Steer Concerned Celebrities Instead of Stifling Them

Steer Concerned Celebrities Instead of Stifling Them

FINANCIAL TIMES 11/01/07
By Michael Shank

Sir, Gideon Rachman (“The aid crusade and Bono’s brigade”, October 30) has it right: it is better to have rock stars roiling for debt relief than resorting to hotel room romping.

Yet Mr Rachman sides with the cynics on celebrity campaigning by taking issue with their lack of legitimacy; that is, that stars remain unelected, and are thus deprived of a public mandate to prescribe policy.

Having worked with several major US rock bands on environmental and energy-related campaigns, I beg to differ. Arguably, celebrities in the US maintain more of a mainstream mandate than elected officials.

Try polling citizens in the US. Higher recognition rates for celebrities, versus state or federal legislators, are bound to emerge. This is a sad state of affairs for a self-proclaimed democracy, but it is true.

The concern then is not legitimacy, because celebrities have it. The question, rather, is accountability. The US has ballot boxes to ensure that elected officials stay on the straight and narrow, but for film and rock stars few mechanisms exist.

Rather than chiding celebrities for pitching in to prevent poverty, HIV/Aids, or genocide – citing illegitimacy – perhaps some simple positive reinforcement is necessary. They are trying to do a good thing, so steer rather than stifle them.

Michael Shank,
Government Relations Adviser,
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution,
George Mason University,
Arlington, VA 22201, US