Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Celebrities and politics – walking a tightrope

Posted by sanityinjection on June 11, 2008

I certainly count myself among those who are irritated when Hollywood celebrities such as Barbara Streisand and George Clooney engage in self-righteous political preaching.  However, it is also true that these celebrities, like any American, have the right to support and speak out on behalf of causes that they believe in. So how does a celebrity walk the fine line between helping to raise awareness and being an annoying scold?

I offer the following keys:

1) Educate yourself. Getting educated on a particular political subject or candidate doesn’t just mean listening to someone mouth off at a party or stuffing yourself with the propaganda of one side of the argument. It means making yourself aware of the arguments and concern of the other side also (even if you ultimately choose to refute them.) Being informed helps ensure that you will be taken seriously and not viewed as a  dizzy gadfly, especially if you happen to be blonde 🙂

2) Lose the attitude. No matter how passionate you are and how righteous your cause, don’t start every comment by insulting the people who disagree with you. Probably some of those people are your fans, have paid to see and hear your stuff and deserve more of your respect than that. Talk about what is great about what you support rather than criticizing what you oppose. Or be prepared when your targets start to criticize you in return, with the potential to affect your livelihood.

3) Don’t mix business and politics. Just as employees in other industries are not supposed to engage in politics during worktime, the set of your new movie or your Grammy acceptance speech are not the appropriate time and place to air your political views. If the press are there because of something to do with your professional career, keep it professional. If, on the other hand, reporters approach you looking for gossip or personal info from a star, then it’s all right to mention what you’ve been doing to support such-and-such a cause or campaign.

As an example of how to do it the right way, I offer Scarlett Johansson. I’m not a particular fan of Ms. Johansson’s work or political beliefs, but she illustrates perfectly how to follow the above guidelines:

“Even I’m wary of celebrity endorsements,” Johansson told Politico on Friday. “I don’t want to seem like I’m holier than thou… I’m hoping to raise awareness,” she explains. “I’m not telling people who to vote for, and I don’t expect that if I did it would swing votes. At least, I hope not. What I want to do is raise awareness of Obama and his policies, and share my own story of how I became involved in his campaign. Perhaps, if they’re a fan, my story might entice them to learn or spark their interest some other way. If I can answer questions or direct people to a website where they can get more information, that’s how I can help.” 

Full article is here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/10980.html

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One Response to “Celebrities and politics – walking a tightrope”

  1. Jessica Leland said

    It is my understanding that Oprah Winfrey has been losing viewers and alienating other viewers as a result of her outspoken support of Senator Barack Obama. A good number of her fans were disappointed that she chose to involve herself in the discussion when her show is not about politics. Some felt she was arrogant and condescending, assuming that her opinion would be followed lockstep by her fans. Others were upset that she chose not to support Senator Hillary Clinton, given that Clinton is a woman and so is Oprah and so are many members of her audience. (Sidenote: Isn’t it sexist to choose to vote for someone based upon their sex and not their stance on issues?) Oprah’s show has lost viewers, her magazine is now struggling, and her satellite radio program has not gotten off the ground — all seemingly the result of her endorsement of Obama. Oprah is welcome to support anyone she wants, or to choose to keep her show neutral on the subject, of course… but there are consequences to such actions. These consequences are a loss of millions of dollars and who knows how much of her reputation. Some may say that she handled the matter poorly. If she had an awareness of the suggestions you offered perhaps things would have been different for her now.

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