Celebrities continue to give their opinions on politics and war
By Francesca Toscano
Celebrities are reliable sources for a variety of topics, such as beauty, fashion and how to end up in rehab. However, there are subjects that many stars should not have an opinion on: rocket science, brain surgery and, in an age of reality television and auto-tune, talent. Nevertheless, celebrities continue to comment on the most tumultuous and controversial topics. Even more depressing, generations of mindless followers believe them without understanding the subjects themselves. War has been a subject of debate for many years so various celebrities have been compelled to share their opinions with the public. And we’ve been compelled to listen.
Shakira, Colombian vocalist and sex symbol, is renowned for her sultry voice and hips that don’t lie. She is less known, however, for her involvement with the Iraq War. Shakira stated, “I think that the leaders know the exit to conflict, it’s just that sometimes they don’t want to use them. They just want to continue playing their little game of power.” Although Shakira’s effort to end the War on Terror is honorable, her credibility is virtually non-existent.
Similarly, former Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson has also input regarding the Iraq War: “I just think we are a little bit of an arrogant nation. … What has our government done to provoke 9/11 that we don’t know about?” Although the Backstreet Boys were an iconic boy band, their ability to harmonize does not necessarily translate into political authority. Richardson’s bold statement could be effective in opening the public’s eyes to governmental corruption, but it provided no explanation or evidence. The fact that Americans would listen to Richardson before political experts is disheartening.
Shakira and Richardson are only two of countless celebrities who have shared their input on the war. Queen Latifah, Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand, Avril Lavigne, George Clooney, Dave Matthews and Jane Fonda are some of the other celebrities that have made their opinions known. Many of these stars are highly respected in the realm of celebrities, and therefore it is suspected that the motivation behind the celebrities’ standpoints might have been somewhat tactical.
Michelle Courtney Berry, an Ithaca College lecturer in the strategic communications department and a public relations consultant, believes celebrities have the ability and power to bring awareness to wartime issues.
“Although the public tends to not give credit to celebrities for influencing non-celebrity opinions, and we tend to want to believe that we form our own opinions that are not impacted by ‘star power,’ the sheer influence of celebrities to urge citizens to call their elected representative is undeniable,” she said.
Berry explained that an opinion of the military can also benefit the celebrity. “[Celebrities] can also boost their brand if their activism is aligned with a public cause that neutralizes strongly held public opinions, particularly when celebrity power mobilizes to raise money for a good cause. After 9/11, dozens of stars mobilized to put on a telethon that raised $150 million for victims’ families.”
After opening for both Maya Angelou and the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Berry found a similar strategy behind the power within their anti-war messages.
“In both cases, my beliefs about spirituality and peace were aligned with their cause and/or speeches. I’ve found that clients who pursue anti-war agendas who speak first of peace above politics have the most appealing message strategies.”
Berry’s assertion is accurate, as many celebrities’ influences have positively affected the public’s political understanding. For example, the non-profit Rock the Vote campaign, which has featured numerous celebrities including Robert Downey Jr., Christina Aguilera and Madonna, educates America’s youth of the importance of voting and understanding all governmental practices. On the Rock the Vote website, the benefits and detriments of war are listed, which encourages visitors to make their own educated decisions. However, without the endorsement of many of the celebrities, the Rock the Vote campaign would not have become as recognized as it is today.
The fact that celebrities can have no understanding of politics, but they have the power to bring others to action is a paradoxical matter that can be both frustrating and inspiring. When “celebrities” like Kevin Richardson make blunt and somewhat ignorant statements about the war, it is disappointing that followers will blindly take on the celebrity’s opinions without a personal understanding of the issue. However, if stars can use their power to bring recognition to the issues and allow the public to come to their own decisions, celebrities can truly make a difference.
Francesca Toscano is a freshman IMC major who thinks Kevin Richardson should quit playing games with her heart. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.