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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cause Celebs

An excellent piece in Sunday’s Toronto Star by Dominic Hilton, who nails the phoney bleeding-heart posturings of our beloved celebrity gods…

Seeing the downside of `cause celebs'
At least they're doing something, right? Not necessarily
Nov. 19, 2006.

"As a pop star I have two instincts," Bono once said. "I want to have fun. And I want to change the world."

He also wants his trousers back.

Last Wednesday, Dublin's High Court ruled in favour of Bono against Ms. Lola Cashman, his former stylist. Ms. Cashman was ordered to return a hat, hoop earrings, and a pair of pants she's been hiding in her sock drawer since 1987.

RIP rock `n' roll. After more than 20 years at the pinnacle of the music world, it turns out U2 are playing dress-up. Employing a stylist is akin to hiring your groupies.
And if the Stetson and spurs are props, what are we to make of Bono (a.k.a. Paul Hewson)'s noisy plans to save the world? Did Lola invent those too?

There's an urban legend about Bono that has him playing a concert in Glasgow, when he asks the audience for total quiet. In the silence, he starts to slowly clap his hands, once every few seconds. Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone, "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies." A Glaswegian voice rings out from near the front of the crowd, piercing the silence... "Well, f---in' stop clappin' then!"

It's not just Bono, who is better informed than most of his ilk and can be praised for working with the Bush government on African issues. Celebs are increasingly desperate to parade the "ethically enlightened" tag. Paris Hilton may look like an airhead, but that's probably because she's concentrating so hard on saving the planet and stuff.

George Clooney does Darfur. Leonardo DiCaprio hugs trees. Courtney Cox has Epidermolysis Bullosa. Geri Halliwell has sex. By their own admission, Tom Hanks, Richard Gere, Ashley Judd, Sharon Stone and others "have" AIDS. Gwyneth Paltrow and David Bowie appear in magazines daubed in tribal paint under the slogan "I am African."

When not boasting a Messianic power to save us all, celebs make believe they live in Angolan mud huts. One can almost hear the stylists pushing these cause celebs. "I see you as an African AIDS victim, darling. I'll make some calls."

When Brad Pitt's not adopting Cambodians or Africans, he's busy building homes in India. Sort of. It's more of a drop-by really, as reported by Reuters:
"Photographs showed Pitt, wearing a white shirt, dark jeans, goggles and a baseball cap, fixing a window grill with gloved hands. Another showed him intently slapping cement on bricks... Pitt spent about half an hour working under the hot sun and talking to volunteers."

Sean Penn took his "personal photographer" with him on his boat to save Katrina victims. The boat sank.

"It's not what you are that counts, but what people think you are," Joseph Kennedy told his sons. It worked for them. Sort of.

USA Today reckons "Being an activist provides a patina of class." If memory serves, a "patina of class" used to involve flogging the flunkies, not dressing up as them. Brangelina ain't Jack and Jackie.

"It's really positive to know that it is a global community," Alicia Keys chimes in, not specifying what her definition of "it" is. "That's why when I speak and I use my voice, I like to emphasize the way that everyday people like you and me can really be a huge hero."

"I'm saving lives," announces mega-heroine Madonna, with typical understatement. Thanks to her controversial adoption of a Malawian "orphan," the Queen of Pop now claims to be a victim of Western race hate. "My children are exposed to all cultures and all races and many belief systems," she brags. And that's just at those British schools.

Not that celebs are renowned for their staying power. "Just staying home and looking after my children and being a mother and a wife is not what I want," Madge said, a mere three weeks after adopting. "I want more. If you want to affect change in the world, you do have to have a platform to stand on." Or a crucifix to be nailed to.

Do-gooder celebs can, of course, have a huge influence on their fans. Kids across America dressed up as Angelina Jolie for Halloween. Long, black hair, black dress, black and white baby dolls in her bag. Spooky.

Not to underplay the idiocy involved. Only this week we've had some new clangers, from Rosie O'Donnell's "Don't fear the terrorists. They're mothers and fathers," to Elton John's "From my point of view I would ban religion completely."

In his utterly botched effort at a comeback, Michael Jackson chose to sing just four lines of the '80s charity hit "We Are The World." A horrifying fit of stage fright did nothing to aid the PR stunt. The sight of Jacko surrounded by pretty kids singing, "We are the children"... well, 'nuff said.

Alright, you might say, but at least these celebs are doing more than you are. But why should musicians and actors "do" anything? And what if their actions are actually doing harm? All the "f---ing money" from Live Aid succeeded only in propping up the Marxist dictatorship that was starving the Ethiopian people and spending all its money on rocket launchers. That can't be worth listening to Bob Geldof try to sing.

Unlike Sir Paul McCartney, many African countries have actually got poorer since the '60s. Why? Well, for starters, because they're locked into a cycle of dependence on Western aid. The last thing Africa needs is more celebrity-encouraged Western guilt. The world's poor are not skint because Brad Pitt is loaded. The West has poured billions into Africa and the result is a continent described by Prime Minister Tony Blair as "a scar on the world's conscience." Most celebs look at this situation and demand... more of the same.

When celebs feel they have a duty to speak out, it is always we (the West) who are blamed for the fact that the world's wretched don't live in Beverly Hills mansions. You never hear a celebrity say, "What Africa really needs is a good dose of regime change." Why don't our rock stars organize a concert demanding African property rights or the scrapping of Africa's protectionist tariffs on agriculture and drugs? And when will we see a business-suited Gwynnie in our magazines highlighting the cancer of African state corruption?

We won't. Celebs consistently get it as wrong as all those '60s economists who predicted North Korea would rapidly outgrow the capitalist South. Things that sound nice do not magically eradicate things that sound horrid. Cancellation of developing world debt can enrich tyrants and penalize responsible governments. Never-ending aid thwarts entrepreneurship and trade development. Even when we Westerners can do something to improve matters, celebrities line up to endorse Farm Aid and Live Aid — regardless of whether the agricultural subsidies of the first help produce the poverty and starvation of the latter. Having not done their homework, and by refusing to accept the indisputable merits of the free markets that stuffed their own wallets, too many celebs are blindly condemning all nations to the fate of Zimbabwe.

In their ignorance, and in great part because we demand it of them, celebs fall headfirst into the pit of guilt-laden Western relativism (though it is worth noting how few celebs actually choose to live in Harare or Pyongyang).

Even Tim Robbins, routinely heralded as the beacon of enlightened celebrity, offered this response when asked by London's Observer to explain his fishy claim that America only launched attacks on Serbian targets because Kosovo threatened U.S. national security: "Ahm... I believe... I'm not the right person to talk about this... but that region of the world, this is the way I've heard it put... Can I go get a cigarette?"

Madonna moans, "If you're a famous person who's trying to make a difference in the world, you'd better be prepared to find yourself in the headquarters of hell." I doubt even Joseph Conrad would have described the Dark Continent so grimly.

Perhaps it has nothing to do with stylists like Lola. Maybe celebs are forced to care only for global issues. After all, their own backyards are way too big.

Sources:The Toronto Star

Dominic Hilton's Blog

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