Are we still the world?
January 16, 2009 11:02 PM   Subscribe

From A-lister to Aid worker: Does celebrity diplomacy really work? Rock stars," asked Homer Simpson, with his customary sagacity, "is there anything they don't know?" Only these days, of course, it's not just rockers but movie stars and businessmen – and indeed anyone with an above-average public profile – who, for one reason or another, are intent on telling the rest of us how the world should be changed for the better. Or at least, that's how it seems. So much so that a conference of eminent professors of international relations assembled recently in The Hague to explore the modern phenomenon of what they call "celebrity diplomacy", amid fears that it has reached the point where superstar lobbyists are damaging the traditional workings of international diplomacy and global politics.
posted by infini (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Because global diplomacy and global politics have been working so well.

(I'm not saying the celebrities are doing any good, but it doesn't really seem like the previous model worked all that well without them either)
posted by delmoi at 11:09 PM on January 16, 2009

Hrrmph. I've never heard of any of those "eminent professors." They're just jealous.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:10 PM on January 16, 2009

There should be a celebrity UN, composed of celebrity representatives from the most celebrity nations.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:14 PM on January 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

modern phenomenon of what they call "celebrity diplomacy"

Modern phenomenon my ass. One of my rellies was a 'celebrity' diplomat. His great claim to fame was having a reasonably rich father, knowing the right folk, being seen at the right functions, and marrying well. Ended up being sent to Spain to talk peace and whatnot. In the 18thC.

Same game, different era. What's so phenomenal or modern? And like the celebs of this era, he may have not been the best person for the job.... but who knows who is until they are given a go. Throughout history people of standing and/or talent have been sent to do their country's bidding, or used their fame as advocates for a cause. Popularity is currency in any era.

... from the last link in the FPP (Fox News circa 2003)
Lubetzky is aware that having stars associated with his organization is a mixed blessing that can bring attention on one hand and distract from the issues on the other. But he said the celebrities are merely concerned citizens who want to support a good cause.

"We've been careful to work with celebrities who know where their place is," said Lubetzky. "They don't dare say they have the solutions to the conflict. They are positive role models. They can encourage kids to be leaders and to be peacemakers."

For Bardsley, regardless of the cause, celebrity influence is exactly what she objects to.

"We didn't vote for them, but they can influence our kids," she pointed out. "They think they can affect foreign policy and bring peace just because they are celebrities."
OMG, unelected people influencing the children!! and working for peace! How dare they!

Nthing strangeleftydoublethink. Sour grapes, authoritarian values and plain old jealousy.
posted by Kerasia at 11:39 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

good point Kerasia, wasn't that the same reason Ben Franklin was selected to go to France?
posted by infini at 11:45 PM on January 16, 2009

There should be a celebrity UN, composed of celebrity representatives from the most celebrity nations.

With its capital at the Paris Hilton, I presume?
posted by Rumple at 11:45 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

When politicians use the medium of art to convey their opinions, there are two losers: politics and art.

That made me laugh and I think it's pretty good but that's a strange new rule for the expression of certain people, that the politicians aren't allowed to express themselves artistically and the artists aren't allowed to express themselves politically. And how about everyone else who isn't a politician or an artist by trade but nonetheless conventionally we've been "allowed" to hold political opinion, even to express it, moreover the responsibility of participation in the polis sometimes requires that expression, and it seems farfetched that to make a convincing argument would be forbidden. Anyway there were some artistic movements which arose from political pressure, and were political in content, and I guess they couldn't possibly mean that any such movement should be considered illegitimate.
posted by nervousfritz at 12:06 AM on January 17, 2009

A-listers may not be the A-1 experts on critical issues facing the world, and our culture should clearly not be fixated on bread, circuses and American Idols, but if a celebrity is given a soapbox, there are far worse things that they can do than advocate on behalf of social, economic, and environmental issues (Although the Arnold Schwarzeneggers, Victoria Jacksons, and Ted Nugents certainly give me pause).

The blame does not lie with the celebrities themselves, but with our wavering democracy, and the far more complex issues of education, media consolidation, and cultural infantilization. Yes, celebrity has been elevated to absurd heights. Human Nature plus 500 channels will do that. But the problem is not in zip code 90210, but in the offices of the Heritage Foundation or perhaps the insatiable appetite of Ginsberg's Moloch. I'm just glad that someone with money and a little time on their hands actually gets to practice freedom of expression, while the rest of us hope signing internet petitions and whispering politically-neutered water cooler talk count towards being part of a participatory democracy.

Given our current culture, I applaud Al Gore and Angelina Jolie for telling the rest of us their fellow man how the world should could be changed for the better, and would instead ask how much thought is given to the cocoon of 100's if not 1000's of commercial messages that very clearly tell us how to live our lives. These are far more invasive, far more impactful, and generally advocate not a better world, but rather damaged self-images on a global scale, fixable only through endless consumption.

I'm newish to Metafilter, but doesn't a link to Fox News result in some sort of punishment?
posted by Winston224Smith at 12:31 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

;p in a thread about celebrity diplomacy, forgoing the temptation of a Fox News link in the FPP was more than I could withstand

*mea culpa and a bunch of self flagellation*
posted by infini at 1:24 AM on January 17, 2009

A good, trained, experienced actor has spent decades pretending to be other people, usually investing days or weeks just shadowing an enormous variety of folks to find out what their lives are like, their motivations, their experiences.

It's easy to think of Versace dresses and champagne flutes and dismiss all actors as intellectual lightweights, but I don't find the idea of somebody like Johnny Depp or Alec Baldwin having political opinions any crazier than failed oil executives, bloodless businessmen, or barrel-scraping journalists.

Are all actors smart? Hell no. Do all of them have well-informed opinions? Hell no. But I think a good actor has as much, or more, insight into a variety of different perspectives than a good oil executive or tort lawyer, and the knee-jerk dismissal of anyone's ideas because they're famous is just a broader application of anti-intellectualism.
posted by Shepherd at 1:44 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does anyone know where the money from Live 8 went? It cost £1.50 to send a text to be entered into a draw for a ticket. £1.50 from every message sent in must have made a lot of money, but they said they had no intention of giving any money away - they were just raising awareness.

It's things like this that make me extremely skeptical of the entire 'celebrity diplomacy'. It's all smoke and mirrors, making us guilty by reminding us of an issue we already know about, and hijacking the moral majority for their own pet issue.
posted by benwad at 5:16 AM on January 17, 2009

Celebrity diplomacy is not new, as per kerasia. Nor is indulging publicly in Good Works as a kind of luxury, which socialites have done for generations. What I worry about is celebrity science, which, in Jenny McCarthy's case, can do real damage to people who are desperate for hope. Still, it isn't as if I'd suggest that Someone Should Do Something About It. As with anyone, the only weapon against bad speech is more speech, by which I mean googlebombing her name with links about the quackery behind her beliefs.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:44 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

...if a celebrity is given a soapbox, there are far worse things that they can do than advocate on behalf of social, economic, and environmental issues (Although the Arnold Schwarzeneggers, Victoria Jacksons, and Ted Nugents certainly give me pause).

Although I would imagine that I probably share similar political views to you, Winston, I take issue with this. Do you mean that because these three celebrities don't share your political leanings, they should stay out of politics? That you would prefer them to keep their views to themselves? This is the fabric of folly, in the words of the young pre-Scientologist Beck who, by the way, keeps his nose out of politics even today. (I realize this has nothing to do with the conversation, but I sure do like that phrase.)
posted by nosila at 7:28 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

There should be a celebrity UN, composed of celebrity representatives from the most celebrity nations.

But the US celebrities would boycott it for being too hostile to their interests.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:42 AM on January 17, 2009

Shouldn't this be one of the benefits of being a famous person? Whether I agree or disagree with the politics of whichever celebrity chooses to pipe up their opinion on a particular subject, I'd much rather that than a celebrity who is equally vocal and equally craving of attention, who instead blabs about her ex-boyfriend, his fleet of race cars, or his Faberget egg collection. Most of the "diplomatic" celebs are championing and drawing attention to causes that deserve it. Maybe it looks like self-rightous posturing. So what? I'd much rather someone learns what's happening in Darfur because Paris Hilton went there than they never learn about it at all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:32 AM on January 17, 2009

Celebrity Diplomacy
posted by Pollomacho at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2009

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