It seems as though every day there is another celebrity telling us how the government should work.
Journalists claim socialism will save the country as they look down on the masses from their penthouse apartments. Actors call for the repeal of the Second Amendment from inside their gated communities. Athletes call for freedom of speech while shouting down anyone who holds an unpopular opinion.
The rich and famous tell us how to live and what to think, and so many people who idolize their talents hold out their political beliefs as fact. However, why should we care about a football player’s take on the Constitution, or a comedian’s views on the economy?
Lerbon James recently sat down with CNN’s Don Lemon for an interview covering a wide-range of topics. In it James stated “You know, we are in a position right now in America where this race thing [has] taken over. I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us. He is — I don’t want to say kinda. He’s dividing us.” James fails to recognize that this divisiveness in sports has been around since long before President Trump. Colin Kaepernick started kneeling in August of 2016, before President Trump was elected. James himself politicized his sport when he wore a hoodie to a basketball game in 2012 to protest the death of Trayvon Martin.
At the 2018 Tony Awards, Robert DeNiro started off his speech by saying “First, I wanna say, ‘f**k Trump. It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump,’ it’s ‘f**k Trump.” This “bravery” earned a standing ovation from the far-left crowd. De Niro was born to artist parents in New York, and dropped out of school at age 16 to pursue acting.
At the same award show, Andrew Garfield said “We are all sacred, and we all belong, so let’s all just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked!” Garfield was referring to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in which the Supreme Court ruled the bakery did not have to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding. Garfield speaks about the rights of everyone to live as they see fit, except the baker of course. Unsurprisingly, Garfield’s schooling at the Central School of Speech and Drama must have skipped the section on religious freedom in the Constitution.
The right is not safe from this either. Comedic actress Roseanne Barr was welcomed with open arms for portraying a Trump-Supporter on her sitcom, and speaking out in favor of President Trump. However, she was fired after she wrote an offensive tweet about former adviser to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett. Her outbursts should not have been a complete shock, as Barr has run for President as a Peace and Freedom Party ticket, and protested with “Occupy Wall Street” in 2011.
With so many examples of celebrities giving their commentary, without expertise, on our political climate, we must ask why people take these views so seriously.
The “Halo Effect” is a phenomenon in which we see someone who is an “expert” at one thing, and assume they are experts at other things too. Psychologist Edward Thorndyke in 1920 discovered that commanding officers in the military usually viewed a soldier as “good” in all aspects or “bad” across the board. They rarely awarded some “good” and some “bad” traits to the soldiers, even though that was much more accurate. This concept was later expanded far beyond the military to include aspects of everyday life as well.
Models are often believed to have some financial expertise, or knowledge about car engines, simply because they are beautiful. We assume a good athlete or singer should also be a great actor, even if they’ve never acted before. Actors who have played politicians in movies must have some political expertise, even if they’ve never opened a political science book.
This is not just an issue on one side of the political aisle, nor is it limited to the political sphere. Company CEOs and presidents have fallen prey to the “Halo Effect” by overvaluing certain traits in their employees, and undervaluing other traits, leading to hiring or promoting under qualified candidates.
The dangers of falling into the “Halo Effect are twofold. First, when we look to these non-expert elites for their policy advice, we are likely to pursue faulty policies. Second, we tend to gravitate towards celebrities as soon as they agree with our worldview without vetting them first. This has resulted in idolizing people with questionable or immoral pasts, or needing to backtrack when they acting inappropriately in the future.
Now this is not to say that celebrities should stay silent, or have no right to an opinion. We should listen to their unique perspectives, as every person can bring an individual viewpoint to a topic. However, we must understand that unless they have proven some expertise on a topic, their opinions do not carry any additional weight. The ability to act on screen or play a sport does not give them any sort of expertise on morality, business, or politics.
We look to them for entertainment on the big screen, the field, or the stage, but we don’t need to look to them for their political commentary. Celebrities have every right to profess their misinformed opinions to their audiences, and we have every right to criticize and ignore them.