You don’t have to look hard to find an actor or singer who is jamming a foot in his or her mouth on a hot political issue. Just consider Tom Hanks’ statements last month about the reasons the U.S. fought Japan during World War II.
“We, in turn, wanted to annihilate [the Japanese] because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?” Hanks rhetorically asked Time magazine, weaving historical lunacy with moral relativism gone wild while pitching his new product, HBO‘s “The Pacific.”
You almost can’t blame the rich and famous for such mistakes. They endure an endless stream of questions while promoting their latest product and journalists know talking politics is good copy. Celebrities, whose opinions are rarely put through any rigorous testing, are only too happy to oblige.
The “Huffington Post” goes one step further, providing valuable online space to celebrities eager to play pundit for a day.
That means A-list talent (Alec Baldwin) and lesser lights (Steven Weber) alike can pontificate to their heart’s content—just like Paul Krugman.
Weber, the erstwhile “Wings” man, was in rare form recently as he railed against Republicans in an April 3 HuffPo op-ed. If you can get through this sample paragraph without stopping to catch your breath, you’re of heartier stock than I:
“Perhaps the Republicans are playing into some master plan wherein all power is gradually, systematically leeched from the masses and centralized into a snug, capitalistic, corporate version of an aristocracy, keeping The People perpetually strained but entertained by shiny yet easily broken/disposable/replaceable baubles and only minimally involved in the basic running of the country so as to provide the citizenry with an illusion of democratic participation and therefore allowing them to distinguish their lives from that of common, old-fashioned serfs.”
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons used his March 29 column to slam how the world views followers of Islam.:
“The hatred and anger towards Muslims in this country and around the world has gone beyond the tipping point,” he cries, offering no proof, no poll not even a follow-up sentence to back up his claim.
But he’s just warming up.
"We must NEVER wage a war, directly or indirectly against Muslims or any group of people for that matter," he proclaims.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Too bad every generation has its Hitler or Taliban, folks who make war a necessary evil. But Simmons’ Kumbaya battle cry isn’t over yet.
“After 9/11 we had the chance to promote world peace, but instead we promoted an anger towards ourselves. We missed an amazing opportunity when every Muslim country sympathized with us.”
Perhaps Simmons missed the footage of Muslims cheering those very same attacks, or the polls that showed respect for Osama bin Laden in the Muslim world.
Sting looked to HuffPo’s considerable audience recently to demand a ceasefire in the U.S. War on Drugs. But it’s clear this Brit isn’t up on how things work in America.
“People who genuinely need help [beating drug addiction] can’t get it. Neither can people who need medical marijuana to treat terrible diseases. We are spending billions, filling up our prisons with non-violent offenders and sacrificing our liberties,” the former Police front man wrote.
The U.S., of course, boasts plenty of rehab facilities for addicts. Heck, if you’re a celebrity has-been you can hang out with Dr. Drew Pinsky while getting your act together. And in states like Colorado, marijuana is legally available to treat aches, pains and nausea.
To be fair, not every celebrity op-ed causes brain cells to wither and die.
Barbra Streisand, of all people, resorted to Democratic talking points in a recent post blasting the GOP for daring to vote against ObamaCare. But at least her argument was coherent, if blindingly unoriginal.
Ultimately, these slipshod editorials don’t forward the national dialogue a single inch. What they do, perhaps, is hurt the careers of those who pen them.
“The Pacific” has drawn weak ratings so far despite a mix of razzle-dazzle action and heartfelt tributes to Allied soldiers. Could Hanks’ comments, which ricocheted around the Web for days leading up the show’s first episode, have played a part in that?
And people routinely say they don’t support a particular actor’s work because of their incendiary comments on political matters.
Would a proud Republican rush out to see Weber’s latest projects knowing how he thinks of his fellow GOP supporters?
Celebrities have every right to speak their minds on Twitter, the Huffington Post or any other outlet they deem worthy of their wisdom. But they have only themselves to blame when they use their Freedom of Speech rights to make themselves look foolish. And they shouldn’t be surprised if the public isn’t as eager to buy their product once they’re done shooting off their mouths. Freedom works two ways.