Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Dark Side of the Celebrity

As I have said before, I am not a political person by nature, and as I have said before, I am a Zionist and find the BDS movement a crock. I also think a lot about the influence of celebrity on our culture. I do try, though, to separate my appreciation for culture and my limited and often private political views. So, yes, I find Mel Gibson's behavior and personal views abhorrent (though simple minded and amusing) but I still enjoy some of his work in film -- his roles and his acting of those roles. So the recent flap over Roger Waters and his views on Israel has got me thinking. Not about me, mind you. I still will listen to my old Pink Floyd albums. If I had any. I liquidated most of my vinyl collection years ago, my cassettes before that. I survive on radio and MP3's. Occasionally, I look at my CD's.

I still enjoy listening to some Syd Barrett tracks even though in 1975 he espoused shaving of eyebrows, a political position I cannot endorse.

Will I go to a Roger Waters concert? No, but I wasn't planning to, anyway. In the rift between Gilmour and Waters, I favor Gilmour so this was never a question. But, while reading through scads of websites and commentary, I have been struck by the number of people who are seemingly influenced by Roger Waters and his call for other artists to boycott Israel. (By the way, kudos to Bar Rafaeli in asking Waters to remove her picture from his video presentation as she is also a product of Israel.) Are people really that dumb? Sometimes I have hope for humanity -- I see flashes of true thought among people. And sometimes, the idiots drag me down. Today, I feel dragged.

I feel this same sense of frustration when people attack Israel and cite Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is a genius, no question. His work on linguistics is so advanced and intense that I long for the day when I understand even a small percentage of it. But why does that make him an expert on Middle East politics? Why does it confer authority on him and let people view his positions as not being influenced by his own agenda or erroneous presumptions? So the same holds true of Waters. He puts a 6 pointed star (usually associated with Judaism) on his inflatable pig. He is making an association between Jews/Judaism/Israel (already a dangerous conflation on his inflation) and a pig. One could extrapolate from that about a view on other stuff related to pigs or something but the bottom line is, if there is anyone in the audience who suddenly is persuaded to form or reform political views of the Middle East conflict based on seeing that prop, I expect that person to be killed on the way home while trying to kiss the grille of an oncoming car because he is asked "don't you love that new Chrysler?"

Roger Waters is not a bad musician. But he isn't a political pundit and I have no reason to believe that he is well informed about any political situation at all. Why would I let a musician, any musician, influence anything other than my views on his music? I barely let the talking heads on cable news influence my politics, and I don't want to see a professional football player give me dental advice. Would anyone defer on issues of French cuisine to a helicopter pilot simply because he is loud or well known? Do people really want to avoid the effort of learning and thinking, or want to adore celebrity so much that they let an actor make up their minds for them, or a musician lead them towards a political stance?

Don't get me wrong -- I understand that celebrities are individuals and have their own feelings about things and more to them for wanting to be involved (just watching Matt Damon speak on behalf of teachers, or Patrick Stewart discuss the problem of domestic abuse makes me want to send them signed, blank checks), but they should be role models in that they stand up for something and encourage others to do the research to develop (theoretically) nuanced views of the world capable of being passionately and intelligently defended. Not that because they stand up for something and are famous, their position is necessarily given more credence and weight or adopted wholesale.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment and understand that no matter what you type, I still think you are a robot.