Jewish World Review Sept. 30, 2009 12 Tishrei 5770
Making the List
By Roger Simon
Did you make any of those lists? Or the scores of other lists? Don't feel bad. You'll make some list someday. It's inevitable.
In 1968, Andy Warhol said that in the future everybody would be famous for 15 minutes. He was talking about how the media needed to create celebrities and focus attention on them, but how fleeting such attention could be.
What Warhol could not anticipate, however, was the Internet. Today, everybody with a computer is the media. And with social networking, you can invite people to pay attention to you.
But in a world in which everybody is famous, nobody is famous. Which is why we need lists. We have to narrow things down a little to tell us who is most famous, most noteworthy, most worth watching.
Nobody can make every list. But anybody can make some list. (I am currently ranked No. 6 on the list of Columnists Not Important Enough to Be on a Real List.)
Are you famous if you make a list? It depends on how you define fame. If you define it the way Warhol did (i.e., you are famous if you are noticed), then yes. But there are different kinds of fame.
I was once standing next to a well-known TV newsperson at a political rally, when a member of the audience came up to him and asked, "Are you somebody famous?"
The newsperson looked at him. "Apparently not," he said.
Lists can be controversial. Time magazine not long ago printed its "Top Ten Political Sex Scandals," which included: Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, David Vitter, Kwame Kilpatrick, Larry Craig, Barney Frank, Mark Foley, Bill Clinton, Gary Hart and Jerry Springer.
I'll bet Mark Sanford, John Ensign and James McGreevey are furious.
Watch lists — Fifty People to Watch in the Coming Year! — have their own problems. What happens, for example, if nobody watches them? As The New York Times recently reported, people on the government's terrorist watch list have been allowed to purchase hundreds of guns in this country over the past five years, and one suspected terrorist was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives.
It is not clear, therefore, what exactly the government is "watching" when it comes to its own watch list.
The granddaddy of all watch lists is the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list (formally known as the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list). It has its own Website and ranges from such well-known criminals as Osama bin Laden (which the FBI spells as Usama Bin Laden, but don't be confused, call the bureau if he tries to cash a check with you using either name) to James J. Bulger, who gets the full celebrity treatment: "Bulger is an avid reader with an interest in history. He is known to frequent libraries and historic sites. He maintains his physical fitness by walking on beaches and in parks with his female companion." He also "loves animals." That's the good news. The bad news is that "he has a violent temper and is known to carry a knife at all times."
People on that list seem like very, very bad people. On the other hand, they made a list. As Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse in the world than being talked about is not being talked about."
If you didn't make it onto any lists so far this year, I am sure that in the months ahead you will do some really cool (and totally nonviolent) stuff so you can make it next time.
I am already keeping an eye on the top candidates. I've got a list here somewhere.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate