Celebrity Opinions

This page was last updated on April 22, 2004.

  For this discussion, a celebrity is someone with a measure of public awareness.  Celebrities include entertainers, politicians, et cetera.

A lot was made of celebrities criticizing President Bush.  I disagreed with these celebrities but I supported their right to dissent.  It’s not unpatriotic to disagree with our leaders.  Unfortunately, much of the so-called criticism was no more than bashing and insult hurling.

Below are some points to consider.

  • Bashing or insulting someone personally is not the same as criticizing his policies or positions.  Hurling insults is never acceptable.

  • As a group, celebrities are no more or less knowledgeable about domestic and foreign affairs than the rest of us. Their opinion is no more or less valuable than yours or mine.

  • With the opportunity to speak out to a broad audience, celebrity brings responsibility.

  • It’s not only what is said, but also how it is said.  “You suck!” is not constructive criticism.

  • The criticism I heard and read was nothing more than mean-spirited name-calling.  Invariably, celebrities had one of two answers to “What would you do about Iraq?”  The first answer was “give inspections a chance,” as if a few more months of inspections would do what could not be accomplished in the previous 12 years of on-and-off inspections.1  The second answer was “I don’t know.”

  • Some celebrities believe we want their unsolicited political opinions at concerts or other performances.  Do they think we buy tickets to hear their political positions?  When you go to the doctor, do you expect or want to hear his political opinion?  Probably not.  As the title of a new book pleads, performing celebrities should just “Shut Up and Sing.”

  • Most celebrities appear upset to learn speaking their mind may have consequences.  They seem to feel it’s OK for them to act according to their conscience, but not for those who disagree with the celebrity.  Apparently, free speech is OK only for the celebrity and for persons who support their position.

If I disagree with a person, it’s my right to do so publicly and my right not to buy his products.  Would these same celebrities complain if their comments made them more popular or increased their sales?

  • When radio stations boycotted some celebrities, the celebrities cried about censorship and McCarthyism.  These celebrities need to brush up on their civics.  First, the stations responded to the desires of their customers and exercised their First Amendment rights.  Popular entertainers get airtime, the unpopular don’t.  The First Amendment addresses only government censorship.  You and I can “censor” whatever we want; it’s called free speech.  Second, Sen. McCarthy investigated communist spying in the federal government.2  The government had nothing to do with what happened to this batch of critical celebrities.

  • Critics should be aware of those with whom they share a common position.  For example, International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) organized Iraq war protests attended by some celebrities.  International A.N.S.W.E.R. is a front for the Marxist Workers World Party (WWP).3  Their protests were the same anti-American rhetoric they always spew.  Much of the bashing had nothing to do with Iraq.

While I doubt many celebrities are truly anti-American, they used many of the same mean-spirited and baseless attacks as the WWP.  If you’re on the same side as the WWP in a debate, common sense dictates you find another way to express your opinion.  Fair or not, we’re frequently judged by the positions of our allies.

During war and the period leading up to war, there are several other things we – including celebrities – should remember.

  • It’s not unpatriotic to disagree with our leaders even in time of war as long as we express the dissent appropriately.

  • Open criticism, especially mean-spirited, feeds the enemy propaganda machine.  This isn’t the 1800s.  What we say is broadcast around the world immediately.  This means a terrorist in Iraq or elsewhere with a simple satellite dish hears the same anti-American bashing as we do at just about the same time.  To a terrorist, this is evidence of internal strife and gives him reason to believe his murderous acts will be successful because the United States lacks resolve.

During a speech to The Brookings Institution on April 5, 2004, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) referred to Iraq as “George Bush’s Vietnam.”4  This wasn’t the first time Kennedy linked Iraq and Vietnam.  Unfortunately, Kennedy isn’t the only Democrat trying to equate Iraq and Vietnam.

On April 7th, anti-American Shiite “cleric” Muqtada al‑Sadr – with ties to terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah – said, “Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers.”5  I hope Sen. Kennedy and fellow Democrats are proud they are helping our enemies write their speeches and pump up their followers, as did Vietnam anti-war protesters.

In a speech on October 16, 2003, Kennedy said we should learn lessons from history when he said, “America learned it in Vietnam, and we must not re-learn it in Iraq.”6  It’s too bad Sen. Kennedy didn’t take his own advice and learn a lesson from Vietnam.  When will we begin to hear our soldiers in Iraq referred to as “baby killers?”

  • Criticism should be “within the family.”  It’s one thing to criticize policy at home; it’s bad form for U.S. citizens to criticize U.S. policy on foreign soil, and traitorous when in the enemy’s country.

  • The President is the commander in chief of our armed forces.  You can’t say you support our troops while bashing or insulting their leader.  Recent letters from soldiers in Iraq make this statement as well.  If you disagree with the President, do so in a way respectful of the office regardless of what you think of the President personally.

  • In time of war, misleading coverage can give false hope to the enemy, lengthen hostilities, and cause more friendly, civilian, and hostile casualties.  Though Americans overwhelmingly supported military action against Saddam Hussein, so-called peace protests received a disproportionate share of coverage in the American press.  When Iraqi TV -- controlled by Saddam Hussein -- and other anti-American news outlets covered the protests, did they mention over 70% of Americans supported military action?  No.  These were the same outlets predicting Iraqi victory until the day Iraqis -- with help from the U.S. Marines -- pulled down Saddam Hussein’s statue in Paradise Square.  Remember “Baghdad Bob?”

1. Most persons didn’t understand the inspection process.  Many of us thought there were hordes of inspectors running around Iraq looking for banned weapons.  In reality, the process depended on Iraq pointing out the banned weapons to inspectors or proving the weapons had been destroyed.  The inspectors did not have freedom of movement and had to be escorted to sites by Iraqi soldiers.  This procedure had the fatal flaw of assuming Iraq would cooperate.  As we now know from Iraqi scientists, they had advance notice of inspections and were told to move incriminating material for the duration of the site inspection.  Without cooperation, inspectors could have been in Iraq for another 100 years and not found anything.

2. Though liberals like to attach Senator McCarthy to the House on Un-American Activities Committee, as the name says this was a House of Representatives committee.  Senator McCarthy was, well, a Senator.  With respect to communist spies in the federal government, decoded Soviet Cold War-era cables (the NSA’s VENONA program) released during the 1990s show Senator McCarthy was right.

3. The WWP is a Marxist organization (their description) working to eliminate capitalism in favor of communism.  Because communism is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, I believe it’s fair to say the WWP is anti-American.  The WWP is a fan of countries like communist China, Cuba, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, North Korea, Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia, and the former Soviet Union.  Check the WWP web site if you have doubts.

4. Iraq as Vietnam? Not before, but maybe now; Martin Sieff (UPI); The Washington Times; April 6, 2004.

5. Anti-American cleric al-Sadr warns that Iraq could become 'another Vietnam' for America; Associated Press; The Boston Globe; April 7, 2004.

6. Remarks of Senator Edward M. Kennedy re Iraq; Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA); October 16, 2003.

© 2004 Robert W. Cox, all rights reserved.