Should celebrities refrain from making public political statements ?
Are celebrities out of touch with the realities of political and social situations?
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Celebrities making political statements has reached a new peak of division. Social media allows for their words to spread like wild fire. The wild fire coverage allows for greater reach, which gives a greater voice to supporters and detractors.
Meryl Streep’s recent Golden Globe lifetime achievement award speech is the latest controversy. Although she never mentioned Donald Trump’s name, Streep gave a passionate and emotional speech covering Trump’s alleged mockery of a disabled reporter. She also stated “disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence, and when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose”.
I’m often asked how I politically define myself. I often swing from liberalism to conservatism but overall I’m a hybrid combination of a libertarian and a classic liberal. I am not opposed to celebrities making political statements in public. Having a public platform to express ideas can be a powerful medium. I don’t begrudge a celebrity using that to vocalize ideas. I support it because I support free speech and the freedom of expression with very few exclusions.
If I truly believe in my philosophy I have to grant it to everyone. The best way to deal with ideas that are disagreeable or factually incorrect is to engage with them.
For all the inane celebrities making political statements there are always some intelligent and inspirational ones. I have enjoyed and admired the political ideologies and activities of Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Marlon Brando, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, and Melina Mercouri.
Susan Sarandon is the only celebrity who resonated with me during the US presidential election. Her process, level of analysis and intelligence is what all celebrities should aim for. All of the celebrities I mentioned above seem to have the right balance The majority of celebrities making political statements today miss the mark.
It’s not just because they reside in a tiny minority bubble of wealth and privilege, which creates a quantum gap between them and the rest of the world and it’s every day issues. We can put Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Samuel L Jackson in the ‘to be ignored” category. Publicly stating “If Trump wins I’m moving to…” isn’t celebrities making a political statement. It’s just simple minded nonsense with no substance or genuine intent.
The major issue I have with celebrities making political statements is their over reliance on emotion. I am not saying that emotion or empathy is not important. However, one must also bring facts, realism, and logic to the fore. This is a common problem with people that work within the arts and entertainment industry. They seem to think that they can form an argument with their feelings taking complete precedence. It often becomes a performance where a bleeding heart takes centre stage and an absence of critical thought. This process might have good intentions but it generally becomes unreliable and misguided.
The following is not exactly a political statement but it’s an example of the over emotive process that I am referring to. Take the Ben Affleck talk show incident involving Bill Maher and Sam Harris. Affleck became agitated by Maher and Harris’s criticism of Islam. He became filled with a typical knee jerk reaction need to protect the perceived minority group.
Affleck launched into an illogical tirade and accused Maher and Harris of racism and ‘islamophobia’ for criticizing Islamic doctrines and certain Islamic cultural practices. He compared it to calling Jewish person a “sneaky Jew”. If Affleck took the time to actually listen he might realize that one cannot be racist against Islam because it is a religion and not a race/ethnicity. Secondly, if he wasn’t so irrationally keen on playing saviour to the victim-hood paradigm he might have understood that Maher and Harris were making valid criticisms of questionable elements of a religion and not demeaning or generalizing a majority of people. Affleck lacks critical thought.
Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe’s speech was articulate and eloquent. There were good things in it but Streep allowed emotionalism and a bias against Trump to cloud her judgement. She spoke about how Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter broke her heart and how appalling it is that such a man is taking the most powerful chair in the United States. If she had looked further beyond the words of the mainstream media and Hilary Clinton she would have seen that Trump has a very limited repertoire when it comes to mocking people. He seems to have the one imitation: the arm thrashing imitation. He has also used this to imitate the non disabled Ted Cruz, a bank manager and an army general. When you look at the facts it makes what Streep highlighted to be insignificant.
If Trump imitates everyone that way, why should the disabled reporter be exempt? Surely Streep could find more concrete reasons why Trump should not be President. There are plenty to choose from.
Her big moment was a statement about disrespect, incitement of violence and the bullying tactics of the powerful. My interpretation of it was that she was attaching this solely on Trump, as if it is some new political phenomenon. Therefore, emotionalism has caused a clouding of judgement.
Political bullying, disrespect, and violence is nothing new at all. That part of her speech could have been applied to Hilary Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama. I would have liked to have seen her cast a wider net and target the general follies and corruption of US leaders.
If disrespect, violence and bullying causes all of us to lose then we have already lost time and time again. Don’t speak about it as if its the new wave. Less emotive performance and rational critical thought next time Ms Streep.
As harsh as it may sound, facts do not care about feelings.
Check out my article on whether Meryl Streep is the greatest actress of all time by clicking here