Thursday, July 14, 2005

When Coastal Elitists Eat Their Own

Today in a column (no link), educated elitist Victor Davis Hanson castigates Hollywood celebrities for being uneducated political pundits.

...Plato warned not to confuse innate artistic skill with either education or intelligence.

The philosopher worried that the emotional bond we can forge with good actors might also allow these manipulative mimics too much influence in matters in which they were often ignorant.


Apparently celebrities, who often don't even have high school diplomas, take up causes and sanctimoniously say stupid stuff, and have influence over the masses.

...[T]heir celebrity is used only as a gimmick to give credence to silly rants that if voiced by anyone else would never reach the light of day.


Of course, the educated would never use their celebrity to give credence to silly rants.

Hanson highlighted a few uneducated celebrities saying stupid things:

These days [Robert] Redford lectures reporters to go after George W. Bush, undeterred by the fact that the real journalist Dan Rather ended his career by just such an obsessed effort.

...Right before the Iraqi war, Barbra Streisand assured us that Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iran.

Jon Stewart discussed this issue with Bernard "Bias" Goldberg on last night's Daily Show. Bernie's written a new book called 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37) (everyone on the cover is liberal or an entertainer, and Jon pointed out there are about 3 conservatives in the book) in which he mainly blames popular culture -- and apparently the liberalism which spawned it -- for screwing up America.

My favorite Bernie quote (paraphrased, but close):

There was a time when a drunk in a bar wouldn't say the "f" word.


It was probably a drunken sailor who invented the "f" word, and there was probably never a time (unless it was in a magical place in a 1950s small town called Mayberry) when a drunk wouldn't say it in a bar. But, whatever, Bernie "Ooh, My Ears Are Burning" Goldberg.

Jon pointed out that, as silly and liberal as celebrities might be, they are powerless compared to pundits, reporters, and politicians in Washington, so shouldn't we be focusing on those who wield real power? Lyrics to songs have more influence on our lives than legislation and pundit talking points, says Bernie. Again, whatever.

I don't think it's particularly fair to expect celebrities to accept intrusions into their private lives (see Ben and Jen shop for groceries, watch Britney laying in the sun for 20 minutes) and not also be able to speak their minds about public issues, unless it's to raise awareness of breast cancer or something politically correct and unoffensive. Are they all that influential, anyway? They influence ridicule by pundits, at least.

On the other hand, I try to not pay attention to either celebrities' private lives or their political opinions. I find it too distracting to the performances they give. I really enjoyed Batman Begins, but I'm sitting there searching Katie Holmes' eyes for signs of insanity. Tom Cruise put me totally off seeing War of the Worlds. I just want to enjoy Mel Gibson's excellent movies, not think about his misogyny and religious fervor. Even Goonies is tainted by the "six degrees of separation" to Streisand (Josh Brolin, son of James Brolin, husband to Babs).

Says Hanson, unwittingly making a better case:

In this regard, we could learn again from the Greeks. They thought the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides were brilliant but not the mere mimics who performed their plays.


It's not the actors and their opinions that have an influence on conventional wisdom, but the movies and roles. Rambo, Die Hard, and Commando have an effect on the American psyche, whereas Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger do not. Michael Douglas could talk all he wants against corporate greed, but Gordon Gekko speaks louder. We are all afraid of the evil, murdering Mob, but who doesn't have affection for The Godfather and its "family values?"

Bernard Goldberg would have a better case in this regard if he didn't focus so much on individuals and a pop culture that mainly takes its cues from the general populace. People like violent movies, Hollywood makes violent movies. People like sex, Hollywood gives them sex. People don't like movies which are complex and nuanced, so Hollywood gives them easily identified villains and heroes.

Victor Davis Hanson and Bernard Goldberg would give us eaily identified heroes and villains, too, while those who have real power to shape our opinions -- namely, pundits, columnists, and authors like Victor Davis Hanson and Bernard Goldberg-- go unexamined.

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