Is Perez Hilton Cleaning His Dirty Hands?
Recently within the blog, there have been multiple posts about celebrities such as Coco Chanel and Lady Gaga. These posts have created the argument that each respective person was a Machiavellian in their own way, doing anything in their power to achieve fame and success. Many of the comments related to these posts have mentioned the media and how perhaps it is the media depicts these people to be Machiavellian. I wondered to myself, what about the media themselves? Are they acting like Machiavellians by portraying celebrities to be Machiavellians?! Do they take any measures to achieve their own success and power, and what do they do once they’ve reached this “fame”?
Are news reporters willing to do anything and exploit any story to get their name out there, just like celebrities supposedly do? I think they are.
Take for example Perez Hilton, a famous celebrity “blogger”, known for his website, PerezHilton.com. More of a gossip website, Perez keeps up on the latest celebrity news. Each post contains a picture and a very quick post about the person/topic. Nowadays, I think he is pretty well known, at least to young American adults and teenagers. A few years ago, however, nobody knew him. His blog started off as more of a bully site, picking on celebrities. He become known for his drawings on the pictures he posts. These drawings were mean to say the least, but they were trying to catch peoples’ eyes. An example would be drawing traces of cocaine all over Lindsey Lohan. He is also known for outing celebrities who were “in the closet”. His posts were rude, but they got attention, and in some sense they were in fact “news”.
In The Prince, Machiavelli describes multiple ways a commoner, like Perez, can become a prince (famous). One of these ways is to become prince “by some nefarious or villainous means” (Machiavelli 32). This is how Perez came to fame. He was mean and exploited his fellow citizens by bullying them online, tearing them down to build himself up. I think he understood that, as Machiavelli himself stated, one who arises through cruelty cannot maintain it if he poorly uses cruelty. Cruel acts “may be called those…which are committed once for the need of securing one’s self, and which afterwards are not persisted in…..Cruelties ill used are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….It is impossible for them to maintain themselves” (36). The interesting thing with Perez is that he started off being cruel and gained attention (and slight fame). He responded to that by continuing to be cruel more often and with a greater intensity. Thus, initially it seems this isn’t following Machiavellian ideals. However, as the fame grew, he finally reached a peak of fame, probably within the last year. This is when he became a “prince” of the media. With the fame came attention, but now it has begun to be negative. People started calling out his cruelty, and he realized that he needed to stop the cruelty to maintain his fame and power as a celebrity gossiper/ “news” reporter.
I think that this is when he became truly aware how dirty his hands were from climbing the media mountain. Walzer states that “Politicians often argue that they have no right to keep their hands clean, and that may well be true of them, but it is not so clearly true of the rest of us.” (Walzer). Perez is not a politician, he shouldn’t be getting his hands dirty, but he absolutely does. Machiavelli believes that if a prince is moral, he himself will be ruined. And, as evidenced in Walzer’s writing, immoral actions lead to dirty hands.
In my opinion, Perez Hilton did some immoral things in his early years rising to fame. He tried to slander the public images of many celebrities, with drawings on pictures that often insinuated lies about those people. Ruining a person’s character and altering the publics perception of people is clearly immoral. Now Perez has dirty hands.
Walzer suggests that the Christians believe that you can clean your hands by penance and doing right to those who you did wrong. I don’t know Perez’s religious views, but he is taking this approach to clean his image. He is trying to rid himself of guilt and a poor image as a way to stay “prince” of the media.
Recently, he has changed from being mean to mostly only posting nice comments, or at least adding a nice, wishful thought at the end of each post. This change has the caught attention of celebrities. (Skip to about 26 seconds in on video to see this).
He realized he was doing harm, so now he is posting nice comments as well as trying to raise awareness of the harmful effects of bullying. He recognized that he was a bully, changed, and now wants to prevent others from being a bully to, or at least try to help those who are being bullied. Evidence of this is found in his frequent posts about teen suicides due to bullying. He covers many of these stories, raising awareness, and writes inspirational comments about it. He still draws on celebrity pictures, but they aren’t as vulgar. In fact, most are nice comments. So in a sense, Perez Hilton is trying to wash his hands by doing penance for his sins.
I think he took some lessons from both Machiavelli and Walzer. He is Machiavellian who learned how to become a prince of the media and at the same time, knew that his cruel actions/methods needed to stop at some point or he would destroy himself. So he changed course once he became a prince and wanted to clean his hands, help society, and continue to have the respect of the people. He’s doing a pretty good job right now, but who knows, maybe his dirty hands will never really be clean. He did, after all, spend years shattering celebrities’ images.
Machiavelli, Niccolo, “The Prince”, Volume 43 of The World’s Classics, Grant Richards Publishing, 1903 (Translated by Luigi Ricci).
Walzer, Michael, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter 1973), 160, 180