I recently watched the whole of the primetime news bulletin on one of the main TV channels. I didn’t have a stopwatch handy, but my best estimate is that at least half of the ‘news’ and about a third of the ‘sports news’ was actually just gossip.
Some less critical viewers might have called it ‘infotainment’. But, no, it was clearly gossip – and pretty trivial gossip at that.
According to some sociologists, gossip plays an important role in the formation and maintenance of communities. The shared pool of often-inconsequential information (and misinformation) apparently helps us to bond together.
I can see that this may have been so when the community in question was a nomadic hunting group or a small village.
‘Have you heard? Ugg stubbed his toe during the buffalo hunt last night.’
‘Which one’s Ugg again?’
‘The stupid one.’
Oh, yeah. Right. Him. Gosh, wait ‘til I tell the girls down at the pumpkin patch.’
And I can see how it might have worked when the gossip was shared by a sub-group within a larger tribe or perhaps a market town. I can even see that it might work (although whether for good or bad is another matter) in a large workplace.
But I really struggle to understand how today’s seemingly endless stream of gossip – especially the largely irrelevant minutiae of the private lives of so-call celebrities – benefits anyone other than the owners of the media that facilitate its distribution.
How on earth does the shared knowledge that some manufactured ‘star’ (of the human variety) may – or may not – have enjoyed one too many sherbets at a party to launch another manufactured star’s latest musical-ish offering benefit millions of people spread across 20 or 30 different countries?
Is it going to turn them into one tight-knit cooperative community?
No, I don’t think so either.
Oh, and by the way, did you hear what happened last weekend at the secret party that the Duchess of Disaster threw for some of her super-rich-lister friends? Well ….