It seems to me that one of the characteristics of our culture is the way celebrities extend the boundaries of their celebrity. They involve themselves in areas outside the one where they earned their celebrity status, particularly the area of punditry. Added to that and coming from the other direction, we have pundits who need to be celebrities in order to be counted as proper pundits.
We’ve all seen entertainers willing to give their views on anything from green politics to armed conflict to criminology. There’s nothing wrong with it in moderation of course, but I do wonder if there is a tendency for it to crowd out serious debate.
It’s not so much the sheer number of celebrities scrabbling for our attention, but the way celebrity culture threatens to become the only culture.
For example, Polly Toynbee, the Guardian columnist. Somehow it has become mildly important to refute or agree with her material, even though the quality of her output is variable and rarely rises above the level of predictable.
Or the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. It has become a kind of celebrity news outlet, yet again it is predictable and to my mind limited and uninteresting. But people listen and often feel the need to take it to task over aspects of its output. Why? The programme is second-rate and formulaic - it needs no refuting.
I’ll labour the idea because the point I want to make is one about audiences. Who is the audience when celebrity pundits air their views like this? I see them as celebrity groupies who seem to rely on celebrity pundits for a kind of newsy entertainment instead of doing their own investigations.
To my mind, the weirdness of celebrity pundits and their groupies is seen at its strangest in programmes like BBC Question Time. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a kind of current affairs show with David Dimbleby in charge. An groupie audience is invited to lob questions into a panel of pundits. The point of the show seems to be topical entertainment - nothing more.
Anyway, to me, the weirdness stems from the way the audience turns up be entertained by celebrity pundits. But who in their right mind cares what TV pundits actually say? They speak well, but only to promote their own brand of pundit-style entertainment.
Well I find it weird anyway.