Sanity Injection

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

Posts Tagged ‘Celebrities’

Pseudo-education?

Posted by sanityinjection on October 6, 2009

I commend to your attention today’s column by conservative commentator Thomas Sowell. Sowell, while brilliant and a fine writer, can be a bit of a crank sometimes, and this piece is no exception. He writes about his dismay in receiving a letter form a fifth-grader whose assignment was to ask a “famous person” how they would solve an important problem such as the economy:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/10/06/a_letter_from_a_child_98592.html

Sowell’s main point is that the child’s teacher should be encouraging him to think for himself rather than looking to celebrities for received wisdom – and also choosing age-appropriate subject matter. After my recent post on the cult of intelligence, Sowell draws attention to the even more pervasive cult of celebrity:

Getting students used to looking to so-called “famous” people for answers is the antithesis of education as a preparation for making up one’s own mind as citizens of a democracy, rather than as followers of “leaders.”

Nearly two hundred years ago, the great economist David Ricardo said: “I wish that I may never think the smiles of the great and powerful a sufficient inducement to turn aside from the straight path of honesty and the convictions of my own mind.”

  Although I do take some hope in the fact that a fifth grader from Michigan actually knows who Sowell is.

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Sleeping with the enemy?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 13, 2008

A good piece in the International Tribune on the logistics of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his almost-as-famous wife, Maria Shriver, vocally and vigorously supporting opposing candidates in the Presidential election:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/13/america/13split.php

It’s a drama that is recreated in miniature at many an American dinner table. It’s also a good reminder of something we seem to have forgotten over the past decade or so in America: It’s OK to disagree sometimes. Just because someone doesn’t share your views doesn’t make them a bad person. We ought to be able to advocate for our own point of view while still being considerate of those who don’t agree, especially when they are our friends and relatives.

Had someone suggested to me twenty years ago that I would one day recommend Schwarzenegger, the overly muscled action star, as a role model, I would have snorted with derision. But in fact, Schwarzenegger embodies a lot of examples that young people could beneficially look to, not least of which is the idea that part of being successful is the ability to change and continue to learn as we grow older. He’s come a long way, baby.

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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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