Everybody and their cousin is posting the video of Joaquin Phoenix’s appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, in which the actor behaved very strangely, and the whole world suddenly erupted in expressions of sadness and concern for the actor.

Sigh. Here we go again. Weren’t we just talking about this issue?

Blogs are lining up to post the video so that all the world can see a celebrity’s meltdown. Just as we did with Christian Bale’s cuss-a-thon, we’re joining the rest of the world, feasting our eyes on someone else’s misfortune. Because, you know, that’s the honorable thing to do when someone publicly humiliates himself: Post the video so everyone can enjoy it.

If you embarrassed yourself in public, would you want the video shared with the rest of the world? Or should we refuse to join the circus?

If you decide to share the video and join the mob that gossips about it, watch your step. This time, you may be walking into a trap.

In posting the video and joining the “Can you believe it?” craze, bloggers are playing right into the hands of filmmaker Casey Affleck, who’s is reportedly making a documentary, which stars Phoenix, in which the actor appears to be acting strangely, starting a hip-hop career, and going through a meltdown of some kind. It looks like they’re focusing on the media’s mob mentality (if it can even be called “mentality”, since no one appears to be thinking).

And that would make sense. Casey Affleck last appeared in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and the last act of that movie is all about the cult of celebrity, and how you can become famous by behaving badly in public, by making a sensation out of yourself. It certainly looks to me like Affleck is playing that out now in the real world, following a friend with video cameras in a way that exposes the lunacy of our celebrity-obsessed culture.

Will you end up in the movie as one of the screeching birds that circled the scene?

In this age of Borat and Bill Maher’s Religulous, you’d think that folks would start showing some savvy about the joke.

Folks, if you’re *really* interested in the well-being of Mr. Phoenix. If you’re worried about him, PRAY for him… don’t spread the documentation of his embarrassment.

And if you want to avoid embarrassment yourself, a simple Google search will show you that Affleck has been preparing this stage for for weeks. Many sharp-eyed, media savvy critics quickly suspected that these exhibitions are part of a stunt, a hoax, an attempt to show how stupid the media and its audience can be. The latest article demonstrating that this is not as simple as it seems can be found here, at Newsweek.

Personally, I think this kind of thing was funny when Andy Kaufman did it. Maybe the media frenzies have run on unchecked for so long that it’s time for us all to get fooled again.

But please, can we move on? Do we have to join the ogling, gossiping mob on this one? Or can we prove their premise wrong, ignore, the video, and move on to things that actually matter?

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