Who is the most famous person in the world you’ve never heard of? All right, I suppose a few of you will know who Dan Bilzerian is, but the majority of cultured, sophisticated readers of this newspaper will, I’m sure, be living their lives in blissful ignorance of a young, bearded American who has 9.4 million followers on Instagram.
To put his popularity in context, he has more than twice as many followers as Barack Obama and two million more than David Beckham.
So who is Dan Bilzerian and why should you be interested in him? This 34-year-old son of a twice-jailed corporate wheeler-dealer is, on the one hand, nothing more than a vacuous rich kid who shamelessly parades the paraphernalia of wealth while having a moral compass set at magnetic south. On the other, his story tells us much about an increasingly influential strand of the modern world, a world of viral sensations, cheap celebrity and hollow aspiration. Bilzerian’s Instagram feed looks like the stills from a follow-up to The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Hugh Hefner and the ghost of Hunter S Thompson.
In many of the pictures, he’s surrounded by pneumatic young women in various states of undress. His accompanying commentary is the sort of misogynistic trash talk that simply shouldn’t be palatable, but is regarded, on some level, as being ironic. In fact, there are those who suggest that Bilzerian is in fact sending up himself and the world of celebrity. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” was his caption to a picture of himself stroked by five bikini-clad women. “Good thing I’m rich,” was the comment on another image of extreme hedonism.
This is all pretty harmless stuff, appealing to the escapists among us, and nothing much more anti-feminist than an episode of Entourage. But Bilzerian is gonzoid political, too, and is a fervent opponent of gun control in America. He poses with all manner of firearms, using them as props in many of his posed, soft porn studies and makes pronouncements on how owning a gun equates to a principle of freedom. He was even invited by the Washington Times to address their readers on the subject.
He said that plans to curb what ammunition a gun-owner could purchase was the thin end of the wedge: “That’s because an ever-expanding government,” he wrote, “keeps taking little bites of your sandwich until your entire lunch of freedom is consumed”.
Dan Bilzerian is, of course, a ludicrous figure, a cartoon of a real person who is surfing a Kardashian-inspired tide at a time in our history where celebrity is both the means and the end. Bilzerian appears to have made his money out of playing poker, although no one quite knows how much his lifestyle has been fuelled by the fruits of the questionable activities of his father.
What is indisputable is that he is a cultural and commercial behemoth of the multi-media age. He can address nine million people at any given time. Mature media organisations would kill for such a reach. So look at his social media feeds. Be sniffy. Be outraged. Be disgusted. But at least you now know who is and why he’s important.Reuse content