The Political Werewolf
If you know me, then you know I'm a big political nut. So, I've decided to add my own personal flavor to the realm of political discussion. We'll be talking about various issues - some of them having to do with current events, others perhaps more on a philosophical level. But in any case, you're free to respond to whatever you read here, either by E-mail or on the message board.
All righty, here we go.
I'm a Celebrity - No War in Iraq!
A few weeks before the war broke out, the LA Times conducted a poll asking people if the opinions of celebrities had any effect on their stand on military action in Iraq.
90% said they didn't.
Now, that alone is a remarkable statistic, but I still think it could be examined more closely. I'd like to know how many of that 90% were merely saying "Their stand on the issues don't affect the way I feel about the war", and how many of them were actually saying "If I see Martin Sheen or Janeane Garofalo one more time, they'll need to surgically remove my foot from the TV".
Celebrities have a tendency to be fairly vocal about... well... just about everything. And that's just their nature; if someone shoved a TV camera in your face everywhere you went, I'm sure you'd think you were pretty important too. The problem arises, however, when these celebrities start sticking their noses into things that perhaps they shouldn't be. It's one thing to exercise your right to free spech and voice your opinions on things, but it's another thing entirely to pass yourself off as an expert on those issues simply because you're a celebrity.
Of course, it's hardly a secret to anyone that roughly 99.999% of the big-name stars are liberal. I'm not going to get too far into that, because while it steams my beans when Julia Roberts makes a joke about Republicans being in the dictionary between Reptile and Repugnant, or when Ed Asner calls seniors up with a recorded message scaring them into thinking that conservatives want to flush their Social Security checks down the toilet, I also know that when you live in a city whose #1 industry is purveying utopian fantasy where the guy always gets the girl and every crime is solved in 2 hours or less, that's just going to come with the territory.
What I'm more worried about is the fact that these celebrities just don't know when to shut up.
As I mentioned last week, I don't see any reason why you can't be against what's going on in Iraq. (Well, actually I can, but the point is we can agree to disagree on that.) If you have honest misgivings on the use of military force, then I can respect that. However, discretion is also the better part of valor. These people have a responsibility to their image, and making what are often uninformed and heavily insulting comments about their opinions serves only to damage that image.
Remember what happened last Sunday at the Oscars? That has something to do with it. The folks who set up the whole thing told the presenters and nominees that when they go up to speak, their primary focus is to talk about movies, not the war. And that's a fantastic thing to do. Wanna know why? Because they're movie stars. That's their domain. If they want to talk turkey about which film is the best of the year, or who had the best cinematography, or anything else regarding the subject of film, I give them all the authority in the world to do so. God knows I am in no way a film buff - I usually see exactly one movie in the theaters a year, and if I were the sole judge of the Academy Awards, the Best Picture Oscar would go to Spider-Man... by default.
That didn't stop some of the people there from getting up there and spouting off their rhetoric, though. Most notably was Michael Moore, who won an Oscar for his "documentary" Bowling for Columbine, and took the opportunity to blast the President, calling him a fictitious president after a fictitious election, using fictitious reasons to go to war. Now, he was summarily booed off the stage, but I don't know what makes me sicker: Moore's diatribe or the fact that the audience pretended to disagree with it. For all we know, they might've been booing because they didn't want him to get away with what they weren't allowed to do either.
There have been a few celebrities, though, that have impressed me with their behavior in the last few months. Mike Farrell, who's best known for playing B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H, has carried himself extremely well on the anti-war side, and while I disagree quite fervently on his position, I admire the maturity and respect he has for all sides. Actress Renee Zellweger has basically recused herself from the matter, saying that she won't say publicly where she stands since she doesn't have enough information to jump on either side. Even Ron Silver, a devout liberal, has actually come out on the pro-war side; even he understands the necessity of force in Iraq.
Many celebrities, however, have done things that range from the simply idiotic and ignorant to vitriolic and ("Oh my God! He's gonna say it!") Anti-American. Martin Sheen orchestrated a jam-up of White House phone lines and internet servers. Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde actually said in a concert that she hoped the Americans lost the war in Iraq. Sean Penn went so far as to fly to Baghdad to bash the President's view on Iraqi policy. In all three of these cases, their subjects try to pass themselves off as concerned, passionate, peace-loving citizens, but actually show that they are more interested in getting face time for themselves for being defiant towards a president that is viscerally hated by the left than having any sort of concern for the Iraqi people or Americans.
Why do I say this? Because the writing's been on the wall for years that Saddam Hussein is a brutal, hateful, and dangerous man. He harbors a very obvious hatred for the United States. People who have been lucky enough to flee the country and make it over here have recounted story after story of the various forms of torture used against prisoners, some who have committed no higher crime than of being the uncle of someone who spoke out against Saddam. There has been evidence documented by the United Nations of the chemical and biological stockpiles that Iraq has, and it's pretty much a given that Saddam is pursuing other, more destructive firepower. In other words, if these people were so concerned about human rights as they purport themselves to be, they would be going into conniptions with the kinds of things that the Iraqi regime has done, and would be screaming at the top of their lungs for someone to go in there and put a stop to it all.
What's most interesting about this celebrity cause against the war is that just four years ago, there seemed to be a similar march to war. Bill Clinton was saying almost the exact same things that President Bush is saying now - that Saddam Hussein is a vicious tyrant, that he oppresses and tortures his own people, that he's manufacturing WMDs, that he needs to be gotten rid of - and nobody said a phonic about it. And the cruise missile attack on Baghdad just happened to occur on the night before his Articles of Impeachment were to be voted on. Convenient? You bet. But whatever wag-the-dog conspiracy you want to formulate, it needs to be mentioned that as a conservative, I supported Clinton going into Iraq, even it was for no higher purpose than to save his own keister. That he never followed through made me hate the man all the more. But the most curious part of this is all of the protesters, all of the so-called "concerned" celebrities, all of the dissent was nowhere to be found.
Now, on my side, I would like to bring up something that is often being hinted at when the topic of celebrities and politics are brought up. And that is this: If you're gonna boycott, don't boycott just because you disagree with someone. A boycott should only be used on people or groups who not just disagree, but do so in a way that insult the opposite side. For instance, I'm not going to stop listening to Sheryl Crow, even if I think her "stop having enemies" pedantry during the Grammies was ludicrous. I'm going to switch the channel if a U2 video comes on, even if Bono has contradicted himself on the platform of human rights. There's only four people on my list I actively boycott: Garofalo, Roberts, Sheen, and Penn. It'd probably be longer, but I'm leaving off the names of people whose paths I don't cross often anyway.
But wait a second, some of you might be thinking. Don't these people have a right to free speech? Sure they do. They can say whatever they want in whatever arena they want. But it's a double-edged sword. For one thing, they have something we don't have: a large audience. Being famous means you have hundreds if not thousands of fans who are waiting to gobble up everything you say. Having that fame means you have a responsibility to carry yourself in a respectable manner and not abuse your fame for the sake of getting your face on TV again. Secondly, we have the right to free speech as well, and in a free market society, we have the right to give our money and our business to whomever we choose. If I dislike what Janeane Garofalo says about the President, that's tantamount to disagreeing with her business practices, and I don't have to give her any of my money. And since I'll likely never come across her face-to-face, it's just about the only way I can show her my disdain.
I thank you all for reading through this very long rant. It probably took a lot of effort to read, but I have a lot to say on this matter. If celebrities want to have their opinions taken seriously, they should stick to things they actually know about. Otherwise, maybe they should think for a moment before they open their mouths.
Previous columns:3/24/03: Patriotism vs. Nationalism