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Celebrity, Authority and The Ghost of Tom Joad

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Written by Spencer Jarrold

Our discussion in class about the influence of both the media and particular people in the media on people in terms of voting really had me thinking about a whole realm of things.

The Ghost of Tom Joad is quite obviously a starkly political album, akin to Nebraska. (Clearly in search of some direction or reasoning; "Waitin' on the Ghost of Tom Joad" lends itself quite easily to a relationship with politics). So, with this political album, you get Bruce Springsteen as a political figure of sorts, or at least a person who has political ideas that are going to be released by the media.

Our discussion went in a tangential direction from there, with mixed discussion of the influence of celebrities on political mindsets of certain people, eventually leading to the comment that I've mulled over the most in the time since class: someone said something that came down to us living in Madison, and having "better" access, citing Ron Paul's recent appearance as evidence.

I think the comment disturbed me because it reflects what I see as a major problem of overgeneralization and (can be non-deliberate or deliberate) bias within the media and in all of us as a nation (it's really hard to say which is truly reflecting the other).

It appears as overgeneralization and -- in this case non-deliberate -- bias to me for a few reasons, most notably of which is that one of the crucial elements of the statement (and I'm not singling out this statement in particular, I just think it's the kind of thing that happens all the time) is trusting one source of information over another. This presents a fallacy within the argument because it's the very same logic of the opposing argument (if someone were to argue for celebrities as a valid outlet). For some reason, though, we look to certain outlets or figures as instantaneously superior or more trustworthy than another -- in this case, Ron Paul. Which brought me to my next question...

Why are we trusting of authority in our society?

It's an old, even clichéd question from a well-populated side that is so often seen as the "counter," or the "other" side.

Ron Paul is a politician, so naturally he's a great source of political information, right? For some reason, that's a common sentiment (after all, even if you disagree with Ron Paul's arguments, you're still agreeing that you're in the same argument). So, what about Ron Paul gives him authority to certain people?

I look at Ron Paul as a human being, nothing more, nothing less. He is not to blame for being an authority figure, nor is he to blame for garnering people's trust. Ultimately, though, what is unsettling to me is that everyone I've ever trusted is a human being; anyone who's ever had any authority is a human being, and humans always perceive the world differently -- everything is subjective. So who is there to trust? Why would I trust any outlet of the media more than another? You can never avoid bias because that's what everyone's perception is, some opinions just happen to coincide with each other, and people think bias is somehow more rare than it is.

America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom you've lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn't belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don't care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve. --Tom Morello

Spencer Jarrold is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, currently considering English and Political Science as prospective majors. His hobbies are playing sports and listening to and playing music.