a rash of celebrities have, in the past weeks, lent their names to the assumed candidates of the u.s. presidential election. the issue boils down to whether a celebrity has a responsibility to be politically active given their stature, or is their endorsement an abuse of their star power. i stand here today to lodge my objection to this practice as i don't think it's good for the voting public.
What first got me thinking about this was a quote from tom hanks:
i want barack obama to be the next president of our country. as an official celebrity, i know my endorsement has just made your mind up for you.
now, that's a pretty pompous statement to make. i wondered where he got the notion that he is that important to america and the american political scene? unfortunately, this is the sad reality of our celebrity crazed society. celebrities can make these statements and the underlying truth is not lost.
to this, i also read a more grounded approach from pete sampras:
i don't personally (get involved in politics). it's not my place to tell you whom to vote for, to take and political stand, to tell you what religion to believe in. i'm an athlete. i can influence certain things, but when i see other athletes and celebrities telling you whom to vote for, i actually get a bit offended.
it's not his place, nor is it tom hanks' place to tell you which way you should vote. endorsements are part of the political game, only they should be left to the politicians. they're best qualified to make judgments on other politicians, because it's their field. it's not a celebrity's.
sure, some celebs have more credibility than others (george clooney) and others have even gone on to enter the political theatre (reagan, ah-nold). then their are people who have none whatsoever (jessica simpson). in either case, these people can't truly understand the ins and outs of the political game because they aren't in it. so they have little qualification to direct people which way to vote.
where celebrities should be involved with politics is simply to use their influence, appeal, and ability in commanding an audience to move people not toward any particular politician, but simply toward the democratic process and to vote. celebrities need to remain politically neutral and use their position to encourage involvement in the system, to push them to seek out for themselves the knowledge to make a decision and to vote their own way. not the way the celebrity sees it. celebrities are an awareness medium, not an influential one. that's right, celebrities are a medium.
using your star power to promote education is far more productive to the political realm of society than promoting who you want to vote for. incite intelligent discourse and information gathering rather than stifling it by presenting one option, theirs.
i wish it weren't so that celebrities wielded so much power and influence over the populace. it's sad commentary on our society and culture that they do. if only that power could be channeled for something that serves us and the process all better.
the problem is information and it's two fold: 1) too many people are uninformed or misinformed and 2) there is too much information out there in our media-centric world and digital age. both may very well lead to the conclusion that it is simply easier to rely on a celebrity to choose for you.
how does liking someone as a celebrity equate to you sharing the same political ideals as them, so far as to cast a vote inline with them? how can celebrities feel good about leveraging their influence this way? and how can we as people feel good about not thinking for ourselves? of all the people you align yourself with, surely celebrities, with all their wealth, fame, entitlement and stature are the furthest from our own perspective having none of those things in the quantities they do.