Peaches Geldof in May 2012. Photo: Getty
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Peaches Geldof and the new, hyper-experience of mortality

Peaches Geldof’s death reveals a kind of post-mortem celebrity that is fuelled by social media.

This morning I woke up, rolled over and, as I always do, scrolled through my twitter feed. Owen Jones – a British socialist – tweeted his shock that Peaches Geldolf, 25, had died. I immediately checked for a hashtag and went about trying to find out more.

Predictably, Twitter was in overdrive with a constantly refreshing feed of #RIPpeaches and other hashtags. There is something awfully banal about this kind of memorialisation. The deaths of celebrities have always been mediated, but the ascent of social media has produced a kind of hyper-experience of mortality, which I engage in, but also find unsettling.

Twitter rolls from one highly-charged affective state to another. Many have already written that the default mode for trending tweets is one of outrage. I would also say that public grieving is just as prolific. Just recently I wrote about the death of Dave Brockie – lead singer from metal band GWAR. As with Peaches’ passing, Twitter was the forum where ordinary fans and celebrities articulated their grief.

There is something touching in the seemingly infinite number of tweets – platitudinous, awkward and often full of cute emoticons – generated by ordinary people in the face of the tragedy of a distant celebrity. In turn, mainstream media run obituary stories peppered with tweets from celebrity mourners as a means for fleshing out the story.

Then it’s all over. We roll to the next outrage and next tragedy punctuating our thoughts with hyperbolic language until the feed refreshes and something new captures our affect.

What struck me most this morning, however, was that Peaches – daughter of Live Aid founder Bob Geldof and the late Paula Yates – will now most likely be most famous for her death. In the last decade there was a buzz around celebrities famous for “doing nothing” – Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, the Kardashians.

In the mid 2000s, Peaches was one of the “brat pack” partying in London and featuring in gossip magazines. She was never as prolific – or criticised as much – as Paris in the “doing nothing” stakes, and she had some hipster clout in her status as Bob and Paula Yates’s daughter. Then she dropped off the radar – marrying and having two children.

Her death is now her distinguishing identity. And even then, it seems to be skewed through a rehashing of Yates’s apparently similar demise. Tweets such as “with mum now” and much-covered fact that Peaches’ last Instagram post was a snap of her and Paula reinforce a kind of fatalism that not only was her death inevitable, but that this is what will define her.

This sort of post-mortem celebrity is in part fuelled by Twitter, which produces willing twitterlebrities but is also able to elevate less tweet-savvy stars to trending status in death. “Peaches_g” had far fewer followers than Gaga but the tweets of mostly ordinary people in the last few hours have memorialised her in the twittersphere, and elevated her to a celebrity status beyond her “famous for doing nothing” image ten years ago.

There is obviously a moral dynamic to this post mortem celebrity.

As a very much alive, messy, rowdy teenager, Peaches was criticised as a bad daughter – pitched against a virtuous Bob Geldolf who had selflessly taken on another man’s children. Peaches' mother, Paula Yates, famously left Geldof for the Australian rock musician Michael Hutchence, with whom she had a daughter, Tiger Lily, in 1996. Hutchence died in 1997 and when Yates died in 2000, Geldof assumed care of their child.

Key to criticisms of Peaches' partying behaviour was a moralising concern that Peaches had not “learned” from her mother’s death from a heroin overdose.

In death, Peaches accrues moral standing, however. In part, this is because the strain in tweets and subsequent media write-ups rehearses a narrative of helpless inevitability. Emphasised in these stories – alongside the “mother’s daughter” line – is Peaches’ redemption – in her marriage, child-rearing and rediscovery of her Jewish heritage. Peaches, then, died with some moral standing – at least in terms of her representation in the press.

In terms of “post mortem celebrity”, perhaps it is important that the star memorialised is also moralised. The banality of recent articles on Peaches - about home renovations, and watching Lord of the Rings – is matched in the tweets of her ordinary fans who appear to relate to her not as “famous for doing nothing” but as “real” because of her status as a mum: “RIP peaches geldolf, two little boys left without a mum. Proper heartbreaking”, tweeted @nata1ie_sk.

I had reservations about writing this article. Was it too soon? Was it in bad taste? I don’t wish to moralise on Peaches’ worth myself. Rather, I am interested in how the media – and the mediated public – constitute celebrity, even in death.

The ConversationRosemary Overell does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Rosemary Overell is a lecturer in cultural studies at the University of Otago.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.