Oops! I guess I give my opponent a little ammo in my opening. Perhaps rather than considering the wider picture of the complex relationship between
'the media' and 'celebrities', and just what we mean by those terms, I should have spun a biased interpretation of the topic. On second thought,
nope, I'm glad I didn't.
So, in exactly what world is 'presenting personal opinions' the same as 'distracting'?
I'm still trying to wrap my head around that. It's a great debate tactic: equate the topic with the Conservative/Liberal divide in American
politics, and then argue that unless you agree that Hollywood has a 'liberal agenda' which it uses to 'distract'(?) conservatives, you're rabidly
Huh, that still doesn't make sense! Let me get this straight: if a celebrity tries to be socially conscious (as they
see it) and speaks up,
saying for example that the Surge in Iraq hasn't solved problems of sectarian violence, then that's distracting
from the public's concern
about the War in Iraq?
Oh wait: I can see one way in which that argument makes sense:
distract the American Public from REAL political concerns
Ah -- REAL political concerns. Like those of REAL Americans. Unlike the liberal cheese-eating Hollywood elite, huh? Distracting from the TRUTH with
their deceptive 'opinions', backed with propagandist 'facts'and 'documentary film footage', huh? Why, perhaps they're even infringing on the
public's freedom of thought, by their treasonous 'speaking out'. How abominable!
So, by that measure, this little debate we're having, only serves to DISTRACT the viewing audience from the REAL truth about celebrities and the
media? Silly me, here I was thinking we're trying to highlight a wide range of possible truth, and let the audience decide.
Distraction: EXACTLY. Let's keep it 'real'.
Look, the truth is this: celebrities are an idealized mirror
of the public. We see in them what we want to see in ourselves, to some extent --
they provide an externalization
of our own self-images, aspects of what we consider important. That's why they're sometimes called
Realizing that role, they sometimes speak out politically, blurring the lines between themselves personally and their typecast personas. In doing so,
they add diversity of opinion
to the public discussion of political and social issues. They do so because they themselves
feel it needs
to be added. They are in a position to expand the context
of mainstream discussion, and sometimes they act to do so.
The alternative is often the drumbeat of conformist opinion. That the media provides a venue for their expression indicates quite
that the media's motive isn't 'distraction'. More likely, the media wants to package and convey an interesting product that the
public will pay attention
to -- regardless of the effect on 'political concerns'.
Socratic Question #1
“Do you think that Celebrities making political statements distract the American Public from issues they need to be concerned with, whether the
media controls this or not?”
No, though sometimes I think celebrity antics get more media attention than they rightly deserve. Tom Cruise jumping on a couch, for example. I think
he was trying to make a point about psychiatrists. Funny to watch, though, and if it wasn't Tom, it would probably be water-skiing squirrels or
Here's the real conspiracy, if you want to find one -- political opinion in the media tends to be either very partisan, with constant nitpicking and
sniping, or very academic, with intimidating intellectuals ready to smack down their opponents. Both
of those tend to push the public
from actively discussing politics in their day-to-day lives, with their friends and relatives: they simply don't want to draw fire like
they see on TV. Adding celebrity opinion can change that. When I talk politics with my next-door neighbor, she might not have an opinion on what
Milton Freedman might think about 'progressive' policies, but I can certainly talk about what Oprah, and she, think about Obama, and go from there.
That opens up whole realms of discussion.
You know, I must admit that I'm no expert celebrity-spotter. I can't recognize very many of them by their pictures, or rattle off movie or sports
I surprised a friend of mine a few month ago, when he mentioned Britney Spears. I asked, 'wait, she's the one who shaved her head, right'? He
couldn't believe I wasn't sure who she was. I was only kidding around a little
Years ago, another friend of mine, when I told him 'I don't know who all these celebrities are', told me that, really, there's only about a
hundred name-brand celebrities in Hollywood, it's not too hard to learn who they are, and once you do, the new ones that come along are easily added
to the list. Made sense, if only to better discuss the qualities of the acting in various films.
So, my esteemed opponent mentioned three celebrities: Robert Duvall, Ron Silver, and Kelsey Grammer, when he was talking about how actors should keep
their political opinions to themselves. I had to do some research. Fortunately, not too hard to do! -- actors sure like to talk and give interviews,
And I was a little surprised when I found out that they're not exactly what you would call 'Hollywood liberals'. In fact, some of their views are
very conservative! Kind of undermines the theory of a homogeneous Hollywood elite, with their media conspirators, advancing a secret agenda of
deception, doesn't it? In fact, maybe Hollywood's a little more representative of the diversity of American political opinion than we usually give
it credit for.
Robert Duvall: Distracting The Public?
Wow, Robert Duvall is quite outspoken. From a 2003 interview:
I mean, why be so outspoken about it anyway? Does it help Sean Penn’s career to go over to Iraq? Did it help Jane Fonda to go over to Vietnam
years ago? I don’t know. But sometimes when these guys speak out... I get embarrassed.
You don’t talk politically very often, do you?
Not so much in public. 
He seems to have changed his tune, though. From CBS News recently:
While John McCain’s campaign may not be attracting the star power of Barack Obama’s camp – Scarlett Johansson and Oprah Winfrey spring to
mind – the grizzled actor Robert Duvall appeared with McCain at three high dollar fundraisers tonight, which raked in over $2 million for his
“I’m not from Hollywood,” Duvall said. “I’m from Virginia.” He went on talk about how inspiring he found McCain’s stories from his time
as a prisoner in Vietnam, saying it showed leadership. “He’s now serving his country in another way, and I plan to vote for him,” Duvall said,
to cheers from the crowds of donors. 
A little hypocritical, perhaps, but stumping for a Presidential candidate isn't exactly 'distracting' the American public from politics.
Ron Silver: Distracting The Public?
I had a little trouble trying to categorize Ron Silver, politically. In 2006, he supported Joe Lieberman, and was also supportive of Administration
policies in Iraq. Here's a quote from him in the Washington Post:
"I find it ironic that many human rights activists and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to
protest repression, for which I applaud them, but they're usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they
catalogue repeatedly." 
Which is quite a fundamental political issue, and a pretty incisive observation. And look, he's hosts a political discussion show on Sirius Radio:
SIRIUS Satellite Radio today announced that Indie Talk, the first radio channel for independent voters, will broadcast "The Fight for
Independents" -- a live, town hall style roundtable discussion program. As the candidates and the nation prepare for the general election, political
maverick Ron Silver, comedian Pete Dominick, and former Court TV anchor Vinnie Politan, all hosts on Indie Talk, will hold a live open-forum call-in
broadcast with independent voters to find out how they plan to cast their votes and why.
So, is Sirius trying to distract the public here, or is Silver? Or perhaps neither of them are?
Kelsey Grammer: Distracting The Public?
Here's Kelsey Grammer, from a Fox News interview:
COLMES: But Hollywood then is not all just a bunch of liberals running around applauding each other, patting each other on the back.
GRAMMER: It's not to my knowledge, there's plenty of conservatives running around applauding each other and patting each other on the back as
Doesn't sound like much of a partisan 'Liberal agenda' to me. And hey, look, Kelsey Grammer, who my opponent cited as decrying 'activist actors',
has considered getting into politics himself:
GRAMMER: Possibly senator. But the truth is, I would like to get to a place where I could do the most good for the greatest number of people. And
the idea would be hopefully to just dictate whatever policy I would try to advance, based upon the premise of whether or not it's a good
Is this a man who is distracting the public? Or is this a perhaps slightly egotistical man who wants to represent them, and perhaps address
their political concerns?