We Love Dumping on Celebrities Who Mouth Off About War and Politics
Everyone’s a hater
by MATTHEW GAULT
War Is Boring published an earlier version of this story on Sept. 12, 2013.
Everyone has a plan or an opinion. When America goes to war, President-elect Trump tweets something ignorant or Syria gets a little worse, we all take to social media and vomit our thoughts. Some opinions are sane and others foolish.
Most are ill-informed.
We all feel something and need people to know. When it comes to international politics, we all have an armchair critic lurking in our heart.
Celebrities are just like us, but with one minor difference. The world is their social media platform and when a celebrity speaks their mind, the whole world has an opinion.
We love it — even if we hate it. It’s entertaining and we never have to feel bad about hating on someone with money and fame.
And so we have Syria. The now five-year-old war has been a shit-show of celebrity opinion right from the start.
Madonna urged the U.S. to stay out of Syria on her Facebook page — for humanity’s sake — and Cher predicted that military action in Syria would be Pres. Barack Obama’s downfall. An international coalition of celebrities — including Natalie Portman and Patrick Stewart — collaborated on a video begging the U.N. Security Council to end the bloodshed.
Never mind that Russia, a permanent and powerful U.N. member, has no interest in ending the war. Russell Brand chatted with conspiracist Alex Jones, darkly hinting at a “veil of disingenuity and duplicity.” Kenneth Cole took the opportunity to sell shoes.
This isn’t the first time celebrities have spoken out about world politics, international disputes and terrible wars from the misguided armchairs of their million-dollar mansions. Far from it.
There are dozens of examples. Danny Glover is a fan of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. After years of work for the United Nations, Angelina Jolie became a special envoy for the refugee crisis.
In 2012, Washington, D.C. cops arrested George Clooney for protesting the Sudanese Government outside its embassy. Dennis Rodman was a useful idiot for North Korean and its young leader Kim Jong Un.
In the age of Trump, the rich and famous will get get more smarmy, more aggressive and more obnoxious. Remember, most of them liked Obama. Celebrity attachment to cause célèbre isn’t ever going to stop and the sick truth is we don’t want it to.
Jane Fonda is the archetype for this kind of foolish celebrity behavior. In July 1972, Fonda — who was and is an American icon — took a tour of North Vietnam. The American public will never forgive her for assisting the government in Hanoi with several powerful propaganda pieces during her visit.
While “Hanoi Jane” toured the country, she recorded 10 different broadcasts for Radio Hanoi — the North Vietnamese Army’s propaganda station — in which she declared the U.S. government war criminals. She also met with a group of seven American prisoners of war and infamously posed with a group of North Vietnamese soldiers while she sat on an anti-aircraft gun.
Despite widespread anti-war sentiment at home, many Americans of all stripes didn’t take Fonda’s actions well. Public opinion ranged from wishing her tried for treason to simply writing her off as a fool.
Her career never quite recovered. She has — every time one of her movies comes to theaters you’ll notice — apologized over and over again for the incident. But we never forgave her.
During a book tour for her 2005 autobiography My Life So Far, a veteran waited in line 90 minutes just to spit on Fonda.
Where do you even start with Sean Penn?
Penn, like so many others, became a politically-active monster during the George W. Bush years. It began with the actor — who once played surf bum Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High — making a trip to Baghdad in the run up to the war.
He toured a children’s hospital, gave a speech and took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post urging Bush to avoid war with Iraq. Penn followed this up with another full-page letter in The New York Times after the war began, calling for an end to conflict and Bush’s impeachment.
The actor returned to Iraq in 2004 — despite the protests of his family — to see for himself what the invasion looked like and to report back to the American people. Penn’s actions spawned hate, debate and support. One of those supporters was now-dead Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez.
The Latin American strongman liked Penn’s letters so much that he read them aloud to his country and stood in firm support of Penn and his desire to see Bush impeached. The actor and the dictator became fast friends, so much so that Penn called for the jailing of journalists who called Chavez a dictator.
Penn has avoided Syria and his silence seems strange when viewed in light of his recent activism. Maybe it’s because, in early 2012, he stood next to Chavez while the Venezuelan potentate delivered a speech defending his country’s right to sell oil to a country under U.N. sanctions for crushing popular protests with the military.
The country was Syria.
Penn’s avoidance of Syria doesn’t mean he’s stopped his political activism. He famously met Mexican cartel lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, accused Dick Cheney and Bush of creating the Islamic State and compared voting for Trump to “masturbating your way into hell.”
Even when he’s not in films, Penn is very entertaining.
We love it
Celebrities are people. They’re just like us — they breath, eat, love and construct opinions based on a visceral mix of reactionary emotion and regurgitated, half-digested news broadcasts they sort of listened to while passing out in front of the television.
Money and fame separate us, but that’s it. If any one us had the astounding level of attention and wealth available to Clooney, Penn or Jolie there’s a good chance we’d try to do some misguided good.
Besides, admit it, we love this shit. Every time Alec Baldwin impersonates Trump or rants against big business and Republicans, he makes the news and we all watch.
We know Trump is going to comment and we love that, too. It frightens us, but it’s definitely not boring.
Whenever Ben Affleck gets all fired up about the conflict-torn eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we roll our eyes and tell our friends that he should stick to what he knows. Stick to entertaining us.
When Trump first ran for president many of us rolled our eyes and clucked our tongues. He should stick to The Apprentice, we tweeted and posted. Trump should do what he does best — entertain.
But that’s exactly what he’s doing. The 2016 election was the highest-rated political show in American history. We lapped it up as Trump and his supporting cast took us on emotional roller coaster of excitement, disgust and — for some — hope.
Watching celebrities mouth off about war-torn countries and political situations they only barely understand is a pure and fabulous form of American entertainment. It’s right up there with football and tut-tutting when teen idols self-destruct.
We love it so much we elected a man who’ll give it to us good and hard 24/7 for the next four years. Enjoy the show.