On Expert Celebrities


As someone once noted, a celebrity is someone who is famous for being famous. Now I confess being puzzled at aspects of popular culture, not the least of which is the air time given to non-expert opinions. Riddle me this, Batman… Are Steven Seagal’s opinions on Russia/Crimea geopolitics really worth anything? Or Dennis Rodman’s surreal sycophancy of North Korea’s Kin Jong Un? Is Kim Kardashian (of Armenian descent) an expert on Syria or the Middle East? Do I care if Keanu Reeves doesn’t believe in God? Does God care?

I feel the need to restate the obvious: niche expertise, or talent in one particular field, doesn’t translate to profound insight in other areas. A plumber ain’t a surgeon. Sure, everyone’s entitled to an opinion… but that’s what it is – an opinion. And as Socrates noted “opinions without knowledge are shameful and ugly things”. But not if they come from attractive, affluent people? Or actors who pretend to be cool people in movies?

I sound like a grumpy old man, but I want to shout “Who the Frak Cares!” every time I see these inane diatribes or vacuous advocacy. I despair of any generation so easily swayed by celebrity endorsement and propaganda. A people constructing worldviews from soap operas, blockbuster movies, comic books and entertainers are doomed. As Ralph Peters said, ‘Those who forget history die of myth.’ Well Madison Avenue Groupthink, here we are.

I know the internet has brought a biblical deluge of self-proclaimed prophets and experts, but the genuine article is out there as well. Along with sources of accurate information. In real life, complex ideas cannot be reduced to fortune cookie slogans and 30-second sound bites. What happened to critical thinking, to developing accurate frames of reference and proper sorting mechanisms, cultivating a sense of history? To impassioned but civil and informed debate? To a concept of truth?

Barbara Tuchman’s brilliant little book, The March of Folly details willful self-delusion and the consequences of the failure to think. History is replete with examples of people are lapse into ignorance or apathy, who stop thinking for themselves and acquiesce to fashionable piety, prejudices and purposes: they end up burning books.

And where they first burn books, they later burn people.

More important, do you really want Lady Gaga making Foreign Policy decisions? (she’s wearing a meat dress)


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