During the 2019 UK General Election, rapper Stormzy shared a lengthy Instagram post pledging his support to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. The following day, voter registration spiked by 236% in the UK, with 150,000 of these registrations from people under 25.
Many celebrities have large social media followings that enable them to reach hundreds of millions of people within seconds. Many of these are young people aged between 18 and 24, a key voter demographic in most countries.
But, should celebrities speak out on political issues? Celebrity activism can bring in large sums of money, and, as seen through the example of Stormzy, can spike political engagement.
However, in a 2018 poll 29% of people said celebrities should stay out of politics. Many celebrities purposefully choose to remain silent when it comes to politics, actor Mark Wahlberg said celebrities “live inside a bubble of privilege” and thus should not weigh in on political issues.
A particularly prevalent example of celebrities in politics is Kanye West’s interactions with President Trump. West advocated his support for Trump frequently on his Twitter page, this support was reciprocated by the president. West was even invited to the Oval Office for a meeting and soon announced intentions to run for office in 2020, needless to say a promise he has not fulfilled.
Growth of social media and the instability of the current political climate makes celebrity activism inevitable. This week the editors will be debating if celebrities weighing in on politics has a positive or negative effect on society.
Written by, Emmer Kelly
Don’t Deny Celebrities The Opportunity To Enact Change – Labour Article
Celebrity involvement in politics is not something new. In fact, whilst we lament Donald Trump’s position as President, he isn’t the first ‘celebrity politician’; other similarly bronzed characters come to mind, like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger…
Film stars and models becoming politicians is however, is a different can of worms to celebrities using their platforms to diffuse political positions. I do find celebrity politicians problematic, in that they are often more focused upon sensationalism than sensible political action. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter is an example of this unhinged leadership style, which highlights his lack of experience and grasp on reality.
The use of large public platforms to spread a message, on the other hand, I consider a wonderful opportunity to do good. We are now more connected than ever with the internet and social media, which means that celebrities can reach millions of people. With this power, comes the unparalleled ability to create real change, highlighting overlooked causes that activists have been working on for years.
One of the most striking example of how an added sprinkle of celebrity can kick start a social revolution is the ‘#MeToo’ movement. Sexism is not new, harassment and assault are almost universal aspects of women’s lives across the globe. The ‘#MeToo’ campaign was created to shine a light on the epidemic over a decade ago by the senior director of ‘Girls for Gender Equity’, Tarana Burke.
This may shock many people, given that the hashtag only became popularised in 2017 when the Actor, Alyssa Milano, used it on her social media. This became a seismic campaign which utterly changed how sexual assault is viewed, especially in the film industry. It coincided, of course, with the revelation that Harvey Weinstein has been accused by scores of women of rape and other assaults.
The real campaigning and work against sexism wasn’t undertaken by a celebrity, instead by the New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, and of course Tarana Burke. But the celebrity intervention of Milano played an important role in breaking the taboo around sexual assault. If a celebrity, a role model to thousands, is seen to open up, they can change how ‘normal people’ view social issues, acting as a catalyst for struggling causes.
The influence of celebrities has long been recognised by charities and international organisations as a means for diffusing their message. Just think of the number of times you have seen an advert for a charity on TV in which a celebrity pleads for donations and support, or how a star-studded line up for Children In Need 2019 raised £47,886,382 for disadvantaged children across the world. It might sound cynical, but celebrities and their ‘brand’ are an effective way of getting through to people who wouldn’t otherwise support charitable causes.
Even before the social media age, the UN would appoint celebrity Goodwill Ambassadors to help international causes, so the question is, if it causes such good, why should celebrities be apolitical?
Those who claim that celebrities should be utterly apolitical also seem to overlook an important fact. Famous people are still humans with live experience, so why is their right to express their opinions any less than someone else?
A female actress who has been assaulted by a film director shouldn’t be silenced for fear of being overly political, or sexism continues. A black athlete who experiences racist slurs from the crowd shouldn’t be forced to tolerate this overt discrimination. If you argue that celebrities should not speak out, you are implying that they should grit their teeth and endure injustice, which is an affirmation and empowerment of a patriarchal and racist society. These celebrities are in a position to spark change, by speaking out against problems which affect both themselves and millions of others.
Often, not to take a stance against something, has deeply political connotations in itself. For instance, during the Apartheid, many musicians and producers came together to form ‘Artists United Against Apartheid’, in protest against the racist system in South Africa. Together, many huge names of the music scene openly criticised the regime, boycotting the nation, they also created the anti-apartheid track ‘Sun City’, which premiered at the United Nations. To ignore the politics of South Africa, and instead happily perform there would surely be an endorsement of the Apartheid system and is a political statement.
To deny celebrities the right to take a stance, to share their opinions, is a position which impedes positive social change. The influence that famous people have, especially in a world of social media, provides the opportunity to reach more people than ever, and share messages which have been overlooked in the past. The ability of celebrities to stand up to those in power, denouncing horrific behaviours like sexism and racism, is how we create a fairer society for all.
By Chief Labour Editor, Isabella Jewell
Point of information
Some good examples of celebrities making good changes, but this hasn’t changed my view – a Liberal response
Miss Jewell writes a very strong case for keeping celebrities in the public debate of politics. Unfortunately, it has done nothing to win me over. I feel she has missed two important differences between the examples she has made and the case she is making.
She, rightly so, gives great examples of women and athletes standing up to racism, harassment and sexism. This is where celebrities have something important to add to the discussion. They have real life testimony which is important for us to listen to and understand just as if it was anyone else who had experienced that.
However, outside this is a very different story. American stars speaking on behalf of third world problems? White women who have lived in luxury most of their lives pretending they can speak on behalf of women of minorities? How can they claim to understand these problems?
This is what you miss Ms Jewell. Too many times celebrities speak out of turn on behalf of people who actually do not agree with celebrities at all. It is not their right, because they have a bigger platform, to dominate those whose stories and testimonies are actually needed to be heard.
Written by Chief Liberal Editor, Max Anderson
A wisely written article – a Conservative response
Miss Jewell this week has taken the approach that if celebrities want to be a part of the political debate, then it should be a position of notifying rather than preaching extensively. Her example of using the ‘#Me Too’ Movement is strikingly true and it is vital that celebrities use their platforms to educate and create change by not addressing issues. Their voices especially nowadays are so important and therefore, it is important that they speak out for change.
Miss Jewell then goes on to make the point that celebrities are a brand and that this allows issues to reach the general public that would not have normally have made it. This is a vital tool that only celebrities can wield and Miss Jewell is absolutely right to make this point. They have an impact on which most of us can only hope and dream of having and it is important that these powers are not wasted.
Finally, the argument that celebrities can actually be a further check on the accountability of those making political decisions. To be able to call someone out and for many people to see is an extremely powerful weapon in a celebrity’s arsenal. Accountability is a vital part of democracy and celebrity can enhance this we must support this.
Written by Chief Conservative Editor, Jack Kane
A pet hate of mine – Liberal article
I can’t deny I still roll my eyes every time a celebrity decides to weigh in on politics. It is something I really worry. Whether your a sportsman, actress or musician the effect you can have is huge for such a specialised subject. You just have to look at Kylie Jenner. She tweeted in 2018 ‘Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad’. This led to snapshot stock plummeting by $1.3 billion.
One thing celebrities breed is pack journalism. When a media headline breaks, they all go in on it. Australia wildfires are a perfect example. Margot Robbie, who is Australian, asked her fans for donations help the wildfire effort. Donating to a charity to help with the situation is by far not the worst thing to ask for. However, the wildfires have been occurring since September. Why is it only when the news breaks internationally do celebrities finally care? Why not try to bring this to media attention before it becomes a global phenomenon? It means that issues as well fall behind and are forgotten about.
For example, floods in East Africa. Uganda, a country I loved living in has been affected by horrible flooding in December but no celebrity has tried to offer support. Celebrities could have made a difference here if they stayed up to date on global news. The donations they have raised would have been tremendously useful to the country.
This leads me onto my next point, a lack of skills and awareness. Celebrities will have no idea what is happening on the ground like in Africa. I actually praise Gigi Hadid for at least attempting to visit areas like Bangladesh to gain some sort of idea. However, many celebrities will have little idea of the lives people live, especially in third world countries. A good example is Bono claiming that he speaks for Africa.
Big game hunting can be key to generating motivation and money for wildlife preserves in third world countries. How can a third world country be expected to look to after wildlife there?
Although many might not agree with big game hunting, it can give locals the motivation to look after their animals and in return it provides local investment.
The local community who has looked after the animals will choose which animals are shot. This is normally ill weak or aggressive ones which actually prevent mating. It is essential, but celebrities don’t make this clear.
Leonardo Di Caprio in his Netflix documentary ‘The Ivory Game’ blurs the line between preservation and poaching. This means programmes that actually help third world countries and the animals living there are being attacked by those who do not know anything of their way or life.
The best best example I can show is Joanna Lumley’s support for Gurka’s. During A-Levels I was actually told she helped Gurka’s campaign by gaining them British citizensship. However, the British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS) has since criticised her actions. They have gone as far to claim ‘Joanna Lumley’s campaign has been a disaster’. Gurkha’s did not want citizenship’s, they wanted fair pensions instead of being forced to move to Britain for a life living off benefits and no pension.
I now continue to see celebrity after celebrity like Emily Ratajkowski continuously getting involved in politics, misunderstanding the situation and being so out of touch with ordinary voters and the people they are trying to ‘help’. Why are we letting them speak their mind with such a platform? It is starting to do a lot more harm than good and something must be done. Celebrities need to either be held to account if they wish to comment on politics and not hide behind their fans and phones.
As my title says, celebrity meddling is a serious pet hate of mine. I can only think of a few where they have, when you look past their social media posts, made a major positive difference which was wasn’t tied in with jumping on the bandwagon of front page news.
If, by some miracle a celebrity or future celebrity is reading this, take note! Unless you seriously understand the interact details of an issue you are attempting to help or are ‘actually’ effected by the issue and have personal experience, be extremely careful of what you say or remove yourself entirely from the debate.
Written by Chief Liberal Editor, Max Anderson
Point of information
A bizarre jumble of ideas – a Conservative response
I certainly believe that Miss Jewell and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to dissecting Mr Anderson’s rather sporadic article.
Firstly, Mr Anderson’s Kylie Jenner example is wasted ink. This example does not really answer the question. I, however, do understand Mr Anderson’s anger over the issue of flooding in Uganda being tossed aside so that more coverage is used on the Australian wildfires. Our media institutions do focus more heavily on issues in developed countries however, I don’t believe this is reason to criticise Margot Robbie. When your homeland is in crisis it is unsurprising that Robbie is reaching out for help and we must understand that.
Furthermore, Mr Anderson writes that the donations to the dealing with the Australian wildfire would be of better use if they were given to Uganda. This is true to due to Uganda being a far poorer country however, I believe Mr Anderson that you are leading with your heart rather than your head. Just because an issue is close to your heart does not make it more important than any other issue.
Written by Chief Conservative Editor, Jack Kane
What gives you any more of a right to an opinion than a celebrity? – A Labour Response
Mr Anderson’s article this week has perplexed me. As a liberal, I would have assumed he would wish to protect an individual’s right to an opinion, especially as he created an entire blog dedicated to under-qualified students spouting their opinions on political issues.
He argues that celebrities like Margot Robbie raising money for those battling the Australian bush fires are the problem, on the grounds that it was too late in the day, and that she should rather be supporting Uganda. I do understand his frustration that many celebrities speak out following media coverage of events, and that often this results in raising awareness of Western-centric problems, however how is this the fault of Margot Robbie?
Mr Anderson almost identified it himself, it’s the media who are at the origin of this issue, as they usually give more coverage to events in first world countries. I find it hard to understand why an actress needs to be responsible for making the world aware of all terrible events, Robbie is an actress, not a politician.
He also makes the point that celebrities shouldn’t have the right to diffuse an opinion because they are ‘out of touch’ with voters; I’d like to remind Mr Anderson that celebrities aren’t elected, and whilst many of them are extremely privileged, that doesn’t mean that they can’t speak their mind. We should all have the right to express ourselves.
Finally, his point about ‘holding celebrities to account’ is a bizarre argument; it implies that diffusing an opinion is the same thing as a politician enacting a law or taking an action. The way we hold people accountable for their opinions is by debating and discussing, not by censoring what they have to say.
By Chief Labour Editor, Isabella Jewell
The art of speaking is also knowing when not to – Conservative article
As I write my articles for POI I am extremely fortunate to have access to a platform where I am able to speak my mind backing up my arguments with evidence. Therefore, it would be hypocritical and anti-democratic from me to deny this right to anybody else.
Celebrities as famous as they are, are still people just like you and me. Our vote counts just as much as theirs and we must accept this. However, if celebrities do want to engage heavily in politics, then they must be more careful. In a world of ever-increasing media scrutiny, celebrities must be prepared to back their points up just like anyone of us. Furthermore, all celebrities should be using their platform to get people to vote.
The reason why celebrities should be doing more to get out the vote is that it has been proven to work. One only has to look at Ariana Grande’s Sweetener tour to see the positive effect a celebrity can have. Ariana has joined up with voter registration company Headcount and during her tour in 2019, more than 17,000 people registered to vote. This continued at Bonnaroo festival were nearly 1,400 attendees registered. Ariana’s tour is confirmed as the most successful for voter registration since 2008 and that was an election year. What strikes me as even more impressive is that the majority of her fan base being extremely young. Getting the young out to vote is vital for democracy and its future so, I thank Ariana for getting young voters to register.
Now we get to the more contentious part. As I said earlier, I believe that everyone is entitled to speak their mind as tyranny emerges when we don’t. Yet, many might argue the case of Donald Trump. I believe that President Trump has been a terrible mistake for the United States. A decision that has set America back many years allowing a conservative president to pack the Supreme Court with conservative judges. Yet, he was given his right to speak and the American people got on board with it. As annoying as this may be, we can not silence those we hate. That is simply tyranny and us only hearing what we want to hear. That is not democracy.
As I said in my introduction, celebrities must be prepared to back up their arguments. Otherwise, we see two things, one being people believing factually incorrect statements and secondly, celebrities will start to look foolish. One only has to look at the actions of Kanye West to see this in action. His rants at the White House in front of President Trump as well as on SNL and Twitter have turned him into comedy gold material.
If celebrities want to express themselves in a bizarre way then they are most welcome to however, they must be prepared to face the consequences. The same goes for Eton and Cambridge-educated Tom Hiddlestone who was criticised for his remarks comparing his bravery to doctors of South Sudan. Even the brightest and most well-versed amongst us make mistakes and this is why celebrities must always be prepared to back themselves.
This is especially true when you have a platform where millions of people are listening. We all have the right to free speech yet those with more influence than others must realise just how sensitive their words can be. Restraint is a virtue and celebrities must be aware of how important it can be.
Written by Chief Conservative Editor, Jack Kane.
Point of information
A Sensible Stance On a Fundamental Right, Freedom of Speech – A Labour Response
I am thoroughly impressed by Mr Kane’s stance on the subject of celebrity political stances, he creates a balanced argument which understands the importance of free speech, as well as the necessity to have informed opinions.
As he notes, it would be ‘tyrannical’ to censor a celebrity just for having a differing opinion to you, yes they may not always be experts in the field of their opinion, but they are still humans with the right to express themselves. Indeed, it would be catastrophic for democracy if only experts were allowed the right to express themselves, our system is founded on the principle that everyone can hold their own belief.
It is also important that Mr Kane highlighted that Donald Trump was elected. It is my opinion that he is the most awful President the United States has ever seen, however I can’t ban an elected official from speaking. The way we hold people like this to account is by broadcasting our opinions, that is simply how a democracy works.
I enjoyed Mr Kane’s sensitive argument that celebrities have enormous platforms and influence, and thus should ensure that they back up their opinions. Of course, that assertion is the philosophy of Point of Information as a blog, that we should promote respectful and reasoned debate.
By Isabella Jewell, Chief Labour Editor
A lacklustre argument – a Liberal response
From what I can tell Mr Kane only makes two points here – that celebrities help increase turnout and that they must be held to account. These are good points but perhaps underwhelming from what I have come to expect from Mr Kane.
Celebrities encouraging people to vote is something I think is great. Not enough young people do vote and as long as they don’t pressure voters to vote one way or another, that is fantastic.
He then talks about Donald Trump and the issues that celebrities can cause with wrong facts but I feel like the conservative this week, wanting to restrict celebrities because of the harm they can cause.
An odd week for me and a lacklustre article from Mr Kane.
Written by Chief Liberal Editor, Max Anderson