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False American Idols By: David Harsanyi
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 21, 2002


The singer. The actor. The empty vessel. Many pundits believe celebrities are frivolously easy targets unworthy of our scorn. They must realize, however, that a single voice of a celebrity reaches more common Americans than a busload of think tank intellectuals. The influence of that voice is debatable. The necessity to oppose it is not.

Apparently, something extraordinary happens when one becomes a celebrity. With all the attention, money and adoration, the narcissistic pop idol is too easily convinced that intelligence is a by-product of fame. Shooting faxes off to congressman as if they were political advisors, penning opinion pieces for major newspapers, the celeb believes that convictions formed in Beverly Hills compounds are more consequential and relevant than that of the ordinary American.

"How could such a destructive man be so popular with the American people?" singer Barbra Striesand asks about George W. Bush's popularity. After all, she didn't vote for him. This arrogant mind-set is reminiscent of theater critic Pauline Kael's reaction to Richard Nixon's landslide presidential victory over George McGovern in 1972" "How can that be?" she supposedly said. "No one I know voted for Nixon."

The late Kael, politically obtuse as she was, could probably tell you what country dictator Saddam Huessein was from. It's likely she could spell Iraq. And it's certain, she would expect a two-time-Oscar-winning actress to recognize Shakespeare when she hears it.

A number of these self-important stars had threatened to leave the United States should the democratic process not go their way in the 2000 Presidential elections. (They didn't, by the way.) What Americans would do without distinguished talents like Robert Altman or Alec Baldwin we'll never find out. Thankfully, both have decided to stay with us. Baldwin will enrich our lives with a supporting role in next year's "The Cat in the Hat," while the inexplicably respected Altman will inevitably direct another tedious flop - as he's done countless times since 1970's M.A.S.H.

Can the Hollywood elites make a difference in the political process? When it comes to fund raising, their influence cannot be denied. And to their everlasting dismay, one of their own, Ronald Reagan, even went on to be on of the most admired and triumphant presidents in history. Other, like Hillary Clinton, JC Watts, Jesse Ventura have used various levels of celebrity status to win elections in recent years. Actor Warren Beatty was reportedly considering a run for the 2000 presidential bid as a Democrat or possibly independent. (Bernard Shaw once said: "He knows nothing and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.") Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger is also rumored to be mulling over a run for California governor.

But have we gone too far, letting celebrities play politics in their spare time?

In June, one of the Backstreet Boys, (yes, Backstreet Boys), Kevin Richardson came to Washington to expose his expertise. Was it regarding CD pirating? Napster? No. He testified to the Senate Environmental and Public works subcommittee about mountaintop removal mining in Tennessee.

"It's just a joke to think that this witness can provide members of the United States Senate with information on important geological and water quality issues," said a sensible Senator George Voinovich, who boycotted the session. "We're either serious about the issues or we're running a sideshow."

Talk about a sideshow. A few years back, former super model Christie Brinkley lectured the congressional environment committee on nuclear energy. She told reporters at the 2000 Democratic National Convention that "a model talking about a nuclear power plant is going to capture a different audience then a nuclear scientist will." You better believe it. Models capture audiences that care about fashion and makeup tips. Everyone knows you should leave discussions about national security to actors.

Case in point: Woody Harrelson. Woody, the mentally challenged bartender Harrelson played on the popular sitcom Cheers, may be reasonable sketch of his true intellect. After reading his recent editorial for the UK's Guardian, "I'm an American tired of American lies," it's doubtfully any rational person would disagree.

"I went to the White House when Harvey Weinstein was showing Clinton the movie Welcome to Sarejevo, which I was in. I got a few moments alone with Clinton. Saddam throwing out the weapons inspectors was all over the news and I asked what he was going to do. His answer was very revealing. He said: "Everybody is telling me to bomb him. All the military are saying, 'You gotta bomb him.' But if even one innocent person died, I couldn't bear it." And I looked in his eyes and I believed him. Little did I know he was blocking humanitarian aid at the time, allowing the deaths of thousands of innocent people."

Harvey Weinstein, who incidentally, contributed "so much money and fundraising help from Miramax… [to Hillary Clinton] that it can't be counted " according to the Village Voice, also uses his place in movies to raise money for countless candidates of the Left. But it's hard to imagine that even he could come up with something so vile and treacherous. "But if even one innocent person died, I couldn't bear it." Were the two thousand civilians killed in bombing raids over Serbia by American planes bearable for the former president? If in fact, it's doubtful Clinton ever utter those words to begin with.

"… Now my government is creating its second war in less than a year. No; war requires two combatants, so I should say "its second bombing campaign."

Americans unable to take a few months to act in a play in London, own a vacation house in Belize and kick back in five-star hotels worldwide, might not be able to turn themselves off from reality so easily. They may believe that terrorists, and not the U.S., "created" the first war. They may also believe a homicidal, chemical-biological-nuclear-weapon-totting terrorist is about to start second war.

But you have to wonder how U.S. soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, or their families, would feel about ground operations being referred to as a "bombing campaign." Few celebrities are ready to sacrifice their comfy confines for public service, much less to serve in the armed forces. Most just embarrass themselves, asserting simplistic, reckless political opinions.


David Harsanyi is an NYC-based writer. Visit his website (http://dharsanyi.blogspot.com/) or email him at david_harsanyi@yahoo.com.


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