way versus entertainment presented as knowledge. We must learn to recognize the difference and challenge ourselves to look deeper than the celebrity status or star power of those tasked with shaping our minds, thoughts, and opinions.
You just may be surprised to find that the unknown authors, bloggers, and instructors are the ones that can bring real value to the table. After all, they did not set out to be a celebrity; they simply have a story, knowledge, or information to share. The work holds no secondary agenda; they don’t write just to be heard, they write because they have something worth listening too.