With increasing frequency, I've been seeing or hearing people make statements like "Don't question that move, Kasparov is God," and so forth. Well here's news: these folks, be they game players, authors, directors, musicians, etc. are not, in fact, gods. They are humans, and have all the problems attendant to humanity. They've made big mistakes, written lousy prose, hit off notes, and in general have occasionally fucked up like everybody else. Just because a given person has accomplished something important, perhaps something that has changed your life (or even your entire culture) dramatically, it doesn't mean that they are perfect.

Hero worship wouldn't be a problem if people didn't think that their hero's position on an issue was some kind of trump card in an argument. Little is more intellectually irritating than mentioning in conversation that, say, Pynchon might tend towards excessive red herring use, only to receive "No, you're wrong, Pynchon is a god" as a reply. This is not a valid argument! Either give the reasons that my position is incorrect or concede me the point, but don't just say essentially that because he's your hero he is beyond any criticism.

My pet theory is that the popularization of virtue ethics over the last fifty years or so is at least partially responsible for this mistake. Aristotle taught that you should strive for your own balance, become virtuous by consciously avoiding excesses and deficiencies of character. Beginning in the 1950's, Western thought began to pervert this into the idea of attaining virtue by emulating a virtuous person. Bernard Mayo, notably, recast the traditional hero not just as someone to look up to, but as infallible and to be idolized and imitated in every sense practical. In other words Mayo (and a host of others, no doubt) gave heros, god-like status, apparently without even considering that they are just as prone to error as the rest of us.

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