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August 11, 2008

what Obama could say about the "celebrity" charge

(The following is an imaginary speech by the Democratic nominee): "John McCain has been running ads associating me with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. He has been criticized for those ads, but I believe they reflect a deep concern that I share with him.

"Modern celebrity culture is a terrible thing. I can hardly believe that my daughters, growing up two generations after the height of the women's movement, should be exposed to relentless news about someone who happens to be thin, blond, rich, deliberately uneducated past high school, without any apparent interest in a regular job, and who intentionally acts dim and vapid in order to appear attractive. I sometimes feel as if we have slipped 50 years backward.

"And I can hardly believe the appetite for news about Paris and Britney--and now Angelina and Beyonce--when there are wars going on, and the earth's climate is shifting dangerously, and our people are losing jobs and health coverage. Not only are there serious problems to read about; there are also wonderful people doing amazing things to solve our problems. They work together at the grassroots level, leading organizations, cleaning up the environment, mentoring kids, creating art and culture. But these real, active citizens get one thousandth of the attention of a single Hollywood star breakup.

"The celebrity culture is sexualized to a point that threatens anyone who tries to raise children to be responsible and caring human beings. It is superficial and wasteful. It is spiritually bankrupt. It is fundamentally undemocratic in its fascination with heiresses and moguls. It is obsessed with personal behavior, especially sexuality, to the exclusion of social issues and institutions; and it sets ridiculously low standards for personal ethics.

"I recognize that my family and I are in some danger of being sucked into the celebrity culture. By definition, the presidential nominee of a major party is famous. In today's climate, becoming famous means that suddenly the public is interested in our personal lives. I was never a celebrity until I ran for president. It is exciting for us, but also troubling. At some fundamental level, it feels wrong. I know from years of community organizing, college teaching, and working in a legislature that what really matters is not what celebrity gossip is about. Real work is done by serious people working together out of the limelight, not by a few people who have become famous for being rich and sexually active.

"The government cannot ban or censor celebrity culture. It can support local civic engagement, education, and arts as alternatives. And our leaders can speak out against the culture. In this, I would gladly join my Republican opponent."

[I have written before, in my own voice, about celebrity culture and politics, and about Princess Diana as a case study.]

August 11, 2008 12:41 PM | category: none


Interesting take. What did you think of Paris Hilton's response ad?

August 12, 2008 7:59 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Michael Weiksner

Well, I watched it, thanks to your comment. Fairly amusing, I'd have to say.

August 12, 2008 8:21 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Peter Levine

Please tell me you've sent this to the campaign. It's brillant, and very consistent with Obama's language and style.

August 14, 2008 10:45 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Tony

I really like this post, too. I linked here on my blog and added a personal note about one instance of developing the theme "Civics not Celebrity."

Due to the many post 9-11 limitations on Capitol Hill, the experience of our participants meeting with their members of Congress was growing increasingly disappointing. We tried to focus the students away from "meeting your elected representatives" and getting a pretty picture with someone famous to "learning how the office works" when we met with staffers of whatever ability.

This learning included what to do when your question is avoided, the importance of identifying the person in the office who works on the legislation of interest and considering the various levels of responsibility in the federal system to address one's concerns.

Not as easy as picture taking though one little effort to refocus on civics, not celebrity.

August 18, 2008 1:54 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Scott D

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