June 6, 2002
11:27 AM   Subscribe

While generally not a fan of news links, this story about entertainers speaking on Capitol Hill was too good to resist. Hmmm...The Backstreet Boys as lobbyists. That's even scarier that what we have now. Although entertainers have long championed political causes, it seems as though the legitimacy of this practice is growing. Is this part of the ongoing merger between politics and entertainment?
posted by anathema (6 comments total)
Well, there are some issues that demand this kind of attention.
posted by jjg at 11:39 AM on June 6, 2002

There's an article in today's Washington Post about Kevin Richardson and George Voinovich's war of words leading up to today's hearing. After reading Richardson's stream-of-consciousness blabbering, it's no wonder why Voinovich doubts the relevance of his testimony.
posted by dayvin at 11:57 AM on June 6, 2002

Full disclosure: I'm not neutral on this issue. My four-year-old daughter has Rett Syndrome, which is the cause Julia Roberts was advocating in her appearance on Capitol Hill. From the perspective of a parent of a child with a terrible, terrible disease, I don't begrudge anyone from doing whatever it takes to get the attention of the people who have the power to make a difference. If you think that, outside of celebrities, the process of lawmaking is pristine and takes place in a laboratory-like environment, you're wrong. Lobbyists drive the process, but they operate behind the scenes. The appearance of a celebrity is nothing more than a lobbyist who gets attention. (Of course, even I think the Backstreet Boys is going too far).
posted by pardonyou? at 12:06 PM on June 6, 2002

Some issues, it's natural for celebrities to speak on. The Alanis Morissette/Don Henley appearances at last year's Napster hearings were natural, as they were there to talk about how the RIAA has traditionally dealt with artists (i.e. screwed them over, just differently than Napster did).

But even for things like Michael J. Fox and Muhammed Ali's speaking about Parkinson's disease, it seems like a perfectly valid way to get attention for a cause. I was at the Napster hearing, and it was great fun watching the reporters swooping down on the stars with their cameras and boom mikes the instant the hearing was concluded---would the hearing have gotten as much media attention if not for the celebrity factor? And would anyone in the media think anyone would care to read about the need for increased funding for Parkinson's research if there wasn't that celebrity hook?

In fighting for a "cause", you do what you have to do to get heard---I don't know if it's realistic to expect that Congressional hearings should be immune from such calculated showboating.

(preview: what pardonyou? said. and so sorry to hear about your little girl's sickness... I don't know much about Rett Syndrome, but I'd never even heard of it before the Julia thing, so that right there is something, isn't it?)
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:15 PM on June 6, 2002

Don't forget that the type of coal mining that this Backstreet Boy is opposing was developed as an alternative to underground coal mining, which took a gruesome toll of lives in accidents and disease, and whose depredations were the pet cause of a previous generation of activists. Given that coal has to be taken out of the ground one way or another (mainly to create the electricity we are using at this very moment to access the internet), mountaintop removal is a vast improvement over what went before. Much more humane. Much safer.
posted by Faze at 12:55 PM on June 6, 2002

Unfortunately rock stars and actors are probably the average persons only chance of getting their opinions heard. It's all about lobbying. No matter how damaging the practice there's some company who will hand large bags of cash to politicians and purchase favourable "unbiased" white papers. Unless the disease you or your loved one is suffering from has the potential to make a mint for the pharmaceutical companies they'll ignore it.

Celebrities might not really know what they're talking about, or be in favour of the right causes for the wrong reasons (not that corporations really know what they talk about either, its just Bill O'Reilly would never go on Fox News and say that they're all a bunch of simpering morons)
but they're able to at least get a little closer to making an impression. People, even politicians, notice them and they've got some amount of money to throw around or enough to hire people to set up a foundation/tax dodge in their names.
posted by substrate at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2002

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