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Celebrities abusing status by promoting anti-war sentiments

March 6, 2003

By Hans

Christianson

I read recently in the papers that the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood has been called up for a possible strike against Iraq.Additional military personnel await Turkey's decision to allow U.S. forces to position troops within their country. Everything points to an inevitable war against Iraq, and that brings up some important questions in my mind. Will civilians be involved in the fighting? Is Saddam Hussein finally going to be removed from power? And, who decided that celebrities needed to weigh in on the issue?

I'm referring to celebrity figures such as Martin Sheen, Barbra Streisand, Sheryl Crow and Janeane Garafolo who have been spouting their anti-war rhetoric through a media-sponsored bullhorn. These artists have taken it upon themselves to champion the anti-war cause and also criticize the Bush administration. I realize that the U.S. Constitution extends the First Amendment right of free speech to these individuals, but it is it proper for them to use their celebrity status to further their cause and add volume to their voice?

Lori Bardsley of Summerfield, N.C., doesn't think so. FOX NEWS reported that this mother of three has started a group, Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits, for average people who are tired of listening to these celebrities spout out every chance they get. I applaud Bardsley for making a bold move like this and sending a statement to Hollywood and the entertainment industry. My only question is, why has it taken so long for ordinary citizens like her to speak out?

I think that Americans have made the mistake in the past of elevating our celebrities to an unnatural status, and too many artists have gotten away from their primary function of being entertainers. If I go to a movie starring Ben Affleck, it is because I want to see him in a particular role. I could care less about his political views, and I think he could care less about mine as well. In the end, he's just a guy acting in a movie.

Martin Sheen plays the president of the United States on NBC every week, and he may make it look easy. But before we decide to have a new vote, please remember that his lines are scripted. Looking at his performance and role from that perspective, is he any more qualified than I am to offer a political opinion? I don't think so. I enjoyed watching Anthony Edwards play a doctor on E.R., but I would not ask him for any serious medical advice.

Why do these few artists bother us with their political drivel? The most obvious reason is because they can. Our 24-hour media coverage seems to glom on to any little sound bite that a celebrity has to offer, regardless of its merit. Because of that, I am going to pass some of the blame onto the media. Instead of reporting the news, the media is taking celebrities' opinions and creating little op-ed pieces that are bound to get people's attention.

Another reason I think that celebrities offer their political views is it is an easy way to get cheap publicity. What's easier for Streisand, putting on a full-blown musical production complete with pyrotechnics and publicity or saying a one-line sound bite about Iraq that CNN is bound to pick up and run on their news wire? It is the same thing with Sheryl Crow. Her album sales are down, and Norah Jones aced out Crow and all of the other female artists at the Grammys, but she can keep her name in the news by publicly proclaiming that war is not the answer.

War may not be the answer, but I do not need Streisand or Sheen to tell me that. I don't tell them how to act or sing, so they shouldn't be telling me how to think. The only celebrity that I have any tolerance for is Garafolo because she is openly honest about her dislike for Bush's anti-Iraq policy. However, she also admits that she didn't like Clinton's either. It makes me wonder how many of these other celebrities would be speaking out if Clinton were still president.

At least I can be thankful that one celebrity has not joined the Hollywood anti-war sentiment, and that is Jennifer Lopez. She's too busy keeping it real for everyone back in the Bronx. Thank God for small miracles.