The Wall Street Journal back in '08 posed questions about the phenomenon, and this blogger discussed it further. Naturally the old stories about how young women fainted at early performances by Frank Sinatra were brought up.
That story was before my time, of course, but I read of how young 'bobby-soxers', as teenage girls were called then, swooned over Sinatra. Why? I suppose it's a matter of taste, as to which actor or performer is swoon-worthy, but Sinatra never seemed so to me.
But later on I read of how some of these early events were staged; young women were paid to swoon and faint at Sinatra appearances, and the 'bandwagon effect' went into action. It works sometimes. It's natural to wonder, then, how many of these manias for various celebrities have been staged, or at least initially sparked by acting on the part of paid audience members.
The Washington Post report confirmed the story that a “press agent later conceded that at least part of the Paramount hysteria was staged”. The press agent admitted:
“We hired girls to scream when he sexily rolled a note,” the agent said. “But the girls we hired to scream swooned, and hundreds more we didn’t hire swooned with them.”
So why did the women who weren’t paid scream for Frank? George Evans understood that people tend to imitate one another. By paying a few women to scream it eventually lead to more screaming and a huge contract with Colombia [sic] Records. Terms, like social proof, informational cascades and bandwagon effect essentially describe the same thing – that people tend to look to others to make their own decisions. The women in the crowd that night decided copy the others who were paid to “swoon”.
Read the rest of the article for some interesting mention of 'informational cascades', the bandwagon effect, and other mass phenomena.
Show biz is one thing, but choosing the so-called leader of the free world based on this kind of manipulation is pretty disturbing. Could our Founding Fathers have dreamt of this kind of thing going on?
But then it's all show biz now, isn't it? Presidents or president-wannabes as celebrities, and vice-versa.