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Is Perez Hilton Cleaning His Dirty Hands?

February 4, 2011

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.

Works Cited

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

 

6 Comments
  1. nehajain permalink
    February 4, 2011 7:16 PM

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It was captivating and made understandable connections with Machiavellian ideals and Walzer’s thoughts. I completely agree with your statement that the media are the ones portraying celebrities to be Machiavellian, and Perez Hilton is an excellent example of this. He is one of those figures that the public hates to love; what he posts is entertaining, but it’s difficult to praise him because he posts (or posted) in such a negative manner. You made a perfect connection between him and Machiavelli by saying that he achieves greatness (by being entertaining) by cruel means. However, on the ‘dirty hands’ front, I’d have to say that although he is “cleaning” his hands by showing more respect for celebrities and the public in general, I don’t think he truly believes what he is “preaching”. I know it sounds skeptical on my part, but he is a celebrity too. He is doing whatever it takes to better his image. So although I agree that he is attempting to “clean” his hands of his past, I don’t think he is the angel he is making himself out to be (as seen in the video clip you posted).

  2. jdadamo permalink
    February 6, 2011 1:17 AM

    I think the hardest part about determining if Perez Hilton is Machiavellian is we really don’t know what his true overall intentions are. He’s made a living berating celebrities and drawing crude images on their faces, which has in turn garnered him a lot of attention, yet we don’t really know if he had justified ends or not. I do think, however, that Emily and Nehajain make fantastic points in that he clearly has attempted to “clean his hands” of his past in some ways, including his current advocacy against the prevalence of teen bullying, and seems to adhere to some of Walzer’s principles. Really nice post, Emily, it’s good to see examples of people and movies in popular/modern culture (like the Lady Gaga and Bruce Almighty posts) compared and contrasted with the ideas of these important writers in political theory.

  3. molliefein1 permalink
    February 6, 2011 9:17 PM

    I also really enjoyed this post. I agree with nehajain that part of what Perez really wants is to expand his own image and gain more popularity. Although, I think that this has an even stronger connection with Machiavelli’s ideals. Nehajain says that he is doing whatever it takes to better his image– isn’t that exactly what Machiavelli was preaching? Doesn’t he believe that a good leader [entertainer] needs to put others down in order to get ahead? Of course, Perez’ social blogs don’t exactly draw perfect parallels considering that they are on a much smaller scale, but I think that the idea of dirtying your hands and getting rid of some morality in exchange for “power” or fame so-to-speak, is a big part of what Machiavelli advised. Perez does what he can to make himself more famous, and have a higher entertainment value. It’s modern day muckraking. I don’t think that being “nice” is what he’s going for either. Even if Perez isn’t writing defaming things or posting embarrassing pictures of celebrities, the gossip and drama that is created by what he reveals, true or false, is not exactly a moral and “clean” strategy. I still happen to think that the website is extremely entertaining, “dirty hands” and all. Does that make me immoral too?

  4. February 7, 2011 4:44 PM

    I really enjoyed this reading and agree that Perez Hilton was a Machiavellian in a sense. As you point out, he rises to the top of the gossip world through his slandering of celebrities. At the time of Machiavelli, this kind of behavior would be considered “nefarious or villainous”. Although there is no evidence to support it, I am fairly sure Hilton would not be as popular as he is today if he had not made fun of and drawn inappropriate pictures of celebrities. Had he been nice and tried to defend the celebrities, he would be considered just another average reporter and his blogs would not have attracted the eyes of so many readers.

    Also like you said, he acknowledged that if he had continued to harm the image of celebrities, he would be looked down upon. Therefore, he switched his approach to being nicer to celebrities in order to repair his image and come off as a likable guy. However, where I do have a difference in opinion with you is why Hilton decided to stop attacking famous people. You state that he changes his ways to “try to wash his hands by doing penance for his sins”. While this may be a minor reason why Hilton changes his ways, I also believe that he does not want other average bloggers to try and take his approach to becoming famous. By “looking down” on causing harm to the image of individuals, Perez is influencing others to not take the approach he took to being successful. This would allow him to remain as the top celebrity blogger with no competition. This is why I think Hilton has a little bit of Hobbes in him. Hobbes states that in competition, men will try to subdue each other in their quest for the prize. In this sense, the prize is being the most famous celebrity tracker and by looking down upon the “nefarious and villainous” way of achieving fame, he is subduing all other bloggers that are in the position that he once was.

    Like I said earlier, I thought this was a fun blog to read and a great connection of our readings to today’s world.

  5. Jeff DeClaire permalink
    February 7, 2011 7:23 PM

    I really enjoyed this post, Emily. For one, I think that you did a very good job of connecting a modern day “celebrity” in Perez Hilton to Machiavelli’s beliefs and ways of thinking. I think that we often tend to overlook the glaring similarities between people in our current society, especially politicians and celebrities, with the thinkers and philosophers of the past. This is a prime example of how similar people from completely different eras can be. I completely agree that Perez Hilton lived the Machiavellian way to rise to fame by slandering and defaming just about any celebrity. He took advantage of the constant exposure and pressure that our society has planned on the celebrities and people under the spotlight. That being said, as nehajain pointed out, I do not necessarily believe Perez’s intentions as he tries to “clean” his hands. After rising to fame with insulting celebrities in terrible ways, I find it hard to believe that he genuinely wants to clean his hands of his “dirty” actions. Despite his improvement, I think he is just trying to rid the negative images that come with his name, with no regards to helping society. Again, this post provided a great comparison between two seemingly different people.

    • Emily Slaga permalink
      March 6, 2011 6:36 PM

      Thanks for the input! I agree with a lot of the comments that maybe Perez isn’t genuinely “cleaning” his hands, but rather he is trying to not make them any dirtier. I think that’s definitely a better way to put it because, as you point out, he did bash a lot of people so it’s hard to believe he wants to right all the people he wronged. But at the same time, I do believe people can have a change of heart and, maybe he isn’t doing the Catholic way of cleaning his hands with penance.But at least he is stopping his rude habits, which, perhaps to him is a way to slowly clean the hands…at least until people forget he was mean to begin with!

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