Do We Worship Celebrities Like Religious Figures?

The fact Robert Ritchie is considering a Senate run on the Republican ticket would likely not make much news this far out from an election. Born in Romeo, Michigan, to a successful car dealing father, he grew up on an estate and eventually fell in love with breakdancing in the early eighties. He would likely remain inconsequential to public eye had not hip-hop producer D Nice given him a shot while opening for the famed Boogie Down Production a few years later. 

Kid Rock signed his first recording contract at seventeen, much to parental chagrin. Long before Eminem made Motor City his own, Rock’s 1990 debut put Detroit hip-hop—well, his take on it—on the map. Through ups and downs his fame has persisted to this day. So when he says he’s exploring national politics, the Internet lights up with nods of approval and howls of derision.

Whatever you think of Kid Rock’s music, he will certainly garner attention should he officially enter the race. And your feelings on his politics will only be exaggerated in either direction given his profile. That is the power of celebrity.

But how does one acquire this vaunted mantle of fame? First, there are levels of celebrity. I know nothing about famous magicians (save the very biggest) because it’s not a genre of entertainment I pay attention to. I do know top Malian musicians, however, as that’s one of my favorite musical regions on the planet. Vieux Farka Touré, Oumou Sangaré, and Bassekou Kouyate capture my attention whereas many Americans gloss over the names. 

And then there are celebrities, people the masses not only know but worship. That’s a word Columba Law Professor Tim Wu, who coined the term ‘net neutrality’ back in 2003, finds odd in regards to our fascination with celebrities. In his latest book, The Attention Merchants, Wu devotes a chapter to the trend of treating celebrities like deities. As he told Big Think earlier this year, our devotion is a specific kind:

If they’re…

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