In the space of a week, “Joe the Plumber” from Toledo, Ohio has become a minor celebrity. Since he asked Barak Obama on the campaign trail about the effect of Obama’s tax policy last week, he was repeatedly used by John McCain as an example and archetype of a small business owner.
I think the story is a bit of an archetype of inadvertent celebrity and dirt-digging that just about anyone is vulnerable to when their private life is thrown into the prevailing media orgy. Dirt is dug with little concern about the effect on the unwitting subject.
So what happens next in the current environment of 24 hour news and general media frenzy? Joe the Plumber is not only thrown into the spotlight, but his life is laid under the microscope. All because he dared to step into a camera’s eye by asking serious question to a political candidate. Instead of a serious discussion of tax policy and its effect on business growth, the media goes after Joe as if his private life is newsworthy. And it provides an illustration of how much info about a private citizen can be quickly ferreted out in a very brief period.
Within 24 hours of the Debate, Joe’s records have been pulled and supposedly newsworthy tidbits are dangled before the public.
Stop the presses, he’s not really named Joe! It’s Samuel J. Wurzelbacher!
What else is he hiding?
He’s a registered Republican (voters lists are public and he registered for the GOP to vote in the primary).
His name is misspelled on the voters list!
He’s not a plumber! OMG!
Not scandalous enough! Get us more!
He owes taxes and a lien has been filed against his house. (Read all about it: The Associated Press: Is ‘Joe the Plumber’ a plumber? That’s debatable.)
How is this relevant? How is this newsworthy?
Meanwhile, he was the star of a Saturday Night Live Thursday night special as John McCain’s invisible friend with a magical plunger (along with Simon the unicorn who lives under McCain’s bed). The real Joe the Plumber has also been offered $800,000 for the joetheplumber.com domain name.
The man is not Britney Spears and he didn’t make himself a public figure. I’m left thinking “leave Joe alone”.
But maybe he’s not a victim of zealous media and doesn’t want to be left alone. Apparently, he’s passed on an invitation to appear with McCain at a campaign rally since he’ll be in New York for TV interviews.
But ask yourself: what would the media be able to find out about you if you dared speak at a public forum?
For a chuckle, check out: What is “Joe the Plumber” hiding from the American people?.