This is a growing issue in this year’s election. More and more stars and near-stars are throwing in their 2 cents towards the presidential race. This has led to a large backlash against some of these celebs. Who can forget the Dixie Chicks chic - Natalie Maines – Bush bashing comments? How about Sean Pean’s trip to Iraq and meeting with Saddam Hussein? What about the Bruce Springstein’s anti-Bush concert series? This could go on and it seems that this is so much more of an issue this year than ever before.I must admit that many of these stories annoyed me much more than the same political opinions expressed on a news talk program. Why is that? I have been thinking a great deal about this question. I hesitate to bash back at these people because I am a firm believer in free speech and it just didn’t seem right to say “those people should shut-up.” At the same time I was really offended by some of the things these people said and did. Why does this bug me so much? I don’t have this reaction to Rush Limbaugh (ok, I like Rush so that is not a good example) or even Bill Maher.
I think that problem I have with most “entertainers” making political statements is the context. They seem to be willing to use their position in front of the audience as a bully pulpit and ambush their fans. In this regard Natalie Maines made me much angrier than Sean Pean because Mr. Pean made is comments and his actions not in the context of an entertainer but rather as a citizen (I still don’t like what he did but so what). Natalie Maines ambushed her audience who came to the Dixie Chicks concert to hear music not political commentary. She did choose her location carefully to make her comments, people in London are much more open to this point of view than, say, Houston. Contrast Maines with Linda Ronstadt and her incident in Las Vegas. She chose the wrong audience to ambush.
People like Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh do not cause this kind of a reaction in me because, even though they are entertainers, they use there political views as the product. If you tune in one of these shows you are prepared, to a degree, for what you get. I know that Bill Maher will say a lot of things that I will not like and Rush will say stuff that I will like. This, to me, is in stark contrast to going to a concert and having a political speech break out. Now, if the Dixie Chicks recorded a series of political songs and expressed their views within the context of their product then more power to them. Bob Dylan made a career of this.
Another difference between political entertainers and other celebs is the understanding of the issues and the preparation. I believe that both Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher are much more versed on the issues than most, if not all, singers and movie stars. This is true regardless of if you agree with them or not.I guess if I put this in perspective with my own like it might make a little more sense. I get paid to answer the phone and help people with their computer problems. This is my job. If I were to corner one of my customers with a political conversation I have a 50-50 chance that the person might agree with me but it is still very unprofessional for me to talk about this with my customers. It is, however, entirely appropriate for me to write a blog expressing my views, but I probably shouldn’t be writing it at work…