Monday, 14 June 2010

The danger of celebrities

Below, I have attached a video of rapper/actor Mos Def, from when he was on "Real time with Bill Maher". Mos Def is renowned to be one of the most "politically aware" rappers, who often speaks about injustices and social issues in his lyrics.
As I was growing up, this attribute in Mos Def was one I that made me admire him, as with many other artists commenting on the political climate through their songs, films or other forms of popular media. People such as Immortal Technique, Tupac Shakur, Michael Moore and so forth, seemed to be "telling the truth" in a very brave and honourable fashion, and their opinions had more weight to it, because it came from... well, them!

However, lately, I have come to the realization of the harm such idolatry can actually cause. Sure, Immortal Technique is a brilliant lyricist and George Clooney is a very good actor. But when speaking about politics, these are usually not the sources of information anyone should be turning to. In many ways, this phenomena resembles the sick turning to religious figures rather than doctors. As I was a primary believer of this celebrity-based religion, where famous peoples opinions, in fields they have no expertise in, had more validity because of their persona, I think it is suitable for me to make amends and maybe try and prevent someone else from falling in to the same trap.

The danger starts with our fascination for people in the spotlight. Brad Pitt is no longer just an actor doing a good job in a part, because he visits New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the brilliantly talented Sean Penn does likewise in Haiti. These are all honourable endeavours, but such actions create a form of hero-worship that goes beyond mere respect or admiration for their professional work. They become "The Good Guys", because they help people who are suffering. Now, I am not saying that these guys should stop being good Samaritans, but I am flashing a warning-light against the receptiveness of their fans to allow their reverence to go too far.

In today's celebrity-obsessed climate, when Sean Penn stands on a podium and talks about Hugo Chavez, or Michael Moore makes another pathetic "documentary", people tend to swallow everything without questioning it (just ask me, about eight years ago, I wrote a seven page essay in homage to Michael Moore!). The actors suddenly become preachers and the fans become "saved". But what happens when we add a little bit of Scepticism in to the mix? Well, as the video of Mos Def, when confronted with a real expert in politics (the magnificent Christopher Hitchens) shows, they often fall too short. It is one thing to have an opinion and express it in different forums, but as receivers of these opinions, it is our responsibility and duty to ourselves to treat everything with a dash of scepticism. As you can see in the clip, Mos Def is almost turn to shreds by his own ignorance, from someone who actually is an expert in the field of politics.
Michael Moore constantly refuses offers to debate certain people, in full knowledge that he doesn't stand a chance if he was to be confronted by experts who hold opinions different than his own.
Sean Penn, who is one of my all-time favourite actors, speaks in support of people like Hugo Chavez, and we tend to give his opinions more weight because hey, it's Sean Penn.

My advice is that we don't let ourselves be educated in matters of politics from actors or singers, but instead we'll turn to people who actually work with these issues for a living. No matter if you are left or right, there are much better tutors out there than Leonardo di Caprio or Rose O'Donnell.

The Mos Def-clip:

Also, see how an "average guy" completely debunks Immortal Technique:

So, my dear readers, the advice is: Be Sceptics! Especially against me!

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