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  Celebrity Noise and All That Jazz
by Steven D. Laib, J.D. M.S.
March 2003

Why do so many people take movie actors and actresses seriously when they spout political opinions?

Ever wonder how it was that we have so many movie actors, musical performers and comedians spouting political opinions today and why many people take them so seriously? As history seems to indicate “artists” have always been actively involved in speaking out on social issues. Shakespeare’s plays, for example often contained brilliant satire, with political implications. The major differences between the artist as critic then and now seem to rest heavily with the matter of education and sophistication of that artist. The intelligent critic can voice a rational analysis of the situation and provide criticisms that are based on fact and logic. In contrast, the outspoken members of today’s entertainment industry are following a course set by others without understanding what they are talking about. As a result, they make little sense.

Much of the current hue and cry seems to be simple emotionalism from people who take themselves to seriously when they should stop and think more carefully about what they are doing. Having spent too much of their time in the make-believe world of show business, they may well have lost the ability to shift to reality based thinking. Combine that with mass communications and an all too willing audience, which hangs on everything they say, it is easy to understand why entertainers fall into this trap.

It wasn’t the same many years ago. Before electronic communications were developed people had to entertain themselves. Special effects were limited. In Rome the Deus ex Machina, a somewhat obvious mechanical device, was the best they could offer and it fooled no one because there was no technology to make it look like anything other than what it was; a crane that lowered someone or something onto the stage at the proper moment. Meanwhile, the audience was expected to understand references to persons, events and classical literature. Not understanding these things proclaimed one’s ignorance in public. People were generally expected to display a certain level of sophistication and education. This trend continued on through the Middle Ages and into the Enlightenment. During all of this time many people undertook to study literature, music and art as a means of social interaction and entertainment for themselves, their families and guests. Even conversation was an art.

As Steven Sailer pointed out in the recently released film Gods and Generals “[In the 1860’s] They read more than we do now, but owned less printed material. So, they read classics over and over. They were adept at high rhetoric and loved orations." To paraphrase another reviewer, Daniel McCarthy, it was not unusual for middle and upper class people to freely quote poetry, classics and the Bible from memory. Reading from Jane Austin expands on this. Parlor games flourished, people read aloud to each other, engaged in discussions, played musical instruments and so on. This is no longer true today when the average person may have their face buried in People Magazine, spend free time watching MTV, and not know who Jane Austin even was.

When radio, motion pictures and television replaced interpersonal relations as the primary form of entertainment things really began to change. Many people no longer listened to each other because they were too busy paying attention to their favorite entertainment source. As a result, many of them have to think less. This distinguishes that conservative hob-goblin of the Liberal Establishment, talk radio, from other entertainment forms. Participants actually have to know something and interact intelligently with the host, who must also be educated and articulate. If you can’t keep up you get bored and go on to something simpler.

This focus on simplistic subjects carries over into celebrity commentary and actions. One of the most embarrassing moments came when Richard Gere and Sheryl Crow began discussing the karmic aspects of American participation in any military removal of Saddam Hussein. For some reason they failed to account for the possibility that Hussein might have gathered bad karma to himself and that there were consequences to him as well. It just might be possible, for example, that the American military is the instrument of that karmic punishment which should follow such misdeeds as poisoning and torturing one’s own subjects. Perhaps lying to the world about weapons also has its karmic consequences. Could it be that the United States has cosmic a role in bringing about balance in these things?

A second, and perhaps even worse occurrence, reported by Brent Bozell of the Media Research center, occurred when Janeane Garofalo appeared on various news programs complaining of how they only want to talk to celebrities instead of real experts. Now the big question: Is Garofalo an expert or a celebrity? If the former, she should flash her credentials occasionally, and if the latter, she should take her own advice and disappear when the subject of Iraq or international relations shows up.

What is even more embarrassing than these self-proclaimed experts mouthing off is that so many people take them seriously. Even the government tends to bend over backwards when someone wants to testify about the state of American agriculture because they acted in a movie about farming. All together too many people don’t want to think for themselves. Instead they want someone to think for them. They are oblivious to the danger this poses, as they progress to the point where they can’t think at all and become (with apologies to C. M. Kornbluth) the marching morons. Kornbluth may well be very prophetic. Perhaps the entertainment community will take more notice when what they produce has been dumbed down a few more notches. But then they may well be equally dumb at the time and not notice.

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