What I’m about to say will not likely be popular. In fact, I can already hear the outrage on social media. It does need to be said.
Let me start by saying that I am not attacking the First Amendment or anyone’s rights. I risked my life in the U.S. Navy to defend an individual’s right to say what they want, believe what they want, and act upon their beliefs. That includes the right to say vile or unpopular opinions. This isn’t about what an individual can or cannot do.
After one of the scandals relating to celebrity stupid tweet number 1,256,257, I posted a quote from Jurassic Park. “They were so busy wondering whether of not they could they never stopped to question whether or not they should.” When it comes to speech, especially in this horrible political climate, this is a very relevant statement. If an entertainer wants to spout anger and hatred of a political figure, party, or other Americans, they have the right to do so. It’s not the best idea, but they have the right.
The problem is that entertainers are a brand unto themselves. Hateful statements, even one that the majority of their community support, are bad business. Making these speeches, sending tweets or posting on Facebook, or however they’re communicated, these people are alienating their consumer base. If you are a business, do you want to risk cutting off half of you potential customers? Personally, I don’t. There’s a reason I don’t spend much time on politics on social media.
In many ways, I’m very different from our entertainment driven culture. We worship these celebrities with a fervor that is almost unparalleled by any other devotion. Websites, television programs, and magazines dedicated to every little detail of their private lives litter the cultural landscape. I don’t pay any attention to them at all. I don’t care who’s dating whom, their latest haircut, or how so and so is going to break the internet with their latest selfie. I don’t want to know. I really don’t want to know what their political views are. There’s a reason for that.
As I said, entertainers are a brand. That includes bands, singers, actors, and athletes. I purchase a brand I like because I enjoy something about it. The less I know about an entertainer the more I can enjoy what they do. It’s much easier to get lost in a film when you can see an actor as the character they portray instead thinking about what they just said at the last award show. I know this is counter to the climate we’re in, but from a business perspective, I know I’m right. The only exception might be the politically based comic. That is already a limited audience of those who share the same point of view.
There’s a shortened version of this quote from the late Science Fiction author, Robert Heinlein, floating around the internet. Here’s the full quote (Remember, he died in 1987):
“[T]here seems to have been an actual decline in rational thinking. The United States had become a place where entertainers and professional athletes were mistaken for people of importance. They were idolized and treated as leaders; their opinions were sought on everything and they took themselves just as seriously-after all, if an athlete is paid a million or more a year, he knows he is important … so his opinions of foreign affairs and domestic policies must be important, too, even though he proves himself to be ignorant and subliterate every time he opens his mouth.” – Robert A. Heinlein
I don’t agree with everything in his philosophy, but I can’t argue with this. The reality is that their opinions are no more or less meaningful as anyone else who states one. This adoration that they experience deceives them into thinking they can do no wrong. We already know the industry is an echo chamber of one political ideology. They have the right to believe as they do. However, it is wise to keep it to themselves and engage in private discussions. There are financial consequences to be had for making these types of statements in public forums.
If an entertainer thinks the president is a monster or that he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, I don’t want to know. Their opinions are no more important than anyone else’s. As an artist myself, I know it would hurt my brand as a writer and producer to venture outside my field. Of course, I have a much narrower niche than a movie actor. I’m not working to appeal to the masses.
Yes, they have the right, same as anyone else. If they are willing to alienate their potential customers, that is their choice and it seems to me that they don’t care. Speaking out for either the left or right (depending on the entertainer) can hurt their business and all of the people that rely on what they do to eat that don’t have their wealth. Ask the people who work in NFL stadiums. Ask the cast and crew of “Rosanne.” It’s just bad business.