Among the things I have learned writing a blog for PT is that people will strike out against you if you make the slightest negative comment about their heroes - the same as if you insulted their mothers. Hero worship is a powerful motivator!
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, October 8, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
What I Learned from Writing a Blog: Famous People have Groupies!
I learned long ago that the majority of people who write comments generally come from two camps - nuts lurking about who hate everybody, and a special group of nuts who hate me in particular.
But when I write about famous people, I learn that they have groupies who will defend them to the death - and who really hate me when I say anything untoward about their hero.
Thus, about 100,000 people read my post, The Waste of Michael Jackson. I thought that several things were self-evident about Jackson: (1) his career had hit the skids, (2) he had whitened his skin and straightened his nose, (3) he killed himself with drugs, leaving three children without a father. These, I thought, added strongly regrettable elements to his life story.
Boy, was I wrong! Jackson has tons of fans, many of whom won't hear a word said against him. A typical response was titled, "Hateful and disgusting Comments in your article." People expressed a widespread belief that Jackson had in no way altered his appearance! "Michale Jackoson got vitiligo and lupus which caused his skin color changed, don't you know that?" Of course, people holding that point of view aren't going to like me very well: "the author of this article is a bleeding F.O.O.L truly. All you wrote is misguided and false. Michael Jackson had vitiligo and lupus look up you ignorant person."
I guess I should have known that Michael Jackson, despite having declined in popularty over the years, thus incurring substantial financial liabilities, STILL had hundreds of thousands of fans. I was somewhat more surprised to learn that many people wouldn't hear a word against Serena Williams when she berated and threatened a line judge, then proved incapable of offering a decent apology.
But to make such an observation caused scores of people to defend Serena to the hilt around the specifics of the case: "The call was wrong. The line judge and the person who trained her are inept. When someone works and trains as hard as Serena Williams and is as great a Champion, has an error called against her in that tough of a match at that crucial time, well it speaks for itself." This led to a more general defense of her persona: "Serena Williams has always had to deal with overly critical announcers, tennis observers and those who just want to stir up hatred." All of this, of course, invited people who hate all PT bloggers - or is it me especially - to emerge from the woodwork: "wow ... a new low for all you closet psychologists." (Hey - I'm an out-of-the-closet psychologist!)
But the man whose groupies most surprised me was - Bob Dylan! Somewhere between his pissing off folk music fans for going electric and baffling popular music fans by singing in that particlar style of his, many people love the man - and I mean l-o-v-e! But - here's the irony - I recognized Dylan as a one-in-a-generation genius in my post, at the same time as I took him to task for his ungenerous behavior towards former lover Joan Baez.
But, it turned out, my greatest sin was to refer to Dylan as appearing "demented." Wow - that one word brought the wrath of the gods down on me: "I think it is rude that you say dylan looks demented. I think that is almost antisemitic." Antisemitic! And on and on: "What do you mean Dylan looks demented? I have to say that sounds strange coming from someone with so many letters behind his name. Even the scantiest knowledge of Dylan's work in recent years would show that he is still a unique voice in American culture."
Remember, I spoke with feeling about Dylan's unique societal position in my post, referring to him as the "voice of a generation." But there's no satisfying true Dylan believers (the last one quoted, by the way, goes by the moniker "Louis the King").
And, so, I learned that saying negative things about people with groupies - even when balanced by great praise for the same person - will get many people really, really pissed off at you.