Celebrities At War

The Syria crisis mobilized the celebrity brigades, but it’s really just entertainment

Celebrities At War Celebrities At War

Uncategorized September 12, 2013 0

Angelina Jolie detonates land mines in An Long Veng District, Thailand in June 2001. U.N. Refugee Agency photo Celebrities At War The Syria crisis... Celebrities At War
Angelina Jolie detonates land mines in An Long Veng District, Thailand in June 2001. U.N. Refugee Agency photo

Celebrities At War

The Syria crisis mobilized the celebrity brigades, but it’s really just entertainment

This happens every time. Whenever the United States finds itself even contemplating the idea of war, we all take to our blogs, smartphones and Twitter accounts. Everyone has a plan or an opinion. Some are sane. Some are foolish. Most are ill-informed. But we all feel something and want to be heard. When it comes to international politics, all of us have an armchair critic lurking in our heart.

And so we have Syria. Madonna urged the U.S. to stay out of Syria on her Facebook page — for humanity’s sake — and Cher took to her Twitter account to predict 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 in Syria. Nevermind that Russia, a permanent and powerful member has no interest in ending the war. Russell Brand went on the conspiracist Alex Jones show to darkly hint 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 Hugo Chavez. Angelina Jolie was concerned enough about Libya to be appointed as a special envoy for refugee issues at the U.N. Last year, George Clooney protested against the actions of the Sudanese government outside of its embassy in Washington and was arrested. And it seems that Dennis Rodman has become an idiotic shill for North Korea.

Even if the possibility of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad turning over his chemical weapons has delayed direct U.S. involvement, this isn’t going to stop. And we don’t want it to.

Fonda with PRG representative Pham Thi Minh in 1975. Bert Verhoeff/Netherlands National Archives photo

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is the archetype for this kind of foolish celebrity behavior. In July of 1972, Fonda took a tour of North Vietnam. During her visit, Fonda — who was and is an American icon — assisted the government of North Vietnam in several powerful pieces of propaganda that continue to shadow the actress decades later.

While Jane toured the country, she recorded 10 different broadcasts for Radio Hanoi — the North Vietnamese Army propaganda station — in which she declared the U.S. government war criminals, met with a group of seven American prisoners of war, and posed with a group of North Vietnamese soldiers while she sat in an anti-aircraft gun.

Despite widespread anti-war sentiment at home, Fonda’s actions weren’t taken well by the public. 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 some members of the public have not forgiven her. During a book tour for her 2005 autobiography My Life So Far, Fonda was spit upon by a veteran who waited in line 90 minutes for the opportunity.

Sean Penn coordinates relief efforts in Haiti. Navy photo

Sean Penn

Sean Penn. 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 Sean Penn 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 going to 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. Penn 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 a lot of hate, debate and support. One of those supporters — deceased Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez — 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. Chavez and Penn became fast friends, Penn defending Chavez to the point of calling for criminal charges to be levied against reporters who called Chavez a dictator.

Penn has been silent about Syria. At least so far. 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.

Red Carpet Anticipation. Warburg/Wikimedia Photo

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 the television.

Money and fame separate us. That’s it. If any one us were gifted with the astounding level of attention and wealth available to George Clooney or Sean Penn, who’s to say we wouldn’t try, in a desperate fugue, to do some misguided good?

Besides. Admit it. We love this shit. Every time Alec Baldwin opens his mouth and rants against big business and Republicans, he makes the news and we all watch it. That’s why MSNBC is giving him a talk show. 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.

But that’s exactly what he’s doing. 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.