Maybe it’s due to the Academy Awards, but I??¢â???¬â???¢ve been thinking about celebrities and politics lately. (Not as separate issues, because, while I often think of politics, I rarely think about celebrities. What I mean is that I’ve been thinking about the relationship between the two.) And thanks to all this serious and thorough thinking, I??¢â???¬â???¢ve arrived at a few conclusions:
??¢â???¬ ¢ A celebrity has just as much right to speak out as people who hold real jobs. This is America, after all, and you should not be precluded from voicing your opinions just because you sing songs, mouth other peoples??¢â???¬â???¢ words on a sitcom or, for that matter, spin a giant multi-colored wheel on a game show.
??¢â???¬ ¢ A celebrity should try to consider the appropriateness of a venue before opening his or her yap about political and social issues. Just because an arena is full of screaming kids who have come to hear your latest songs doesn??¢â???¬â???¢t mean you have the right to abuse this captive audience with speeches, tirades or political proselytizing. When you go up to a bank teller for a transaction, you don??¢â???¬â???¢t want to hear a lot about politics or the environment before your check is cashed.
??¢â???¬ ¢ A celebrity??¢â???¬â???¢s opinion should not be given any more weight than anyone else??¢â???¬â???¢s, unless there is some special expertise the celebrity brings to a subject. That expertise should involve real life, as opposed to having once portrayed a doctor or a mayor or a scientist in a movie or on a television show. There are some smart celebrities and some dumb celebrities. The one certainty is that celebrityhood, in itself, does not automatically imbue one with intelligence and wisdom.
??¢â???¬ ¢ A celebrity should be prepared for the consequences of an opinion if that opinion is stated publicly. It is not un-American for someone to say, ??¢â???¬?????I think what this guy said at the concert last night was stupid and outrageous, so I??¢â???¬â???¢m not going to buy any of his records.??¢â???¬ It is not censorship, either, if no one (Constitutionally speaking, the government, in particular) stops you from voicing your opinions.
I??¢â???¬â???¢ve been writing about politics with a Conservative slant for many years. I have spoken at many political events and I??¢â???¬â???¢ve made my views pretty clear. However, I have tried, as much as possible, to keep the politics separated from my TV persona. So you won??¢â???¬â???¢t find me pausing between spins to endorse a candidate or talk about the virtues of school choice. Even when appearing on other shows (unless they are explicitly political in nature) politics is a subject from which I stay away. Even on my website, the often political “Sajak Says…” page is segregated.
The line between show business and politics is growing more blurred each year. People are famous these days merely for being famous. Celebrities have growing numbers of venues in which to express their views, and these views are often taken more seriously than they ought to be. The obligation of celebrities, it seems to me, is not to take advantage of those blurred lines when they speak. And, if they do, the obligation of the public is to keep in mind who is doing the speaking.