by Jake Block
“Empty vessels make the most sound.”
Andy Warhol’s statement, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” first appearing in a program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet, in Stockholm, Sweden has given hope to two generations of wannabes and “special flowers,” who crave the attention of the masses, but have little in the way of credible accomplishments to merit it. Granted, there were “special flowers and wannabes” before Warhol, but no one prior to that time had managed to paint the proper word picture quite so succinctly.
Had Andy Warhol lived until 1991 to see the advent of public internet, I think that even he would have been surprised at the prophetic nature of his comment, but less than impressed at the low bar that the internet set for fame. It soon became a place for the dregs of society to set up shop, with conspiracy theories, racist tropes and nonsensical rants evincing a dumbing down of society on a social networking level. Rather than becoming a tool for elevation and erudition, it became a melting pot of the illiterate and the unsophisticated, projecting an air of elitism.
And for those seeking something of consequence in their lives as they travel from page to page, they see the braggadocio of the internet heroes splashed on the walls of each page that they visit, big-assed memes that say nothing, supported by the sophomoric scrawling on walls that mean nothing to them, save the self-serving drivel they post. But, like the tags of orphan gangs in the ghettos and inner city turfs of the big cities around the world, they hint at importance, with nothing of substance to back the brag.
It’s always been clear to those of us who have paid attention to the way things actually work in this world that those with the least to say tend to say it the loudest. Politics, entertainment and the world of internet influencers demonstrate this concept much better than my poor few words could ever convey. The world has been conned into accepting the idea that truth and facts and reality mean nothing, when lies and “alternative realities” and artifice can entertain the masses. The masses will follow whomever can feed their bellies and keep them entertained. As it was in the glory days of the Roman Empire, so too is it today, in the empire of the plebeian “everyman.” To control the masses, all you need is bread and circus.
Anton LaVey spoke to this long ago, back in 1984, in the November/December issue of The Cloven Hoof, when he wrote:
“The most valuable commodity in the world is stimulation. If you can provide stimulation to others, you can succeed at whatever you wish. A person who is a stimulator is the exact opposite of a psychic vampire. A stimulator energizes. A psychic vampire depletes. It is often thought that some people thrive on misery. They don’t. They thrive on the stimulation that misery provides; it just so happens that misery serves as a welcome contrast to an otherwise boring existence.
Trendiness is seldom stimulating. Comfortable, yes, but not stimulating. Comfort can only run a second place to stimulation. Too much comfort leads to ennui. That’s why most people can only stand a limited amount of happiness. When their happiness becomes unbearable, they take to fighting among themselves in order to experience a break from monotony.
One who is praised for possessing “charisma” is simply one who is stimulating in a positive way. It is safe to say that a dull (un-stimulating) person will not be considered charismatic. Following this analysis, charisma is not necessarily a human quality. Indeed, it could easily be programmed into a robot (and has) who is infinitely more entertaining than those for whom it performs. Perhaps Dr. Frankenstein’s creation was “a modern Prometheus” in more ways than one. Considering the epimetheanism (*after-thinkers) of most humans, any Stimulator is ahead in the pack.
The fact that stimulation can be conferred by any number of non-human qualities shatters any delusion of “human values,” so dear to the human potentialists. A magnificent painting stimulates. So can a musical composition. Or a dead fly in a bowl of soup, because it is out of context. Likewise, a charismatic person is out of context to more pedestrian types surrounding him.
I’m not trying to say that a compelling conversationalist is like a dead fly in a bowl of soup; only that they are both out of context with their surroundings and therefore, stimulating.”
LaVey was a plain spoken man, not given very often to flowery speech and empty discourse. He had his “fifteen minutes of world fame,” and quite deservedly so. He spoke (and wrote) with the clarity of a man who had something of worth to say, and who wasn’t just “talking to hear his own head rattle,” as the “oldsters” used to say. I really wish there were a lot more men and women like him on the web today, but unfortunately, the more I see people prattling on and on, I’m reminded of an old southern saying about the preacher who “could talk and talk until he had something to say.”
I long ago gave up trying to protect people from themselves. If they want to listen to pseudoscience and the mysticism of theists offering supernaturalism and the comfortable mindlessness of it all, who the hell am I to waste valuable time in talking to walls? In 1939, Universal Pictures produced the film, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, starring W.C. Fields as “Larson E. Whipsnade.” In the film, Whipsnade says that his grandfather’s last words before they “sprung the trap,” (hanged him) were, “Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.”
LaVey spoke those same words to me one evening when I was talking about all of the gullible fools sending their hard earned money to support televangelists. They’ve stuck with me, and I’ve always thought it was a lesson well learned. There are no victims, only volunteers, and they’re eager to be taken by the hustlers in politics, in business scams and yes, in philosophy and religion. I’m of the belief that the best way to show up a scam artist, a charlatan or a mountebank is to let them talk. Sooner or later, they’ll out themselves.
Until that time, though, we have to wear our noise-canceling earphones to dull the drone of the empty vessels.