12 October 2010

Apples to Apples (or Kittens)

Andrew Meldrum writes for the Global Post:
Then Princess Diana went to Angola in January 1997. Iconic images of her walking through landmine areas and sitting with young amputees were on the front pages of every newspaper in the world and were beamed by every television network. She made an impassioned statement against anti-personnel landmines and urged all responsible governments to stop using them, producing them and selling them.
Single-handedly Diana made the anti-landmine campaign a hot topic. 
This new scramble for Africa, in which the stars carve out their own areas for pet projects, is an easy target of humor. In "Dr Clooney, I presume?" the trend was lampooned in Mother Jones including a witty interactive map of Africa showing the stars’ different areas of influence. 
Right now George Clooney is in southern Sudan to warn of the danger of a looming civil war if the upcoming referendum on the independence of the south from the north does not go well. 
Thousands of words have been written about the conflict looming between north and south Sudan, but Clooney’s trip — and the passionate speeches he makes when he comes back this week — will doubtless achieve far more in goading the international community to much-needed action in Sudan. 
While it is nice to compare Princess Di to George Clooney it is straw man at best.  There is far less clarity when it comes to genocide than when it comes to landmine injuries.  A European Princess has a different reach than an American Celebrity.  Remember, Clooney has been at it for years trying to campaign for Darfur with little success.

Yea, celebrity bashing can be a bit fun, but it is done because some serious misconceptions are perpetuated by them.  There is an expectation that people with a voice and power use it wisely.  Cynics, like myself, will say that it should not be expected, but it is there and a responsibility exists.  So, in short, if a celeb wants to try to toss his or her name behind a campaign or cause, s/he better make a well researched decision.  If not, they are fair game.

Let’s not be apologists for badvocacy.  Also, we must not ignore the fact that bringing advocacy about various issues to different parts of the western world will be met with different reactions.  Connecting most Americans to international issues is an extremely hard task.  Because of this and other issues, Clooney has a mountain to climb compared to the little hill that Princess Di strolled across.  Hopefully he can do it the right way, but let’s not compare apples to kittens.