(PU) Last night, in another embarrassing lapse of security, nine Secret Service agents were trampled to death when approximately 658,000 U.S. residents of every race, age, and sexual orientation mobbed the White House, demanding admission to a state dinner. Most explained that their reason for crashing the dinner was to have a chance at appearing on reality TV.
Starry-eyed yet determined as they queued up to shake hands with the President, the interlopers denied having been inspired by Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the enterprising Virginia couple who sneaked into a previous White House dinner in hopes of persuading cable channel Bravo to choose them for its new reality show, “The Real Housewives of D.C.”
“Those has-beens,” sneered former Aetna customer service employee Amanda Weltschmerz, as she elbowed her way through the throng. Grabbing a reporter’s microphone, she continued, “Americans are tired of appearing only on photo ID’s and surveillance cameras. The one true way we’ll be seen as worthwhile in this society is to market ourselves, cut the balls off the competition, and become loveable mass media personalities, known by millions of faceless losers we’ll never meet. Yoo hoo, Mr. Comcast — I’m ready for my close-up.”
Ms. Weltschmerz added, wresting her arm away from a police officer, that her personal goal was to be chosen to appear on Sacked, a new cable television show in which recently laid-off office personnel are flown, free-of-charge, to Cayman Islands strip clubs, where they perform the latest exotic dances, as Goldman Sachs CEO’s stuff food stamps into their G-strings.
On a more educational note, several contestants from the upcoming History Channel show, I Am the Real Anastasia, compared the White House “uprising” to the 1917 storming of the Winter Palace. One czarina-wannabe, however, was quick to add that similarities stopped there.
“Whereas 20th century masses wanted bread and freedom,” said Imperial Russian Princess #28 (a/k/a Angie Kronstadt), “today’s serfs care little for freedom, and desire to be emotionally fed. I shall ask my father the Czar to destroy them.”
Indeed, according to a recent poll conducted by the Coalition for the Nameless, an organization dedicated to defending the rights of the “publicity-challenged,” 86% of impoverished Americans now feel it is “passé,” if not downright “communist,” to beg for quarters and half-eaten sandwiches. Most of those polled felt, conversely, that doing all manner of self-aggrandizing, dangerous, and/or degrading things in order to become instantly famous was a “good idea,” and that, once people are famous, they naturally acquire homes, jobs, healthcare, and love.
Niles Bupkis, former software designer, emptied several trays of White House hors d’oeuvres into his backpack as he explained: “It’s more than losing my material way of life. It’s knowing that my government, in order to stabilize an economy that betrayed me, is waging an endless war, destroying the planet, and that I am powerless to change anything. I have no voice, no place, and no purpose — I get that. So can I at least be on TV?”
The growing demand for fame has led many scientists and government officials to compare mental health in the United States to other vanishing natural resources, such as air, soil, and water. Some Democratic legislators have suggested a top-down approach to the problem. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) plans to introduce a bill enabling the federal government to sponsor TV airtime during which each U.S. citizen would be guaranteed his or her own “reality” program for 15 seconds. “We had to scale back from our 15-minutes-of-fame goal,” stated Mr. Sanders, “since our domestic budget is virtually shot. Thanks again, AIG.” The Senate is scheduled to debate Tuesday on whether the bill should include illegal aliens.
Most Congress members, however, oppose the bill, arguing that the public’s deepening mental illness should be addressed by the private sector. The New York Times has, in fact, already instituted a regular column for the “Emotionally Neediest Cases.”
The heartbreaking case of Frank Zilchworth, an out-of-work realtor, attracted national attention. The Times portrayed a man so emotionally starved and abused that, to garner any self-esteem, he was forced to spend hours of his workday going online to news sites and typing racist comments after stories involving Arabs or Muslims. Wrote the Times: “Frank worries that, as his life worsens, the only thing that will stop him from shooting his wife, his children, then himself, is the open adoration of millions of non-Muslim TV viewers. Or maybe a book contract. You can save Frank — and his family — or you can turn this page.”
Back at the White House, 658,000 fame-seekers have entrenched themselves, bringing out sleeping bags and toothbrushes. Finding momentary strength in numbers, they have announced that, until each and every one of them gets on TV, no one will leave. White House security guards, on orange alert, are nervously locking and unlocking their weapons, while furtively preening and smiling into news cameras.
Meanwhile, overhead, a giant helium balloon floats by. It may or may not contain the entire disadvantaged second grade class of P.S. 18 in the South Bronx. Is this a cheap publicity stunt so the kids can get their greedy little faces on milk cartons?
No one notices.
Susie Day is Assistant Editor of Monthly Review.