Celebrities are in hot water for their anti-war comments

    The first big incident surrounding the war and the world of entertainment came when three little country western stars broke rule numero uno: Don’t mess with Texas. The Dixie Chicks announced in a concert in London that they were embarrassed that the president was from Texas. It wasn’t long after that factions throughout the country-western loving part of America responded by burning Dixie Chicks CD’s and demanding boycotts. The Dixie Chicks retreated from their statement only days later under these pressures. The Dixie Chicks obviously didn’t expect such a resilient response from the silent majority in the nation. They were willing to hop onto the political bandwagon as long as they didn’t have to pay for the ride.

    Other celebrities are able to speak their beliefs without paying such a high price. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke recently attended two protests in American before speaking out at an anti-war rally in Fairford, United Kingdom. Some of Yorke’s comments (please visit http://www.greenplastic.com/news/index.html for a complete transcript) displayed exactly the type of misinformation that leads to the “”celebrities don’t know what they are talking about”” stereotype. His confusion about the world we all live in was probably most evident in his opening remark: “”My name’s Thom Yorke, I’m in a band called Radiohead. I don’t know if anybody’s heard of me.””

    Other pieces of his speech were puzzling as well, including the statement “”I think for the first time, a war is being waged and there is no way the majority of people in a so-called democracy state believe in that war.”” Statements like this always bother me as a member of the silent majority that supports the war. It is well documented by CNN/ USA Today polls (please visit http://www.gallup.com) that throughout the course of the war, 65 to 75 percent of our nation have expressed approval of the war in Iraq. Furthermore, if the majority of the nation did disagree with this war, it certainly would not have been the first time (Vietnam). I appreciate Thom Yorke’s music and his freedom of speech; I do feel however that his freedom could be expressed more intelligently.

    Other celebrities are more willing to pay the price for their political beliefs. Recently Susan Sarandon, best known for her “”What has Iraq even done to us?”” slogan, was uninvited to a charity event at which she was originally scheduled to speak. The reputation of her long time mate Tim Robbins caused the cancellation of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame’s tribute to the film “”Bull Durham,”” in which he starred.

    Robbins responded with a letter of response saying “”[he] never knew Major League Baseball was a Republican organization.”” Whether or not these types of insults are warranted, they certainly seem to display the sentiment of a nation divided by partisan lines and anxious to escape the controversy and entrenched feelings that lie on both sides of the issue.

    A good friend of the couple, Eddie Vedder, recently caught the nations attention by doing just that. He chose to take a mask of George Bush, impale it, slam it down and stomp on it on stage at a recent Pearl Jam concert. A portion of the crowd booed and many left the concert early. Eddie Vedder defended his actions saying that he supports the troops and “”I am trying to be as compassionate as I can. I am not sure how being against the war all of the sudden means I am not supporting our troops.”” I am not sure how violently attacking a latex likeness of our president does anything constructive to oppose war. Instead of saying something thought provoking, or trying to educate the audience about the finer points of why the war should not be fought, he resorted to violent gestures.

    Vedder’s actions also pose the question: What responsibility do artists have to their ticket buyers? Is it fair to assume that because a person enjoys Pearl Jam’s music, they are going to want to watch Vedder’s violent displays? After all, his fans bought tickets to a concert, not a demonstration.

    I recently had a personal experience with celebrity activism when I attended a Bright Eye’s concert at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. Lead singer Colin Oberst began to slander the president about an hour into the concert. Bright Eyes has a number of songs that protest our political system. His protest songs and the criticisms within them are elegantly crafted. While I disagree with some of the content of the songs, they have never offended me. I was offended, however, when a half-drunken Oberst holding a wine bottle began to slander our president between swigs. I found his criticism, common among celebrities, that “”[Bush] has no concept of reality”” ironic in light of the fact that Oberst’s version of reality is a far cry from anything the majority of the nation will ever know.

    The problem with most celebrity activism is that it is uninformed; a bigger problem is that the public often wants to hear what celebrities have to say about current affairs. This creates a confused state of political egoism where celebrities take on jobs of spearheading political movements they aren’t qualified to handle. They insult the leadership rather than address the issue. They use their spotlight to inflame rather than to educate. They oversimplify complex issues and ask stupid rhetorical questions. They get their face in the paper — and make a few bucks from it — and lose my respect in the meantime.

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