Tim Dunkin: The tragedy of celebrity

RenewAmerica As even the most disconnected observer of American life has probably noted, "celebrities" exercise an inordinate ability to influence the direction of public debate in this country. We live in a society where issues that no one had even thought about can suddenly burst onto the scene of our public consciousness, all because a popular actor or actress, or a well-known sports star decides to make it their "pet" issue. Concerns whose diversity ranges from "gay rights" to "climate change" to the anti-fur movement and beyond have benefited from the favorable attention of one or many celebrity spokesmen whose influence upon the thousands or even millions of Americans who idolize them has broadened the appeal of these movements far beyond what they would have obtained had they had to rely upon reasoned persuasion alone.

Indeed, it seems that it is almost a "rite of passage" for up-and-coming stars and starlets in Hollywood to choose their pet issue — which, of course, is always something that leans to the far left.

It's pretty apparent to most astute observers, for instance, that the mainstreaming of the sodomite culture by Hollywood and network television is having the effect of making gays appear "hip and cool" in the eyes of an increasing number of Americans under the age of 30. Presented wholly in a positive light by sympathetic left-wing actors and actresses, the dark side of that lifestyle choice — disease, perversion, abuse, selfishness, guilt, suicide — is never depicted. Instead, gay characters on television and in the movies (who are represented at a level that is three to four times their actual proportion in our population) invariable are smart, funny, well-groomed and well-adjusted. Exactly the kind of person you'd want for a boyfriend or girlfriend if, well, they didn't bat for the other team.

This all explains the sometimes confusing data about the appeal of social conservatism to the under-30 crowd. Social conservatives take heart from polls which continue to show young Americans becoming increasingly more pro-life. So they're becoming more socially conservative, right? Well, not necessarily. Young Americans are also becoming increasingly more accepting of the gay agenda — mainstreaming the gay lifestyle, accepting gays in the military, supporting "gay marriage," and so forth.

Why? Because there are a lot of celebrities pushing the gay agenda, while not a whole lot of them are active in pushing babykilling.

Likewise, this is why younger Americans are so much more likely to buy into "climate change." Between their teachers pushing it off onto them day in and day out, and their favorite movie stars and musicians warning them that we have to do something right now before Miami turns into a coral reef, it's no wonder these poor kids are confused. After all, actual scientific data — things like measurements of ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean or the volume of CO2 the oceans are able to "sink" — aren't nearly as interesting as the cast of the Twilight movies.

The problem with all of this is not just that various components of the left-wing agenda get drilled into the heads of impressionable, half-formed intellects. There's also the fact that so much adulation with so little critical analysis tends to cause these celebrities to operate under the false assumption that they actually know what they're talking about. Hence, you have people like George Clooney taking it upon themselves to start lecturing adults, as well. Unfortunately, more than a few listen.

Isn't it a stunning indictment of the intellectual and maturity level of a large portion of the adult population in this country when millions of Americans seriously consider Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Comedy Central to be a dependable news source?

This is the tragedy of celebrity then — not so much that these "celebrities" take themselves entirely too seriously, but that there are so many of the rest of us who do as well. By themselves, Jon Stewart, George Clooney, Cher, and the rest would be relatively harmless. It's when other people, especially our children, start letting them direct their thinking and their beliefs, that the tragedy strikes home.

The ancient Romans had a term, honestas. This term had a dual mean. It often referred to ideas of virtue, honesty, and so forth, such as we would attribute to our derived word "honesty." It also referred, however, to fame. For the Romans, there was an unspoken but underlying assumption that a famous person was a virtuous person, at least until the point where he became infamous. We today, with our celebrity culture, make the same type of mistake. But whereas the Romans at least largely made the assumption about people like Cicero or Cincinnatus, we tend to apply it to folks like Britney Spears and Whoopi Goldberg. Since they're famous, they obviously know what they're talking about, they'd never lie to us about it, and they certainly have the best of intentions. So why not give them an ear when they try to propagandize us about their pet issue?

In previous articles, I've gone on at length about the adolescentization of our culture, the tendency of Americans to, well, act like adolescents — to think in the short-term, to allow emotion and felt needs drive their behavior, to want others to provide for them without effort on their part, and to want others to do their thinking for them while they focus on what's "fun." If we're to rescue our culture, one thing that conservatives need to do is to try to encourage at every opportunity a more serious and adult approach to our culture. This must be imparted to our children as well. We have to resist the baleful influence which so-called celebrities have on our society, and we have to seek to return to a place where those famous men who do have public influence do so because they have true virtue and honor, rather than just the ability to read lines off of a cue card.

© Tim Dunkin http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/dunkin/101110