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15 minutes of fame by Jim Peron

15 minutes of fame

by Jim Peron

Andy Warhol once said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. I don’t recommend it.

My 15 minutes, in fact, dragged out for days. But the fame felt more like the Spanish Inquisition. It was and is emotionally traumatic.

I find myself becoming agoraphobic. There is an anxiety and fear of going anyplace public. Will people believe what they heard? Will they even remember accurately what they heard? How will they react? Am I safe? It’s a gnawing consistent dread.

It gets worse. Even though I know I¹m not guilty of the crime I was accused of I wonder if it is finished. When one set of accusations fall flat will they merely be replaced with another set? There is constant apprehension. Is it over or the eye of the storm? How can one ever be sure?

When a part-time employee of mine was arrested 20 years ago I soon heard that it was I who was arrested. That died out quickly as the truth was clearly apparent. Then a few years ago these claims showed up on the Internet but the story was vastly exaggerated. I was horrified and wrote the web site. They removed the claims immediately. But once it¹s on the net it lives forever. Truth and lies reside together there and it¹s often hard to discern one from the other.

Two years ago the same claims were repeated on a discussion group. But again they were embellished from previous versions. Not only was it claimed I was arrested but that I had been arrested numerous times. People there who knew the facts challenged the individual. In an attempt to defend them he expanded them. In the end he admitted he might have been confused and said he shouldn’t have listened to rumours. I thought that put an end to it.

But within days someone in New Zealand was spreading them around by word of mouth and by email. He not only spread them but said that he was inclined to believe them because he thought I was ³creepy². He had no first hand knowledge whatsoever. But for two years those stories were spread. I found out that friends of mine were sent them by email while others were called in person. They were dismissed.

In December I was told that they were given to an MP¹s office which passed them on to a journalist. The person who spread the story told people that an “expose” would be published that Sunday. It wasn’t. After weeks of investigation the paper dropped the story. They didn¹t find it newsworthy. I thought that would be the end of it. And then the bomb exploded.

Allegations made in parliament do not have to be true. They don’t even have to be plausible. But within seconds my daily routine was shattered. I was besieged. The media was just doing the job it¹s hired to do but the effect, when so many concentrate on one person is far more horrifying than anyone imagines. I understood why Princess Diana lashed out as she often did. It is unbearable for even a few minutes let alone for years.

I knew that I wasn’t a criminal. I had police clearances from the highest levels to prove it. But now every word I ever uttered, or which anyone thought I may have uttered, was inspected. I¹m a writer. I¹ve written several books and hundreds of essays and articles for publications around the world. Out of millions of words it wouldn’t be too hard to find something that sound “ominous”.

It was like the so-called Bible code. If you are looking for something, if you are determined to find it, you will find it‹at least you will think you’ve found it. It¹s easy to do that to someone who is obsessed with ideas. And I’m an ideas person.

I see ideas the way other people see clothes. You look at them. You consider them. You try them on and see how they feel and how they look. Some you dismiss quickly. Others you look at, ponder and consider. You use them to see if they make sense and you may still discard them as well. Some you keep. Others need alterations.

It’s a process of continuous evolution. I was once inclined toward socialism. I became a conservative. That didn’t fit. Classical liberal ideas compelled me and still do. But liberalism is not a strait-jacket. I think I ended up a hybrid. My economics are clearly free market: free markets work and make sense. But on a social level I’m something of a Leftist yet in my views of how people ought to live I’m rather conservative.

But Inquisition is lethal to an ideas merchant. Every idea, thought, expression or written sentence becomes suspect. One is called on to explain or justify every word ever uttered and many one never uttered. But how do you do that? More importantly how do you remember, let alone explain, precisely what you were or were not thinking 20 years ago?

In New Zealand after so many years it becomes illegal to discuss, report, or ask about specific criminal acts. There is no time limit if you¹ve never been convicted. Odd that so many convicted criminals are not required to answer for what they did just a few years ago. But I’m subjected to cross-examination from all sides yet was never convicted of anything.


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