National Public Radio’s public affairs show “Fresh Air With Terry Gross,” always on my personal best-of list, recently featured its Top 10 Cultural Trends of 2007, as selected by commentator John Powers.
Of particular interest is No. 5 on the list, which Powers and Gross call “The TMZing of America.”
“(TMZ) is pure celebrity gossip, insider, prying, almost like a paparazzi Web site with delusions of grandeur. It then later became a television show.
“No one in America can turn on their television or go on the Internet without noticing that we now have endless access to the most trivial details of celebrities and pseudo-celebrities and clowns’ lives, that nothing that someone like Britney Spears does is ever happening in private.
Now, at one level you might say this is just because we’re a corrupt nasty culture interested only in trivial people - and that may even be true, partly - but what struck me more about it was that the celebrities constantly on these sites being followed by cameras and having their anrtics shown on the Internet is that they are on the cutting edge of the tranformation in our culture where we’re breaking down the old ideas of what’s public and what’s private.
“What’s spooky is not just that Britney Spears is being followed. Go on YouTube sometime and somebody will actually post something on people having an argument in a restaurant. And they’ll post that argument on a Web site...And these are people who aren’t famous...The idea of there being a zone of privacy we all have around us is being whittled away, often deliberately and happily.”