I was not educated in Mass Media, but I am aware of one important factor behind the scenes of media that most others aren’t, and that is the domination of a certain personality type—the Compensatory Narcissist. Wherever fame goes, there goes the Compensatory Narcissist, because fame is his everything. If suddenly Physics became a celebrity field, it would be inundated with Compensatory Narcissists, people who are very smart, and who can play the role of a great physicist, but who deep down are in it not because of any vested interest in science, but because fame is one of the rewards for success in that field. They invade it, overrun it, and change it to make it easier (with careful media cooperation).

What is the Compensatory Narcissist? Go down your celebrity list, they are all Compensatory Narcissists, hurried lovers of themselves driven by feelings of extra-human potential. They didn’t fall into fame, my friends. They are the born stars of their immediate social circles and they won’t be satisfied until they are the stars of all social circles. The drive to fame is in them like a mania. Whatever “art” they practice is chosen based on the conveniences of its path-to-fame structure. These are very attractive, talented, charismatic people—driven, energized, infectious. Unfortunately the impatient rush to fame which is the core value of this personality type does not allow time for patient, finely crafted work. The work is rushed, half-finished, hovering in mediocre territory. They must fill in the holes of their rushed art with their magnitude of aura. A spirit of Compensatory Narcissism dominates the fame industries -- don't expect a masterpiece, love me for my potential, don't notice quality lapse. Some blame the push of greedy businessmen, but they are also under the spell of the stars, the mind control of the Compensatory Narcissist. What is that “Compensatory”? Are they compensating? Yes, but in an abstract way. They seek to offset their position in the great chain of being. As personality takes shape, most feel content with status as a human, but the Compensatory Narcissist feels inordinately low in human anonymity. As narcissists they are in love with themselves, and thus they especially despise their mortality. To be human is a work sentence, followed by a death sentence.

They reason that through fame they can become more than just another human being waiting to die. They can become a higher type, closer to the angels. They can step up the chain, leaving mortals behind. To be known and admired across the world is to enter another plane of existence, to effortlessly possess enormous media power. Media power is all power. And they think: maybe I won’t die. In the examples of fame which inspire them, in the personae of their heroes, they do not see consciousness of death.

Downsides of fame? Fame gone wrong? No. This is never thought of but always realized because the tragedy of every Compensatory Narcissist (and the reason we should in the end sympathize with them) is that they can only produce creatively BEFORE fame, when their immense lust for fame is powerful enough to motivate the great chore of patient creativity. After fame, the motivation is gone, and the embarrassment of public decline immediately begins as all the contractually obligatory “art” steadily nosedives into unremarkableness. The artist knows it is happening, but cannot stop it. With narcissism wounded and dying in feelings of lost talent, they become all Compensation: changes of “direction” compensate for a lack of new ideas; new alliances conceal lapsing taste; new environments betray crises of identity. A career devolves to the marketing of an excuse on our TVs every night—the same tragedy story in perpetual rerun—our deified type always center stage—the tragedy of Compensatory Narcissism—8 pm, 9 central.

The Compensatory Narcissist
copyright 2006, by Christopher Duckett