Who Cares What George Clooney Says?

By Cyberquill 09/17/20147 Comments

George Clooney

Well, it depends on what he says. Or she. This has nothing to do with George Clooney per se. I just pulled his name out of a stovepipe. Feel free to substitute any celebrity, male or female or other, from A-list to F-list.

The question is this:

Should celebrities speak out on political and social issues, i.e., on matters that, technically, do not reside within the ambit of their professional expertise? And if they do, does anyone care?

Notwithstanding your response to these questions when posed in such a general manner, I suspect that your response in the context of a specific instance of a celebrity having mouthed off in an area beyond their own knitting may hinge upon the extent of your concurrence with his or her statement(s).

In other words, if his/her expressed views echo yours, you’ll likely applaud his/her speaking out, indeed commend him/her for evincing such laudable horse sense in spite of a lack of formal training or expertise in that area.

But if those views happen to clash with yours, s/he had better stick to his/her guns, right? Besides, no one cares what s/he says anyway. Plus s/he is obviously just trying to stay relevant in the face of his/her flagging career. And you never much cared for his/her movies/music/novels anyway. And so on and so forth.

Case in point, some time ago Jeremy Irons, during an interview, voiced his concerns regarding same-sex marriage.

Shortly thereafter, I spoke to someone who not merely disagreed with the substance of Mr Irons’ remarks but excoriated him for speaking out on this topic in the first place. After all, Jeremy Irons was an actor, not a social scientist or a legal scholar. Therefore, he should just focus his acting and otherwise zip it. Nobody cared what Jeremy Irons said anyway. Moreover, that person had “never liked a single movie Irons had been in.” Yada-yada-yada.

I, of course, proceeded to inquire whether, in his mind, the same applied to Lady Gaga, an outspoken pro-gay-marriage advocate—should she, too, just stick to performing and stay away from offering social commentary because “nobody cares” what she, an entertainer, said?

As I had secretly expected, my interlocutor would rather have bitten off his tongue (more precisely, since the conversation took place online, chopped off his fingers) than apply the same reasoning to Lady Gaga as he had to Jeremy Irons just a minute earlier. (In fact, my question effectively terminated the conversation, and I haven’t heard from this individual since.)

I conclude that, because he agreed with Lady Gaga, he welcomed her speaking out. But because he disagreed with Jeremy Irons, he didn’t welcome his at all.

Aside from formally acknowledging—as we all do—the universal right to free speech, which applies to construction workers and movie stars alike, to what degree is your acceptance of and tolerance for celebrities giving their two cents on topics extracurricular to their respective fields contingent upon your degree of concurrence with those views?

Because either celebrities should shut up, or they shouldn’t. Either “no one cares” what they say, or their opinions do matter to others.

Take your pick, and then be consistent no matter what any celebrity says, for seesawing back and forth on a content-dependent case-by-case basis only makes you look a bit one candle short of a box.

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  • Richard

    The only concern might be that such people have inordinate influence upon the opinions of others, having regard to their limited field of expertise. That, however, could apply to anyone in the public eye whether or not he or she claims the relevant expertise.

    Should Andy Murray, for instance, have stated his hopes for Scottish independence at such a crucial moment? Was he merely exercising his freedom to speak or was he guilty of undue influence? Good luck to him, I say, even though I profoundly disagreed with him. Undue influence, short of intimidation, at such times is an acceptable norm and their are few whose adulation is so completely submissive.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      The question at what megaphone size a speaker’s influence becomes “undue” ties in with the question of whether or not — and if so to what extent — money is speech, for, obviously, the more one can spend to get one’s message out, the bigger one’s reach. The person who can afford to print ten million fliers has a distinct advantage over me, who can afford to print no more than a hundred. So in order to level the playing field, should there be a law that sets a maximum number of fliers a person can have printed per issue or campaign?

      The temptation to accuse of exercising “undue influence” only those whose message we disagree with seems too irresistible to allow for an equitable application of the charge.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Oh, and congratulations on the outcome of the referendum. The loss of Scotland would have followed too quickly upon the loss of the American colonies so as not to inflict irreversible trauma upon the empire on which the sun has been setting daily for centuries.

      • Richard

        Thank you.
        Since Scotland took over England in 1603 and James VI chose to shift his capital to London and the Scottish aristocracy preserved itself and ensured that Scotland retained its own laws, justice system and church in 1707, with the result that Scots ran the Empire and continue to dominate the governance of the UK to this day, the referendum, whatever the result, amounted to the enlightened release of England from 411 years of bondage.

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          So technically, if the English decided to quit tea and drive on the right side of the road, absent Scottish oppression they would now be free to do so?

          • Richard

            One hump or two, my dear? High road or low road?

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              I always prefer to take the high road. You pick the camel.

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