Editorial: Fleeting fame

Published on October 4, 2016
Todd Orr
YouTube

Fifteen minutes of fame? Now, it’s 15 million hits of fame. But that still doesn’t mean it’s always a good thing.

It’s a truism to say that social media is changing the way we see the world: more and more, the first thing people do when they see things unfolding is to reach for their cellphone to record the moment for posterity — or for Facebook and Twitter, fast becoming, among other things, the world’s joke reel.

Saturday, a 50-year-old Montana man, Todd Orr, apparently interrupted a grizzly bear and its cubs. He was mauled, not once but twice, receiving injuries that required eight hours of reconstructive surgery.

Once he escaped the bear, he knew exactly what to do.

Somehow call for help?

Drive the 17 miles to hospital in his pickup truck?

Well, eventually.

First, he had to shoot Facebook video of his raw injuries so he’d have it to post later. His Facebook posts show that he’s pretty reasonable planner: “I snapped a couple quick photos and a video of my wounds, laid some jackets over the truck seat and headed for town. I stopped a rancher along the way and asked him to make a call to the hospital. When I got into cell service, I made a quick call to my girlfriend to ask how her morning was going, before freaking her out and asking her to bring me a change of clean clothes to the hospital.” (Search Todd Orr on Facebook and you will find it in all its gory splendour — and, you’re on your way there, aren’t you?)

It’s a funny world we live in.

In 1968, Andy Warhol argued that, “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Turns out, he was right, but the time involved seems to be getting shorter and shorter. Sometimes, they last only until for that combined video moment when a skateboard flies into the air and yet another teenager smashes some tender part on a railing or fence.

Sometimes, the 15 minutes of fame ends the moment the next video rolls out: “Look at this one with the shark and the chihuahua!”

Problem is, it’s all of a one-ness. We are creating our own Internet freak show, a time-wasting, attention-catching carnival wheel of computer broadcast disaster, the last one forgotten as soon as the next one arrives.

Unlike Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard” (you can get that one on the Internet, too), we don’t even have to tell Mr. DeMille that we’re ready for our close-up. We can just pack our mouths with ghost chilies and shoot the resulting effects on our cellphones all by ourselves.

And famous?

Well, famous or infamous, neither one necessarily means you’re smarter than the average bear.