More than 80 percent of Americans say celebrities’ political opinions don’t affect their own political opinions, according to a recent CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll. But Americans’ self-reporting on this matter seems suspect when one takes cultural trends and markers into account.
The Dixie Chicks, of course, recently created controversy when lead singer Natalie Maines told a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />London audience, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
She later released two statements. The first explained her point of view; the second apologized.
Neither statement stopped fans from calling radio stations and asking for the group’s songs to be pulled.
Country superstar Travis Tritt joined the fray. Just days after Maines’ apology, Tritt released a statement of his own.
“As an entertainer I’ve never felt it was my place to get in the middle of any political debate waged by other celebrities,” he said. “But with the recent comments made by some of my fellow entertainers I can hold my tongue no longer.”
“The First Amendment is one of the things that makes our country great,” he continued. “However, in such a fragile time in the world with that privilege comes the need to be responsible and mindful of the repercussions.”
Tritt added that since celebrities have a public forum to voice their opinions, people tend to think that celebrities speak for the majority, “when in fact they represent the minority.” He suggested that folks can strike back by hitting celebs in the pocketbook.
Charlie Daniels frequently weighs in on his “Soapbox” at his Web site. Here’s a sample of what he’s had to say about celebrity protestors: “You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear about.”
Celebrities are speaking out about all things political, but average citizens report they generally aren’t influenced one way or the other.
More than 80 percent of Americans say celebrities’ political opinions don’t affect their own political opinions, according to a recent CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll.
But Americans’ self-reporting on this matter seems suspect when one takes cultural trends and markers into account.
Consider this light-hearted comment from former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.: “I had to get back into show biz in order to get my political views heard.” Assuming he was joking, what makes the comment funny? In other words, where’s the grain of truth?
The grain is in fame. Look at the evidence.
All 48 books that Oprah chose for her book club became instant best sellers. After she recommended a book, publishers would immediately increase their print runs by hundreds of thousands of copies.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported a correlation between women opting to have mastectomies and Nancy Reagan’s choice to have one.
Serious NASCAR fans will tell you they buy the products of their favorite driver’s sponsor.
Such evidence points to, essentially, the power of celebrity endorsements. If celebrity endorsements don’t matter, then the advertising industry is flushing millions down the toilet each year.
Why has Bill Cosby pushed Jell-O, Terry Bradshaw talked up 10-10-220, Tiger Woods hawked Buicks or—how about this one—Joe Namath modeled Beautymist Panty Hose?
They did it for lots of money—let’s hope goo-gobs of money in Joe Willy’s case. And the ad companies were willing to spend it because they thought it was a good investment.
The power of “celebrity endorsements” in commercial advertising is clear and forceful. So the question then becomes: To what extent is this power applicable to political opinions?
Getting back to Fred Thompson, he was talking about show biz because Citizens United, a conservative organization, decided to tap him for commercials supporting President Bush’s Iraq policy.
David Bossie, head of Citizens United, said, ”While Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo and other Hollywood leftists are airing television commercials attacking our president for his courageous stance against terrorism, Citizens United has teamed up with Senator Thompson to produce and air commercials in defense of our president and our country.”
They apparently perceive that some sort of war is being waged by celebrities on the battlefield of television.
Furthermore, the Dixie Chicks imbroglio seems to be a case of “methinks thou dost protest too much.” People didn’t just disagree with Maines. Down in Louisiana, they literally ground Dixie Chicks merchandise into the dirt with a tractor.
But no, no, we don’t care what celebrities think, and what they say about politics doesn’t really matter to us. Hmmm …
Cliff Vaughn is associate director for EthicsDaily.com.
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