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Am I A Public Figure?

18 Feb

February 18th, 2011

A “public figure” is generally defined as a well-known or notable person. There is also a more precise legal term dealing with libel, slander, and defamation but since I am not contemplating any lawsuits I am not interested.

The term “public figure” takes in a broad range of people yet makes no distinction between celebrities or politicians, good role models or bad, famous or infamous. For example, a list of public figures may include:

Gandhi
Charlie Sheen
Stephen Hawking
Sally Ride
The Unabomber
Roger Clemens

As you can tell, most if not all of those names are recognizable no matter where you live. As the definition of “public figure” makes no distinction between “good” or “bad,” neither does the definition make a distinction based on geographical location. This therefore includes public figures who seemingly have no geographical location and are primarily found online, like Matt Drudge or Perez Hilton. Much like Gandhi and the Unabomber, no matter where you are people will know them, despite the fact that no one can tell you where Drudge or Hilton actually live.

It also does not matter how widely you are known. The Mayor of Toledo Ohio is a public figure despite not having been heard of in 99.999% of the United States.

Therefore, if being a public figure is not dependant on where you are, and it doesn’t matter how widely you are known, then it stands to reason then that alongside those public figures known countrywide or globally, there must also be local public figures known in smaller circles or communities. So my question is, if there is no upper limit, is there a lower limit? What is the threshold?

Am I a public figure?

I have already established that bloggers can be public figures. However, I am nowhere near the level of a Matt Drudge, Perez Hilton, or journalists who write for online news sites. But since I have already shown that the geographic size of your reach doesn’t matter, neither should the number of page views. Both show the level of distribution. And it doesn’t matter if I use my real name or not, unless you believe that Perez Hilton has that name on his birth certificate. (He was born Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.)

So if I am not as well-known as the big bloggers, and I am not known by nearly as many people, what, if anything, do we have in common that would make me a public figure?

What I believe we have in common is the fact that I put out my blogs for public consumption. That’s the key- public consumption. My site is available anywhere, all the time, for everyone. My blogs are intended for a large, broad audience of anyone and everyone who may find the site and read the content. There is no restricition, no privacy filter. By putting myself on a public stage I believe I have made myself a public figure. So let’s go back to the definition of “a well-known or notable person.” I won’t argue that I am a notable figure. I will defend my argument on the “well-known person” definition.

What is a “well-known person”? There is no precise definition. You could argue that a person who is well-known is someone who would be known by the majority of average people. By that logic, Dave Barry, a syndicated American columnist who has written thousands of columns, dozens of books, had movies based on his novels and a sitcom based on his life (“Dave’s World”) is not a public figure in France since the French are unlikely to know of him. That would make him an “American public figure,” but since we have seen that geographic location has no validity in the definition of a public figure, that can’t be. So Dave Barry is a public figure whether the French know him or not. (If you’ve read his work you know that Dave may appreciate that.)

So therefore, if a majority of people don’t know me, that doesn’t matter. What it comes down to is that I have put myself on the public stage so that I have the potential to be well-known. I am on the same public stage as Dave Barry, Darryl Strawberry, and Vince McMahon, just much farther back and in the shadows near the wings.

It also puts me on the same stage as Snookie, Paul Teutul Sr, and Sal the Barber from Scrappers, a fact which I feel comes with a certain level of irony.

I am, of course, not nearly as famous as Donald Trump’s hair, let alone Trump himself, and I don’t claim to be. I’ve got my little corner of the internet and in my little slice of Heaven, I am the most well-known public figure of all.

———
Just a quick Thank You and shout out to the Collective Detective stories at Skinner.fm, which got me thinking about this subject and I think the best compliment I can give JRD is the fact that I found his tales thought-provoking (as well as interesting.)

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