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Celebrities and Their Causes

By squirrel in Culture
Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 08:23:32 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Bono Calls for 'Historic Act' on Poor Country Debt reads the headline on Yahoo! News. The story has pictures of Bono (from U2) along with quotes in support of the International Monetary Fund initiative to ease debt in the worlds most impoverished countries. This story gets top billing on Reuters Entertainment News for 9/25/2000 and will probably get a lot of milage on over 900 Reuters-supplied Internet sites as well as innumerable radio, TV, and print news outlets. Of course celebrity causes are nothing new (right down to Ric "Nature Boy" Flair who does major fundraising for the Republicans) but is this really a responsible way to raise awareness of world issues?


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[In the interest of disclosure: I am not a supporter of the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative. I don't feel the program does enough to address the underlying economic problems in these countries and I think debt relief is a temporary solution at best. For a good primer representing both sides of the debate check out The Wisdom of Debt Relief at Policy.com. At the very least visit the HIPC site and see which countries your tax dollars will be supporting.]

Before anyone misunderstands me, let me say that I think Bono is a very intelligent guy and I applaud him using his fame to promote a noble cause. However, I have to say it makes me nervous to read a news story like this that is little more than a PR photo shoot. The story itself has no news to report, nothing new going on with the HIPC initiative. The same problems that have the issue mired down in the US Congress still exist and aren't being significantly addressed. While I do like the idea of raising public awareness, I think it should be done with something a little more substantial than the popularity of U2 and the obvious appeal to public emotion. Am I just overreacting or is there a better way to promote issues like this?

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o Bono Calls for 'Historic Act' on Poor Country Debt
o Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative
o The Wisdom of Debt Relief
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Celebrities and Their Causes | 17 comments (15 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Whatever it takes (2.93 / 15) (#1)
by sugarman on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 04:07:12 PM EST

The danger isn't that a celebrity is involved in a cause. Whatever gets the job done. Most causses woudl kill for some big-time celebrity endorsement. The problem exists when only issues with celebrity endorsement get funding. I don't we've sunk that low yet.

As it stands, celebrity endorsement has done little to sway my thinking on which causes I will support. It has, on occasion, made me aaware of some heretofore unknown issue, but normally celebrity causes seem to be more of a bandwagon issue that I had already been aware of for some time.

So treat it for what it is. Not as an endorsement, but as information. You are free to act on that information as you will.


--sugarman--

Celebrity ignorance (4.40 / 15) (#2)
by bigbird on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 05:11:16 PM EST

Celebrities having opinions is a good thing, even if I disagree with them.
Celebrities opinions get more airplay / exposure than many valid opposing opinions. This may be a bad thing.
Our society values the opinion of famous people more than that of someone who is truly informed about a subject. This is a downright sickening thing.

To elaborate, more people will trust a celebrity who has no understanding of a topic than they will an acknowledged expert. Pick an issue which you care about (be it environmental, social (eg welfare), or economic, and look at how the general public reacts to the view of whichever well-known person has adopted the cause, compared to the reaction they give to someone with some real knowledge in the area. To use the current example of debt relief, Bono has more credibility than most economists would with the majority of the populace. Sure, Bono & Co. produced some good albums (although U2 went downhill after Rattle & Hum, imho), but this does not seem to be a valid reason to consider him an opinion leader on economic issues.

Why does our society value the opinions of those who are famous, rather than those who are knowledgable? Or am I just another technocrat wondering why we are not running the world yet?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16
Re: Celebrity ignorance (3.44 / 9) (#13)
by edderly on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 05:40:26 AM EST

In general I don't think society values the opinions of the famous any more than anyone elses. However the media are obviously more interested in the viewpoint of celebrities and so will give more coverage to it.

Personally I find celebrity endorsement of "causes" distasteful - in proportion to the ignorance that the celeb demonstrates about the cause - unfortunately this kind of involvement is necessary to raise the profile of some issues.

What strikes me is that the "stars" prefer grandious causes rather than the boring issues such as poverty and social exclusion in the society in which they are now the top-feeders.

I wonder how many homeless people Bono has passed in his limo on the way to one of his mega-concerts?

[ Parent ]

It's a good thing (3.46 / 13) (#3)
by DJBongHit on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 05:12:14 PM EST

"Celebrities" help bring a little of the spotlight to causes which wouldn't otherwise get media attention. I'm involved in the fight to end Prohibition on drugs (wouldn't have guessed from my nick, eh? :-) and Woody Harrelson is helping out a lot (he was just acquitted for planting hemp plants, and the courts finally recognized the difference between marijuana and low-THC hemp). He has brought a lot more media attention to the cause than we would have had otherwise.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

I like Bono but... (3.00 / 11) (#5)
by bugeyedbill on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 05:39:26 PM EST

Bono is a real nice guy, and I respect him as an artist and as a person. However, I think he is naive for assuming these for-profit institutions (and that includes the IMF) can be worked with in terms of getting them to stop the damage they are inflicting on poor people around the world. They have no incentive whatsoever of alleviating debt for these countries, let alone canceling it. In any case, Bono is pretty much under their thumb...if he gets to be too much of a prick about it, whoops! There goes that record contract ( Napster can save him). Maybe Bono doesn't care about that, I don't know. Although I'm sure the fat cat people don't like him very much, that is not to say they aren't going to veer his threatening ideals towards harmless innuendo and him into a spectator sport. But god forbid he get too far out of line..we all know what happen to Univ of Mich when they didn't play Nike's ball game.

Why not? (2.72 / 11) (#6)
by Philipp on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 05:59:47 PM EST

I mean, why shouldn't Bono state his opinions on political matters. After all, we all live in a democracy where the people decide what policy to persue. You sentiment of "Let's rather listen to the experts" is ultimately flawed: They surely have a better technical understanding of matters, but all this is grounded on values, believes and convictions of what is the morally right thing to do. If the people (and Bono) believe that it is the right thing to give more money to poor countries, then that is an important statement to make. The technical details can be left to experts, but the raw undercurrent is up to everyone. I don't critize you for stating your policy opion on debt relieve here on kuro5hin.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
down with celebs (3.45 / 11) (#8)
by anonymous cowerd on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 07:18:12 PM EST

...because the corollary seems to be, "if no celeb is interested," (that is, if the issue is only of interest to those boring non-celeb specialists who spend their entire careers studying that particular issue, as opposed to making movies and performing on stage in a rock band, or worse yet, if the issue is only of interest to mere wage-earning nobodies like you and I) "then it is a dead topic."

...because it directly leads to political abominations like that brain-dead Reagan character getting to be president of the most powerful nation on Earth, solely because voters nostalgically recognized his face and voice off old episodes of "Death Valley Days."

...because I can't even buy groceries without having it shoved in my face all down the checkout line, I've heard and read enough, and more than enough, and far too much to the point of nausea, about these hollow Hollywood jackasses, their homes and cars and bank accounts, their designer dresses and drug habits, their meaningless triumphs and their trashy affairs and their paper-thin despairs, enough enough enough!

...because, ultimately, the class war roils under every social phenomenon you can name and it is the motor of all world politics, and gee, can we down in the class of those who work for a living really rely on millionaire celebrities from the enemy investment class to uphold the working class's interests? Don't think so.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.

Local vs. national causes (3.60 / 5) (#15)
by spiralx on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 08:55:49 AM EST

...because the corollary seems to be, "if no celeb is interested," (that is, if the issue is only of interest to those boring non-celeb specialists who spend their entire careers studying that particular issue, as opposed to making movies and performing on stage in a rock band, or worse yet, if the issue is only of interest to mere wage-earning nobodies like you and I) "then it is a dead topic."

I've noticed that over the last few years, the causes that seem to have the most ardent (as in willing to do something, not as in zealous preaching) followers are those which deal with local issues rather than national or international ones. I think it's really a matter of how much of an effect people perceive that they can have that's the issue.

People are far more likely to get involved with trying to prevent a road being built around their town than with trying to prevent world hunger because they perceive that they can do a lot more in the local cause than the national one. And they're probably right, although this doesn't mean that national causes are less worthy, merely less personal.

...because it directly leads to political abominations like that brain-dead Reagan character getting to be president of the most powerful nation on Earth, solely because voters nostalgically recognized his face and voice off old episodes of "Death Valley Days."

Yes, well, the less said about that senile fool the better. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence in America when they vote someone like that into power... :)

...because I can't even buy groceries without having it shoved in my face all down the checkout line, I've heard and read enough, and more than enough, and far too much to the point of nausea, about these hollow Hollywood jackasses, their homes and cars and bank accounts, their designer dresses and drug habits, their meaningless triumphs and their trashy affairs and their paper-thin despairs, enough enough enough!

I don't really watch TV so I get to hear very little about these people. And that's the way I like it. The actions of these people only concern me if it's to do with a film/album/whatever that will be coming out.

...because, ultimately, the class war roils under every social phenomenon you can name and it is the motor of all world politics, and gee, can we down in the class of those who work for a living really rely on millionaire celebrities from the enemy investment class to uphold the working class's interests? Don't think so.

Of course not, that's why we here in the proletariat need to form strong trade unions to oppose the oppression fostered by the subversive influence of the so-called "celebrities"! :)


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Using the Media Machine for good.... (3.70 / 10) (#9)
by Hillgiant on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 07:20:54 PM EST

My take is: Mindshare is king. Especially for lesser known causes. Mr(s). Rock Star is more likely to get face time than the `Save Our Wetlands from the Toxic Dump'. Rock Star's fans are more likely to jump on the band wagon. Bono (for example) is so smart and good; he supports this; I want to be like him (or I'm smart too); therefore I will support this. Heck, there is no such thing as bad publicity right?

On the other hand: Nothing is more embarassing than a figurehead who does not fully understand the issues, gets bullied by the interviewer and comes off sounding like an unmitigated moron. The negative effect can be exagerated when the cause is relativly unknown. This may be the general publics first exposure to the topic, are they going to thing that all the supporters are this dumb? Will this be the only information they get on this issue? Will they be making decisions on wether to support this issue bades on this erronious data?

On the gripping hand: More damage can be done to a cause than a zealot than by nearly any other means. Look at Sinead O'Connor. Dont get me wrong, I really like her music. But geeze! I wanted to hide my head in shame every time I saw her on TV or read an interview.

The bottom line: Yes, celebrity endorcement can be a Good Thing (tm). But. Make sure they are informed, interested, intelligent, and most importantly no a wingnut. =]
I want to hear more, you get +1

-----
"It is impossible to say what I mean." -johnny

Celeb Commentary (2.55 / 9) (#10)
by Meridun on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 09:49:06 PM EST

I have to say I get slightly sick every time that I see another celebrity endorsing a cause. Oh, I'm glad that they feel strongly and I hope that these are their true feelings, as opposed to a feel-good PR gimmick. But my experience is that most of them aren't really bright enough to have opinions that are any more valid than Joe Sixpack on the street.

So what should we do about this? Nothing.

We can't tell them what to say or what not to say. We can't dictate that how fame or the media can be used. People will continue to use it as they wish, and I hope no one is foolish enough to suggest regulations, laws, etc to change that.

I doubt any of them will take the hint. But, then again, I don't watch TV and I don't have to be pestered by it.

Wish it wasn't bono (2.60 / 10) (#11)
by memfree on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 11:12:33 PM EST

Sure, debt relief would be nice, but I expect the poorest countries will continue to rack up debts -- especially if a good pertange of their populations avoid a western, profit driven culture.

In the meantime, I feel like bono is rich enough that he should be making a monetary gesture towards practicing what he's preaching. If he wants the debt rwiped out, how about offering to dontate a tiny fraction of it back to the IMF & World Bank once they've forgiven various countries ?

I'd at least like to see him donate the money won from a lawsuit against negativland over a parody song. I will never forgive U2 for letting it go down the way it did, and I hope they and the record Execs all come back in their next lives as cockroaches (if you want to hear it, Version 2 is more fun: http://negativland.com/teletext2.html#u2 ).

Your disclaimer isn't a disclaimer (2.36 / 11) (#12)
by streetlawyer on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 03:13:27 AM EST

[In the interest of disclosure: I am not a supporter of the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative. I don't feel the program does enough to address the underlying economic problems in these countries and I think debt relief is a temporary solution at best. For a good primer representing both sides of the debate check out The Wisdom of Debt Relief at Policy.com. At the very least visit the HIPC site and see which countries your tax dollars will be supporting.]

A proper disclaimer would have ended at the end of the first sentence. As it is, you've used what ought to be a neutral part of your introduction to sneak by an editorial, without suggesting why it is that Bono disagrees with you. I get the feeling taht your real objection isn't to celebrities endorsing causes per se, but to celebritites endorsing causes you disagree with.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Re: Your disclaimer isn't a disclaimer (3.28 / 7) (#14)
by squirrel on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 06:31:24 AM EST

It's not a disclaimer, it's full disclosure on my position. You're right, I probably wouldn't be as disturbed if Bono was agreeing with me and it's only fair to tell everyone where I'm coming from. Though actually I should have ended it after the second sentence and put the informative links outside the brackets in their own paragraph.

This particular news story gets to me because it's big publicity on an international newswire but instead of explaining the issue the article is about, "Hey, look! Bono!" Obviously if I agreed with him I wouldn't be as motivated to speak out about the celeb endorsement business, but that wouldn't make it right.

squirrel

[ Parent ]
A little bit more info... (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by Spendocrat on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 03:59:43 PM EST

Read this if you want to know a little bit more on what Bono is doing. I'm guessing this hasn't been widely publicised, as at the time of me writing this the CBC hasn't mentioned anything about it yet.

One thing I'm glad about, being in Canada is I get the benefit of a lot of different news sources in the regular media. The CBC carries what I feel is mostly balanced coverage of events (with the occasional bleeding heart human interest story thrown in), and switches over to international broadcasting from a variety of sources (Austria, Australia, NPR in the USA, Germany, the BBC, Holland and Denmark off the top of my head) at 1am.

What's really interesting is seeing what makes news in Canada about the US that doesn't make news in the US. Last night's Olympic Drug Coverage(TM) in Canada featured information about the Romanian gymnast who was stripped of a medal, and also about the american shot-putter who's (4-5?) positive test results were covered up by the US olympic committee. The american channels' Olympic Drug Coverage(TM) spoke about the Romanian gymnast gymnast, and nothing else. (You can guess that I think they spend waaay too much time talking about the few athletes that do drugs compared to the many who are busy trying to compete).

Anyways, what I think this is is more of a media issue than one of the integrity of celebrities. Watch a few episodes of Politically Incorrect and you'll see that there are many actors, musicians and other pop-type stars who are intelligent, and quite knowledgable, and others who are just collosally clueless. The fact that a certain celebrity supports a cause wouldn't matter half as much if the media actually reported on issues that have some substance to them.

Further to that point, I think people should take a gander at Project Censored. Read the site, maybe take a look at the book, it's very scary in it's own way.

Deterent to other countries (2.50 / 2) (#17)
by John Smallberries on Wed Sep 27, 2000 at 07:39:35 PM EST

Rock stars with political views don't really know what the are talking about 99% of the time (I'll give a few the benefit of the doubt, /some/ of them must have serious persuits outside of stardom).

That said, if we abolish the debts of all the poor countries, what possible incentive does any kinda poor country have to repay its debts? Or these sames countries to pay any future debts? If them let me get high enough again, someone will bail them out.

It doesn't matter if anyone actually will bail them out (although I'm sure someone will be dumb enough to suggest it, again). They have [good] reason to beleive if it happened once, it will happen twice. Their debts will spiral (b/c they won't pay them) and those who want to bail them out will get to yell 'Look! their debts are spiralling out of sight! save them!' and we go around, and around, and around...


-sb

Celebrities and Their Causes | 17 comments (15 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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