Submitted by William Puchert
The late visual artist Andy Warhol was once quoted with the line, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” This is believed to be how the phrase “15 minutes of fame” was coined. It arose from when photographer Nat Finkelstein was photographing Warhol in 1966 for a proposed book and a crowd gathered trying to get into the pictures. Warhol supposedly remarked that everyone wants to be famous, to which Finkelstein replied, “Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy.”
While there are some legitimate concerns for the devastating economic effects of a prolonged COVID-19 related shutdown of businesses and services, these “so-called protests” are being orchestrated for political interests and are attracting right-wing extremists, militias and conspiracy theorists. Additionally their behavior, gathering in close company without wearing masks, also endangers the public with the potential spread of the coronavirus. Not to mention, spreading misinformation that the “pandemic is a hoax.”
Furthermore, these unsafe gatherings with individuals fully armed with semi-automatic rifles and, in one instance in North Carolina, an anti-tank missile launcher, is not exercising First and Second Amendment Rights. Rather, it is a form of intimidation that has led to, in one instance, the closure of the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan “after protesters, some armed, entered the building and demanded to be allowed into the legislative chambers, which have been closed due to social distancing measures…(and screamed) at law enforcement officers who were keeping them out of the chambers.”
What would the Secret Service’s reaction be to similar behavior outside of the White House? I think we all know the answer to that one. Furthermore, would we tolerate fully armed Islamic extremists with ISIS flags parading down our streets and rallying in front of our capitol buildings?
I am a former journalist, so I understand the spectacle of this is sensational and newsworthy. However, I believe the time for giving the stage to those carrying out intimidation tactics and hate-filled messages is over.
The medical community, who are on the front lines fighting this pandemic, are the true heroes. Their stories of bravery, compassion and self-sacrifice who deserve the media-attention that is being shown on these selfish “useful idiots” at the reopening protests.
One local story that really made my sympathize with our medical professionals was reading the story of Renown CEO Tony Slonim, who lost his father to the Coronavirus, and was, like so many other families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, not able to properly grieve. I can’t imagine what it is like being one of our community’s leaders fighting this pandemic on a daily basis and bearing that type personal loss.
Over 20 years ago, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw wrote a book that profiled those who grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II, chronicling their common struggle and personal sacrifices and titled the book, “The Greatest Generation.”
Brokaw surmised that these men and women, who make up many of our parents and grandparents’ generation, didn’t fight for “their 15 minutes of fame” but because it was the “right thing to do.”
If we lived by the standards of “The Greatest Generation,” I’ll bet you would see a lot more people wearing face masks today.
As the chronicles of history are being written in this COVID-19 pandemic by our media, producers and editors, anchors and reporters alike should begin to ask themselves: Are there a better group of people that deserve “the next 15 minutes of fame?” and by continuing to focus media attention on the reopen protesters, what our will our generation be labeled in 50 years?
William Puchert is a Reno resident, a former journalist and local progressive.
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