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Caroline Flack’s death shows how social media has democratised cruelty | Richard Seymour | Opinion

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The days after the death of Caroline Flack have seen an admirably sober, reflective mood on the part of politicians and the public. Labour leadership candidates are denouncing press intrusion and calling for regulation of social media, while Downing Street wants social media firms to be more proactive in removing “unacceptable content”. Journalists are contrite over allegations that the tabloids hounded Flack. After the feast, the penitence.

Amid the contrition, of course, everyone is searching for someone else to blame. Social media users blame trolls. Politicians blame social media. The press blames reality television – a format that specialises in “interpersonal torture”, as Douglas Rushkoff puts it.

But this problem can’t be reduced to a single source, and Flack’s trials in particular seem to have been orchestrated by an informal alliance between the press, social media, and police and prosecutors – who furnish the titillating details for lurid headlines and furious tweets. But there is no single villain in this coalition of moral persecution: in fact, it involves us all.

Flack was about to be prosecuted over allegations of assaulting her partner, despite him withdrawing his complaint. Most of us know next to nothing about what really happened. However, the press that had happily built her up as a star also delighted in taking her down, cackling about Caroline “Whack”. On the back of these headlines, armies of online vigilantes were equally happy to harass someone about whom they knew little, often acting as judge, jury and executioner while dispensing with the presumption of innocence. What is really happening here is that a form of punitive moralism towards celebrities, long associated with the tabloid press and the police – whose alliance was exposed by the phone-hacking scandal – has now been democratised. The issue is not unkindness or random bad behaviour, but a cultural system of public sadism.

This is obscured by the fact that such sadism usually has some virtuous justification. The former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald has offered the state’s rationale for prosecuting Flack after the allegations were withdrawn, rightly noting that victims often withdraw their complaints under pressure from their abusers. The tabloids, meanwhile, have their own justifications for exposing private lives. “Privacy is for paedos,” the News of the World hack Paul McMullan told the Leveson inquiry.In all his years of spying on celebrities for public titillation, he had “never found anybody doing any good”.

Online culture has its own forms of justification for vigilantism. The hashtag #believesurvivors, for example, has often been interpreted on social media to mean that every horrendous allegation is automatically true. There are good reasons for all of this: abusers exert pressure on their victims; the criminal justice system is under increasing public pressure to rectify its mishandling of such crimes; privacy can be used to shield bad behaviour; and survivors are all too often not taken seriously. Yet we have already seen examples – including the collapse of Operation Midland and related inquiries into elite child abuse – of how public shaming, online and off, can be used to destroy people’s lives, even if the charges turn out to be baseless. But the dirty secret in all these episodes is the pleasure we all take in participating.

What is at stake in the monstering of celebrities is a prurient relish in the excesses and meltdowns of cultural elites – a form of what Theodor Adorno called “malicious egalitarianism”. If you’re in the public eye, it is said, nastiness goes with the terrain. It is the quid pro quo for privilege. Many people online now argue that the consequences of such attacks usually aren’t even serious. “Just about everybody ends up fine,” the columnist Lyta Gold writes, regarding “cancel culture” with “their careers intact”. Yet this is a standard of “harm” that says it doesn’t matter what torment a person endures – if they’re not dead, or in career oblivion, then they’re basically fine.

But now it is not just the ostensibly powerful who are in our sights. The upshot of social media is that we’re all in the public eye, all celebrities. An entire industry has developed – call it the social industry – which converts social life into celebrity competition. The social media platforms, along with a network of advertisers, PR firms, multinationals, celebrities, news media and gaming corporations connected to them, have helped create a highly profitable new ecology of public visibility.

Anyone with an account has a public image – and, by deciding what to post, a public relations strategy. Anyone can become a magnet for the volatile feelings associated with what psychiatrists call “celebrity worship syndrome”, which burden the sufferer with anxiety and depression. Over time, especially as the follower is disappointed by the object of their worship, these feelings segue into a no less passionate loathing, or even a desire to destroy the celebrity.

The social industry did not invent these tendencies. Even McMullan admitted that his paper’s articles about Jennifer Elliott, daughter of the actor Denholm Elliott, may have contributed to her suicide. Richard Littlejohn’s hounding of the trans woman Lucy Meadows in the Daily Mail contributed, according to the coroner, to her suicide. However, the social industry has democratised cruelty, ramped up popular sadism and enrolled all of us into these rituals of punishment.

Most ingeniously, the industry sells us a myth of celebrity while leveraging the reality that celebrity makes people miserable. The benders and breakdowns of celebrities, their horrified distress signals as their lives are taken over by their public persona, are well known. Less well known is that the rate of suicide for celebrities is anything between seven and several thousand times higher than that for the wider population. And now their breakdowns have become riveting social media spectacles, with celebrities often driven over the edge by supposedly outraged followers.

Yet if all of us are now celebrities – or at least all of us on social media – then that cruelty is also masochism. The thrill of the chase is accompanied by the thrill of realising that we are all at risk, all potential targets. Today’s bloodhound is tomorrow’s fox. So the more we extol the virtues we find wanting in others as we take them down on spurious grounds, from Natalie Wynn to Jameela Jamil, the more we are gleefully setting ourselves up for the same fall.

This is why the ritual calls for kindness that follow tragedies like Flack’s suicide are ineffectual, and as hollow as new year pledges of sobriety and clean living. To take kindness seriously, we need to confront not only the machinery that loops us into sadomasochistic frenzies for the purposes of generating profitable flows of attention and engagement. We also need to take seriously our own pleasure in, and fascination with, personal destruction.

Richard Seymour is a political activist and author. His latest book is The Twittering Machine

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This Major Celebrity Is A Huge Fan Of RHOP Karen Huger

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Karen Huger


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Karen Huger in 2017

It looks like the “Grande Dame” Karen Huger of the  Real Housewives of Potomac has a new fan…and it’s Rihanna!

According to Page Six, Rihanna popped into Huger’s Instagram live on August 5 to show her support. Rihanna, who commented as her Instagram handle, @badgalriri, wrote, “Proud of you Karen,” during the live session. Huger took notice to Rihanna’s attention, reposting a screenshot of the Page Six story on her Instagram page with the caption, “So fun.”

On Twitter, Huger also Tweeted about Rihanna’s support, writing, “The power of sisterhood truly lifting and building one another is truly UNSTOPPABLE thank you @rihanna #rhop @BravoTV


Rihanna Is A Big Real Housewives Fan

Given her comments on Huger’s Instagram live, it looks like Rihanna is a big fan of Bravo and The Real Housewives franchises. In a May 2018 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards revealed that Rihanna was a big fan of her franchise.

“One of my favorite stories is my daughter was at a karaoke place and someone came in and there’s like a commotion, like a big entourage,” Richards told The Los Angeles Times, “She turned around and was talking to her friends and then she felt a tap on her shoulder and she turned around and it was Rihanna. And Rihanna goes, ‘Oh my God, I’m obsessed with you.’ And my daughter started to cry and she goes, ‘I’m so confused, what’s happening?’”

Real Housewives of New York member Leah McSweeney also has a connection to Rihanna, according to Bravo. “One of my most memorable New York City nights had to have been when I went to a Met Gala after party,” McSweeney told Bravo in February, “I got introduced to Rihanna and she thought she knew me already — and she gave me a huge hug and was like, ‘I know you!’ and I was like, ‘Actually, you don’t know me. But, you wear my clothing line. You wear my brand, and thank you for that.’”

McSweeney continued, “She was like, ‘You’re the girl that does that brand?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah!’ She was like, ‘Oh my god, come here!’ [She] gave me a huge hug again and she was just so cool. That’s definitely one of my best New York nights.”


Rihanna Also Loves Other Shows On The Bravo Network

In 2015, Rihanna also revealed that she was a huge fan of Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset. One of the show’s stars, Reza Farahan, ran into Rihanna at the gym, and told Bravo all about the encounter. “She said, ‘I don’t want to be ‘that’ person at the gym, but you’re crazy…love your show,” Farahan told Bravo in 2015, “Her trainer then sat her down on the rowing machine next to me and apparently she was trying to keep up with me.”

Farahan continued, “She couldn’t have been any nicer! She’s very respectful, polite and just as beautiful at the gym working out, as she is one her magazine spreads. Although I just thanked her very politely, as my fat ass was totally out of breath…I was rowing like my life depended on it, but I was doing cartwheels on the inside!”

Farahan also Tweeted about his experience with the star, writing, “This going 2 sound unbelievable, but was just working out w/my trainer & @rihanna interrupted me to give me & #Shahs a compliment @Bravotv

READ NEXT: Candiace Dillard Just Announced a Major Change In Her Life




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Buying the House Next Door — Is This Celebrity Trend Right for You?

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What do Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? Besides scandals, they have all bought the house next door. Why are they doing this, and is this a practice the rest of us might want to consider? Buying the house next door might make sense for wealthy titans, but is doing so a good strategy for the average homeowner or investor?

Why the celebs do it

Take Jeff Bezos

Buying the home next door is part of his MO — he’s known for this. Bezos, the richest person on the planet, bought several properties in the 1990s that surrounded his Seattle estate and, in 2014, bought the home next door to his Beverly Hills home. Most recently, as you might have heard, Bezos shelled out $165 big ones (million) for David Geffen’s old estate, 10 acres in Beverly Hills. And even with this purchase, Bezos still had a need to buy the house next door, a quaint two-story traditional, for a mere $10 million.

Why this newest house next door? No one knows for sure.

A home office, perhaps? A guest house? Staff quarters? If you’re the richest person in the world, it really doesn’t matter the reason. You buy because you can. But for everyday investors, it’s usually important to have a plan.

How about Ellen?

Ellen, like any true real estate investor, is in the game partly to make money and partly for the sheer love of real estate. Ask anyone who buys multiple homes, and they’ll probably tell you that they are driven to do so. And that drive is one of the reasons DeGeneres buys homes. Once, in 2008, she bought the two homes that were next door to hers.

Why that acquisition? To get married.

DeGeneres has been buying and selling luxury properties in California since 2003. The ’08 purchase of a 9,200-square-foot property led to the acquisition of two surrounding homes in order to make a compound of sorts, and this is where DeGeneres was married.

And Mark Zuckerberg?

Zuckerberg often buys homes that surround his. Probably his most famous house-next-door purchase was with his Palo Alto home, where he bought four surrounding properties.

Why buy four homes next door? In true ironic fashion, Zuckerberg, hold onto your seats, buys surrounding properties for… privacy reasons.

In this case, Zuckerberg bought the surrounding homes to prevent a new-build home that would have been tall enough to allow the neighbors a view inside his personal bedroom. Rather than deal with that, Zuckerberg bought all the neighboring homes to prevent taller new builds. (All neighboring homes need to stay lower than his.) It appears that this Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) CEO sure does care about his own privacy.

Strategy for the average investor

If you’re pondering whether buying the house next door would be a smart investment, you probably aren’t buying for the same reason the celebs do. You’re probably interested in making money. And there are two good options for achieving this: Rent the property or flip it.

Just like with any investment, however, you need to determine whether the numbers work and whether there’s a market for your potential rental or flip. In other words, it could be the height of convenience to buy the house next door, but unless it makes good financial sense, you might need to pass… unless you’re like a celebrity and money is no object.

Living next door to your renter: pros and cons

Buying a house next door that you intend to rent to tenants could work out well for you if you’re in a good rental market, but even if you are, you could find yourself in an awkward situation when worlds collide, so to speak.

Pros

As long as you and your tenant can maintain a professional business relationship, the management of the property will probably be easier for you when it’s right next door. You’ll know right away if your tenants move someone new in or try to sneak in a new pet, for example.

Communication can be more relaxed, as you and your tenant can possibly talk to each other, as neighbors do.

Cons

Living next door to your tenants could prove to be too close for comfort. If you become friends, it will likely be more difficult to enforce the lease terms, such as fees for late rent.

Your tenant could feel freer to hit you up every time something needs attention, including small things they would probably take care of on their own if they weren’t right next door, such as changing the filter on the fridge.

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Today’s famous birthdays list for August 9, 2020 includes celebrities Gillian Anderson, Anna Kendrick

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Top celebrity birthdays on August 9, 2020

Birthday wishes go out to Gillian Anderson, Anna Kendrick  and all the other celebrities with birthdays today.  Check out our slideshow below to see photos of famous people turning a year older on August 9th and learn an interesting fact about each of them.

Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott attends the LA Special Screening of “All The Bright Places” at the ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Actor Sam Elliott turns 76

Fun fact: Was nominated for an Oscar for his role in ‘A Star is Born’

Eva Longoria, Melanie Griffith

Melanie Griffith, right, hugs Eva Longoria following a ceremony honoring Eva longoria with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday, April 16, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Actress Melanie Griffith turns 63

Fun fact: actors Don Johnson and Antonio Banderas are both former husbands

Deion Sanders

FILE – In this Thursday, June 23, 2016, file photo, Deion Sanders, Pro Football Hall of Famer, speaks during a news conference, in New York. Sanders co-founded a multi-campus charter school called Prime Prep Academy in Texas in 2012. He coached there and served in other capacities but had a rocky relationship with administrators and was twice fired and rehired. The school’s enrollment slid amid financial and administrative problems, and it closed in early 2015. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)AP

NFL Hall of Famer and sportscaster Deion Sanders turns 53

Fun fact: Once appeared in an M.C. Hammer music video

Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson attends the 2020 BAFTA tea party at the Four Seasons Hotel on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Actress Gillian Anderson turns 52

Fun fact: Born in the United States but spent most of her childhood years growing up in England

Eric Bana, Connie Britton

Eric Bana, left, and Connie Britton present the award for outstanding variety talk series at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Actor Eric Bana turns 52

Fun fact: Started his career as a comic in Australia

Arielle Goldrath and Kevin McKidd

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 04: (L-R) Arielle Goldrath and Kevin McKidd attend The Art Of Elysium Presents WE ARE HEAR’S HEAVEN 2020 at Hollywood Palladium on January 04, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for The Art of Elysium)Getty Images for The Art of Ely

Actor Kevin McKidd turns 47

Fun fact: Voiced a Mandalorian soldier in the animated show ‘Star Wars: Rebels’

Jessica Capshaw

HOLLYWOOD, CA – SEPTEMBER 26: Jessica Capshaw at the Premiere Of HBO’s “Spielberg” at Paramount Studios on September 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)Getty Images

Actress Jessica Capshaw turns 44

Fun fact: In addition to her longtime role on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ Capshaw also appeared in an episode of ‘ER’ early in her career

Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick arrives for the world premiere of “The Day Shall Come” at the Paramount Theatre during the South by Southwest Film Festival on Monday, March 11, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP

Actress Anna Kendrick turns 35

Fun fact: Was nominated for a Tony Award when she was only 12

More celebrities with birthdays today

Actor Cynthia Harris is 86. Jazz musician Jack DeJohnette is 78. Comedian-director David Steinberg is 78. Singer Barbara Mason is 73. Actor Amanda Bearse is 62. Rapper Kurtis Blow is 61. TV host Hoda Kotb is 56. Actor Pat Petersen is 54. Producer-director McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nichol) is 52. TV anchor Chris Cuomo is 50. Actor Thomas Lennon is 50. Rock musician Arion Salazar is 50. Rapper Mack 10 is 49. Actor Nikki Schieler Ziering is 49. Latin rock singer Juanes is 48. Actor Liz Vassey is 48. Actor Rhona Mitra is 45. Actor Texas Battle is 44. Actor Ashley Johnson is 37.

Other popular or historical birthdays on August 9th

Amedeo Avogadro, scientist

Smokey the Bear (first poster released)

Whitney Houston, singer

Brett Hull, NHL Hall of Famer (56)

with The Associated Press and HistoryOrb.com

celebrity fun facts collage

Prior celebrity fun facts (Associated Press)

Celebrity fun facts

Emilia Clarke

Sophie Turner

Jason Momoa

Danielle Fishel and the ‘Boy Meets World’ cast

Chris Hemsworth

Amanda Seyfried

Kat Dennings

Robert Downey Jr.

Alyson Hannigan

Tiffani Amber Thiessen

Miley Cyrus

Emma Stone

Seth MacFarlane

Mark Hamill

Jennifer Lawrence & Mila Kunis

David Hasselhoff

Lindsay Lohan

Natalie Portman

George Clooney

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Emma Watson

Alec Baldwin

Jenna Fischer

Kate Mara

Jennifer Aniston

Alan Alda

Betty White

Dave Matthews

Danica McKellar

Taylor Swift

Britney Spears

Bill Nye

Scarlett Johansson

Rachel McAdams

Demi Moore

Julia Roberts

celebrity collage

A look at prior movie and tv-related fun fact lists (Associated Press)

Movie and TV fun facts & more

10 famous directors who shot episodes of ‘The Office’

15 fun facts about ‘The Office’

The Royal Family: Who is next in line for the British Throne?

30 celebrities who were guest stars on ‘The Office’

88 celebrities who were born in Canada

In memoriam: Celebrities we lost in 2019 | 2018

Oscars hosts since 1989

25 Fun facts about ‘Friends’ | 25 celebrities who appeared on ‘Friends’

25 actors you didn’t know were on ‘Game of Thrones’

25 actors you didn’t know appeared in ‘Boy Meets World’

The MCU timeline: From ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Avengers: Endgame’

20 fun facts about ‘The Phantom Menace’ for its 20th anniversary

15 fun facts about ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ to celebrate its 15th anniversary

20 fun facts about ‘Love Actually’

Relive your childhood with these 120 Hanna-Barbera cartoons

Fun facts about ‘The Big Lebowski’ and 20 other movies turning 20 in 2018

Fun facts about ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ for its 20th anniversary

Celebrate ‘Dirty Dancing’ turning 30 with these fun facts

20 fun facts about ‘Scream’ for its 20th anniversary

‘Romeo + Juliet’ turns 20: Where are they now

Want to see more celebrity birthdays as well as additional fun facts posts? Follow me on Facebook for the latest by clicking the “like” button below.

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