Over the last year we’ve been quite political haven’t we? All of a sudden it seems celebrities are coming out of their shells and have started speaking about politics more. The cast of Orange is the New Black stood proudly at the front of the Millions March in New York City, standing up to racism and police violence. Also this year the likes of Taylor Swift and Beyonce declared their allegiance to the feminist cause and Emma Watson delivered a much publicised speech for UN Women to introduce the He for She campaign.
Elsewhere in the UN Leonardo DiCaprio lectured in the climate summit last September and Angelina Jolie has continued her work as Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She has even said she is open to a political career saying “Because if you really want to make an extreme change, then you have a responsibility.” Over in the UK comedian Rufus Hound ran in the European elections for the National Health Action Party (NHA) and Russell Brand has created The Trews and supported campaigns like that of the New Era Estate in Hoxton. Brand is probably the most divisive amongst those I’ve mentioned so far and I’d argue that all the above have had a positive influence on politics, but others disagree.
The publicity stunt is often a criticism when famous faces get involved in politics, maybe you think they are trying to sell something, not least their brand. But what of those celebs who aren’t known for their political activism? Like when Zane from One Direction tweeted #freepalestine during the conflict in Gaza earlier this year. He received death threats and after thousands of retweets deleted it within 8 minutes. ‘Let’s pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Is there any hope?’ We know that second tweet was the more sensible and I’m sure PR had some say in it but I would have loved to have heard more of his opinions. Rhianna also posted a pro-Israeli tweet to her 38 million followers which was later deleted. What on earth does Rhianna think? I have no idea but she is 9th most followed person on twitter.
I hate it when people say things like stick to whatever else these people are famous for. Just because you’re famous for one thing does that mean you immediately stop caring about the society you live in? Creating a political environment where you need to be able to speak the language of politicians or broadsheet newspapers is why so many people feel disconnected from MPs. Celebrities have huge reaches in terms of social media follows and consumer time spent listening to them, they are more influential than politicians so I’d rather know what they think, not just what their PR people think. To me it’s all about transparency, I don’t want any PR bullshit. I know that sometimes they may get it wrong but I support that the public now with the power of twitter and facebook will absolutely call them out if they need to. We are clever enough not believe something just because a celebrity says it.
With reports once again telling us that the youth vote is key to the result of the next election we’re on a mission to engage young people in politics. I spent this last year working on a on the debate show Free Speech (for BBC 3 aimed at 16 – 34 year olds) and I can tell you for sure that young people are very interested in politics. I think the most important thing we can do is not shout people down who want to get involved in politics who don’t have previous knowledge or experience. If everyone is talking about it we learn from each other. The only people who need to be professionals are the MPs who serve us.
I went to university with a copy of the Daily Mail tucked under my arm, those were the politics I knew, but by talking to people I changed my views. I thought some things that were pretty small minded until I started reading other things and had debates. At the time only being 18, I’d never had a real conversation with anyone about politics and none of the personalities I followed in music or television offered any opinions on it at all. This is why we all need to continue talking about worthwhile things. Those that we put highest on the pedestal have just as much of a responsibility to be well rounded people as we do.
In Westminster politics apologies are like career suicide, which is completely at odds with everything we’re taught growing up. Sometimes we may say the wrong thing but without that dialogue and conversation how will we ever learn anything. If we all open up and continue talking about everything, maybe next year it won’t be Nigel Farage that gets Briton of the Year.