Apparently, celebrities should ‘stay stupid’


3:14 pm - December 19th 2010

by Claude Carpentieri    


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Nothing seems to irk the country’s hacks more than a celebrity expressing a political opinion.

We binge on hundreds of celebrities, some more worthless than others, while we laugh at their imperfections, dimpled thighs and sweaty armpits as sported by Heat, the Sun or the Daily Mail.

We love to remark on how thick, shallow and uneducated they are. We sneered at Jade Goody’s “pig ignorance“, laughed at Paris Hilton’s dumb quotes and we frowned at how detached from the real world the superrich and the superfamous are.

But then the moment a celebrity displays the tiniest existence of grey stuff between their ears, for some reason, we go apeshit and we scoff and pour scorn at them.

Whether it’s Eric Cantona making a stand against the banks, Colin Firth criticising the government over tuition fees, or Jemima Khan defending Wikileaks, the media predators just won’t let them get away with it. Go back to your pampered world. Stay thick, stay shallow and stay supine, is the warning. [Incidentally, note how the toss-arguers always invariably end up siding with the powers that be].

Jan Moir kicked off the proceedings yesterday with an extremely snidey swipe at “darling Jemima. She was pictured looking particularly fabulous at an earlier Assange hearing; standing on the court steps with her blonde hair flying and her big liberal heart beating fit to burst”, wrote the right-wing columnist.

Today is the turn of the Independent to pull her up on her quote that she shouldn’t be called a “socialite”. How dare she say she isn’t. Oh the scorn, the tutting, the disdain.

Christina Patterson goes even further. In one of the most convoluted opinion columns in living memory, she insinuates that “the very beautiful, and very rich, and very famous for her famous boyfriends, Jemima Khan”, may not be genuinely interested in “the cause of freedom of speech”.

“It’s also possible that [Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger] did the calculations before making the deal”, sentenced Patterson. “On the one side: beauty, money, glamour. On the other: ‘rock star’ looks, a delicious sense of self-righteousness, and the aphrodisiac of massive, world-leader-embarrassing power”.

Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Here’s the message to every celebrity: show an interest in something and the papers will pick you to pieces.

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Claude is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at: Hagley Road to Ladywood
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Reader comments


notice you only get the criticism if the views are seen as left or liberal, does Frederick Forsyth get the same stick for hs ultra right views ?

but that would be expecting the right commentators not to be hypocrites

Its indicative of contemporary capitalist society in which the only value is consumption. Celebrities are only useful as long as they are encouraging us to consume more. Entertainment is just about consumption. We have no real concept of leisure…

@1. Huh? Of course there is criticism in the mass media for celebrities with “ultra right views”. You just don’t find it in the Mail. Are you going to slate the Guardian for publishing the following?

Frederick Forsyth: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/may/12/crimebooks.features
Ten other celebrities: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/oct/14/popandrock2

Are you going to call the authors of those articles “hypocrites”? Of course not, and rightly so! In order to criticise someone for holding political views, a commentator must first disagree with those views, so it really isn’t surprising that Left attacks Right and vice versa. It’s a natural consequence of allowing journalists to express their opinions. Luckily, newspapers are not expected to be fair, balanced and impartial, so the editorial bias is obvious and open, instead of being disguised and secretive such as “bias by omission”.

if a celebrity supports the conservative party they are called wise and intelligent,if they support a different party they are called thick people who should keep their opinions to themselves.

Pretty difficult to have a concept of leisure without consuming leisure, Rob. The only point of production is consumption so the issue is not consumption or something else but consumption of things of which we approve.

To be fair, I’ve seen some proper rank sh**e be written by Christina Patterson with this one being the prime example: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/christina-patterson/christina-patterson-the-limits-of-multiculturalism-2036861.html

But then again I guess that’s why we call them “Hacks”.

re vladimir. i think you overestimate the integrity of a columnists political integrity. many journalists seem to be little better than prostitutes,tailoring their so called political views to the political bias of the newspaper and proprietor they are currently being employed by.

@5. I’m thinking of consumption defined in terms of expending goods and services, whilst leisure should be surely defined as freedom from such demands, no? Are we to define all of our lived experiences in terms of consumption…the consumption of time, energy; etc. I think this is stretching it a bit far and devalues the things in life that have some real substance and inherent worth to them, such as being with loved ones, helping others; etc.

I think this one from Brad Pitt is rather good:

“You shouldn’t speak until you know what you’re talking about. That’s why I get uncomfortable with interviews. Reporters ask me what I feel China should do about Tibet. Who cares what I think China should do? They hand me a script. I’m a grown man who puts on makeup.”

@falcao, we all have our views, otherwise why would we post on comment pieces liek this, celebs are allowed their views if they like, it is called a free speaking democracy.

it is those who hide away their true thoughts I have no time for, Paul O’Grady was so great on ITV because you saw the passion, that was not mock nor acting.

It was real

Forsyth was a journalist to begin with. While I’ve read many left-wing attacks on him, they all engaged with his arguments per se. I’ve never read one suggesting he has no right to express his opinion because he’s a celebrity (that includes the article Vladimir links to in an attempt to prove his point).

““You shouldn’t speak until you know what you’re talking about.”

Imagine how quiet the Interwebs would be.

@11 you obviously do not get eh point, the right wing go into apoplexy that celebs support left views, why not the same over forysth or Jim Davidson !!

at least be consistent.

Seeing as most of the MSM is nothing but Pravda for the right wing, it is not surprising that the pundocrity get their little knickers in a twist when someone who can get attention spouts views they, or their masters don’t agree with.

As some one said, it is fine if celebs come out for Right wing politics but if they say anything left wing they are jumped on.

Oh, and anyone expressing a left wing view is classed as ‘political’, but funny that term never applies to celebs who push pro tory support. In Right wing political correct language ….‘political’ means left wing.

When George Galloway went on big brother the pundits worked themselves into a froth about how he was demeaning himself ,and how he should have been in parliament giving speeches. But that was all bullshit. What they hated was that he was getting an audience of 5 million people to speak to, un filtered by the right wing press. And how they hated it. The media and the Westminster village just hated it.

and Sally when Widdecombe is on SCD she is seen as a tory Heroine but Cable slated

16. Chaise Guevara

This is not in any way a disease of the right. If a celebrity expresses right-wing views there are always plenty of people who say they should shut up and stick to their day job, often on this very site. It’s just how people are.

I think it’s understandable that people feel frustrated that the average office worker’s or shop assistant’s views are not considered interesting enough to publish, but if you happen to be an actor or a musician you can get on the front page. That’s fine up to a point, but it doesn’t mean people should muzzle themselves just because they’re famous.

“This is not in any way a disease of the right. If a celebrity expresses right-wing views there are always plenty of people who say they should shut up and stick to their day job, often on this very site. ”

Yes but who is telling the shut up? It is not the media. It may be other lefty clebs or lefty politicians but is not the media. That is the difference.

I see no media attacks on Tim Rice or Joan Collins, or Barbara Windsor for their political views.

Sally does have a point about the absurd outrage and hypocrisy if someone rich or famous says anything remotely radical. State you are overtaxed and the outraged Right will find it completely unremarkable. Lefties will probably say well bugger off. However, say, you know as a society we really ought to do more for those at the bottom and it will be all champagne socialists epithets that are thrown around. Moreover, there is almost the assumption that if someone does not sell everything they have and live in sackclothes then they are not entitled to an opinion. At the heart of it all is some folks comforting belief but rarely expressed that the poor are to blame for their own poverty. Therefore, anyone who might challenge that smug belief is seen as a threat who must be silenced by being delegitimised.

19. Daniel Factor

Sometimes celebrities speeking out on big causes can be very annoying and hugely hypocritical. Remember Madonna who joined up with the global warming cause then flew in on a massive jet for the Live Earth gig?

This IS a disease of the right, in two ways.

1) When a celeb is attacked for right wing views, the attack usually comes from the fringes, very seldom from the MSM; lefty celebs are attacked by legions of high-paid columnists.

2) The tone of the attack is different. When the celeb is right wing, critics come explicitly from the left: they attack primarily the opinion, and if they attack the person, it’s along the lines of “so-and-so is stupid for believing something so daft”. When the celeb is left wing, the attack is nearly always “so-and-so is stupid for having any opinion at all” – which is disingenuous, because if the critics really meant that, they’d be saying the same about right wing celebs. However, pretending not to attack the specific opinion saves the media attack dogs the effort of actually engaging with it or explaining what’s wrong with it.

Daniel F

Exactly.

We have a right wing press and that is that. Unless we change it,nothing is gonna happen. They will stil be arseh*les.

Still I feel we have as lefties a lot of champagne socialists. And Jemima is an extent that can be called that…

?

But good on her!

PS – No problem whatever with attacking celebs for hypocrisy, which is a very different matter. But “some celebs have expressed opinions which their actions don’t match” =/= “no celeb should ever express an opinion”.

The influence of “confirmation bias” is surely important here.

If you are Left, you are likely to notice when journalists use silencing tactics against the political views you share. But you are unlikely to notice (or care about) similar tactics used by the Left against the Right. These do not stand out, firstly because you believe the sentiments expressed are right, and secondly because they are redressing the balance of power as you perceive it.

For instance, contributors such as “sally” appear to be convinced that a reactionary Establishment is hell-bent upon using the mainstream media to crush all Left-wing thought. If she really believes this, then she will surely not object to any action that counters the imbalance, since she supposes that the situation is beyond dire.

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 20

“1) When a celeb is attacked for right wing views, the attack usually comes from the fringes, very seldom from the MSM; lefty celebs are attacked by legions of high-paid columnists.”

Good point (and ditto Sally and Richard).

2) The tone of the attack is different. When the celeb is right wing, critics come explicitly from the left: they attack primarily the opinion, and if they attack the person, it’s along the lines of “so-and-so is stupid for believing something so daft”. When the celeb is left wing, the attack is nearly always “so-and-so is stupid for having any opinion at all” – which is disingenuous, because if the critics really meant that, they’d be saying the same about right wing celebs. However, pretending not to attack the specific opinion saves the media attack dogs the effort of actually engaging with it or explaining what’s wrong with it.”

I have to say that I’ve found that lefties tend to attack right-wing celebs either by direct ad homs or, more usually, by complaining that they are taking unfair advantage of the publicity they can generate. Possibly the right does this more, and obviously it’s worse if it happens in newspapers rather than in pubs and on web forums.

The really sickening thing is when the papers decide some indivivual represents a threat and immediately go to work trying to dig up something irrelevant to make them seem unlikeable. The Mail’s pathetic attempt to hang the label “Nazi” on Clegg after the first election debate is a very good example of that, although of course he’s not a celebrity in the sense we’re using.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Vlad

“The influence of “confirmation bias” is surely important here.”

Absolutely. It’s also coming up a lot over in the “UK Fox News” thread. We’ve got people saying that the BBC is basically Fox News anyway, and others claiming that Fox News would balance out the pro-Labour, socialist BBC. You show me someone who thinks the BBC is systematically and deliberately biased towards one party or the other, I’ll show you someone who can’t see things from any perspective but their own.

The tendency to assume that your personal opinions are automatically “normal” and “centrist” plays a big role here too, both as a cause and an effect.

@25. Entirely agree. It’s very difficult (if not impossible) to be objective about this sort of thing.

I can’t claim to understand how anyone can see the BBC as a far-right Pravda, but the fact that this even came up is evidence for the hypothesis that journalistic impartiality is impossible, and any media organisation claiming to be fair, balanced and impartial is likely none of the above. I like it best when journalists are open about their politics, and in the newspapers at least, that’s usually what happens.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 26

I generally agree with that (the existence of the The Sun Says column goes some way to excusing the paper’s partisanship), although I think that the Beeb does a surprisingly good job of staying balanced. Oh, you can call them out on one issue or another, but across the board they try not to pass judgement and to follow the zeitgeist.

Of course, in the case of Fox News, the fact that it claims to be balanced probably doesn’t do much harm given that it so blatantly isn’t.

Good article this but a bit verbose. If we just accept that celebrities are only there to entertain us, there cerebral and educational capabilities don’t really matter. It’s a matter of concern if we start taking the seriously.

‘Absolutely. It’s also coming up a lot over in the “UK Fox News” thread. We’ve got people saying that the BBC is basically Fox News anyway, and others claiming that Fox News would balance out the pro-Labour, socialist BBC. You show me someone who thinks the BBC is systematically and deliberately biased towards one party or the other, I’ll show you someone who can’t see things from any perspective but their own.’

Precisely. For instance, nobody who has done the slightest content analysis on the BBC could possibly conclude it is dominated by climate change deniers yet the slightest hint of raising awkward questions – even if only to answer them with further evidence of anthropogenic climate change – is met by gibbering hysteria.

Back to the OP though: being a celebrity does not automatically make you an expert and the celeb you praise for standing up for wikileaks this week might well be telling you to drink your own piss the next.

” If we just accept that celebrities are only there to entertain us, there cerebral and educational capabilities don’t really matter. It’s a matter of concern if we start taking the seriously.”

How very tory of you.

So celebs are of a lower class, to be seen but not heard?
In many cases they know far more than the cretins who pass for newspaper columnists.

Take LittleJon. He is always writing about health and safety. But why? He has never done an honest days work in his entire life. He is just acting as butler to his corporate masters.

“being a celebrity does not automatically make you an expert “
No-one says they are. And I don’t think they do either. But that doesn’t give hacks a licence to butcher them i.e. Jan Moir with Khan. Sally @30 makes a good point. It’s not as if Moir herself and her colleague Littlejohn have the slightest clue of what they’re talking about.

@ 30. sally

Apologies if my view reads as ‘tory’, certainly not intentional on my part. However, I’ll try and answer your points as honestly as possible.

1. I don’t see anyone as “lower class” or any other ‘class’ for that matter. It’s a subject I’ve never really understood.

2. Journalists write for a living. I don’t have to like or dislike it. I have the choice to agree or disagree.

3. All politicians recognise the advantages of having certain celebrities and media outlets ‘on-side’ as they provide a gateway to otherwise lost elements of the voting population.

Happy with that Sally ?

Ted

1 fair enough, but you seem to be saying that celebs shouds be seen but not heard.

2 What difference does it make if the do it for a living? As I have pointed out many of the highest paid know very little about what they are talking about.

3 Agreed. Which is why the right wing media, which dominate opinion are so keen to jump on anyone that says anything that does not fit with their interests. This also proves that newspapers are very well aware of the power they have. Which flys in the face of what they say when challenged about their power.

34. Chaise Guevara

@ 31

” It’s not as if Moir herself and her colleague Littlejohn have the slightest clue of what they’re talking about.”

That’s ultimately the issue: we don’t live in a perfect meritocracy where the loudest voice on any subject is always that of the person most qualified to speak. Instead, people get platforms because they won a local popularity contest, or can write well enough to work for a newspaper, or successfully marketed a political campaign. None of which makes them an expert on anything.

Sally

1 “you seem to be saying that celebs shouds be seen but not heard.” Possibly I’m guilty of a mild form of snobbery because I only see them as a ‘tool’ to be used in one form or another. Therefore I do prefer them to be seen and not heard when they’re spouting off about things they know little or nothing about.

2 “As I have pointed out many of the highest paid know very little about what they are talking about.” They’re just the qualified professional level of those at Item 1. To be ignored in equal measure or, viewed as literary entertainment.

3 “This also proves that newspapers are very well aware of the power they have.” Disagree. Newspapers often just ‘fly a kite’ with stories and see if it ‘has legs’ as they arrogantly put it. Ordinary intellegent people are not affected by such rubbish.

Of course the real danger is that genuinely intellegent and hardworking members of society are put off having anything to do with politics and don’t read newspapers.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 Ted

“Newspapers often just ‘fly a kite’ with stories and see if it ‘has legs’ as they arrogantly put it. Ordinary intellegent people are not affected by such rubbish”

Very true. The papers recently did what they thought was a shocking expose on the fact that human waste is used as fertiliser, which was met by frenzied howls of “meh” from the public.

i think the problem is that a lot of the time, celebs are terribly misinformed about issues, and are given space to talk about the issues that are close to their heart only because they are celebs.

ths results in the ridiculous situation where the govt had to take time out of their day to listen to madonna’s theory that water blessed in a kabbalah style will neutralise nuclear waste or some such bollocks. or jolie and pitt turning up at davros. or geri halliwell being an ‘ambassador’ for maternal health…or…or…bono telling me to give money to africa whilst blithely not paying his taxes…

unfortunately, this means that when a celebrity who is informed (and, to be fair, bono does know what he’s talking about, even if his tax habits make him a huge hypocrite) people are so bored of the prattling on of celeb-itics that they yawn and tell them to get lost.

i would really recommend Marina Hyde’s book about celebrity to see what damage ill informed celebs can cause when they try and influence international events without doing their reading first.

@ 37. sianushka

Exactly. Most, if not all, would need promotion to qualify as the village idiot. Court jesters, clowns, illusionists, sportspeople, singers, dancers, racing drivers, actors etc..etc ..what’s the difference ? They entertain quite well in most cases – nothing more but they’re still too stupid to realise when they are just being used as pawns in someone else’s quest for power and / or money.

39. Chaise Guevara

@ 38

“Most, if not all, would need promotion to qualify as the village idiot.”

Oh, come off it. What evidence or justification could you possibly have to claim that famous = stupid? Stephen Fry, David Mitchell, Stephen Hawkings and Salman Rushdie all qualify as celebrities; do you think these people are morons? It’s prejudice, pure and simple. A way for you to feel superior to those more successful than you.

@ 39. Chaise Guevara

Wrong. I wish them every success they can possibly achieve – money or otherwise. They are however just entertainers – nothing more.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 40

You’re still submitting no justification whatsoever for your statement about celebrities being idiots, though.

@ @ 40

Apologies for that omission. I’ve never met one – and I have met a few – who was not infected with a vane, self seeking and superior attitude. Admittedly I could have been unlucky but most were also quite narrow in their views on wider issues outside their own little worlds. Just entertainers, mostly quite good at what they do but not to be taken seriously on important issues.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 42

I think that vanity and the like will almost certainly be found in abundance among celebs, because vanity is both a cause and an effect of fame. Stupidity? Not so much. Like I said, Hawking isn’t an idiot; indeed, that’s why he’s famous. Stephen Fry isn’t famous for being clever or worldly (he started out as a comic actor, as I’m sure you recall), but he is both. I remember the first time I read the autobiography of his childhood: every issue there was dealt with from a scientific, sensible and compassionate standpoint. I don’t think I’ve ever said “too bloody right!” so often in a single sitting.

Of course, it’s possible that celebs in some areas may have a lower IQ than average because that very fact has lead to them developing the skills that made them famous. A footballer might have been encouraged to develop his footie skills as a child precisely because his parents knew he wasn’t very talented academically. But you really can’t claim that most or all famous people are idiots, it’s a ridiculous sweeping statement.

Ted

I think you are underestimating the power of the media, and the way they try to silence those people they don’t agree with. You can cling to the belief that the media follow public opinion, and sometimes they do. But mostly they lead opinion, and they know how powerful they are.

Why do you think every one of Murdoch’s 58 papers supported the Iraq war? Why does he happily allow certain papers to run at a loss? If the media is so weak why do the tories spend so much time attacking the BBC?

I am not saying that all celebs know what they are talking about. But there is a very clear policy of slapping down those who say anything the media masters. don’t like. Which means celebs that say pro tory points are given a free ride.

@ 44. sally

Stuff the media old girl, this debate is about human morals and those intellegent enough to look beyond the narrow parameters of politics or religion.

Ted

Not is not.


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