TMZ is an Antibody

I used to despise TMZ, and on a certain level I still do, but the NFL scandals of recent weeks have made me view the gossip titan in a different light.

Here's how the paradigm goes:

Celebrity is a kind of sickness that large societies get. An inevitable consequence of the human need to put a face on social roles. We raise up certain people as almost mythic figures because this is what guides us. We’re natural-born hero worshippers.

Gossip punctures that bubble. TMZ in particular has gotten very good at striking at institutions that otherwise go unquestioned. TMZ is our cultural immune system working overtime to keep the celebrity delusion in check.

There’s a problem, of course: without celebrity TMZ would die. The whole gossip and PR industry from Entertainment Tonight and Extra all the way down to the National Enquirer would implode without celebrities. So they keep making more in order to tear them down at harvest time. (That one South Park episode from years ago about Britney Spears had it tight.)

Whereas I used to focus on that dynamic—creating celebrities in order to destroy them—it is obvious to me that the impulse to create heroes is too great, and has too much positive value attached to it, for it to go away on its own. Which means we, Maker help us, we need TMZ to root through the filth and keep the institutions that profit from these role models in check.

It’s a dirty job, and done stupidly, but that’s humanity for you.