Tag Archives: politico

Celebrity Issue Advocacy is Politics

There is a great Politico article out that discusses the intertwined nature of celebrity and public office.  It is a rather complex article with some insightful analysis about how celebrities engage in the political realm and politicians who embrace celebrity endorsements.  One main point from the piece is about how celebrities are now taking up issue advocacy instead of running for public office.  This quote sums it up:

“To their credit, the lives they lead today is very different from their predecessors in the studio system [who had] managed lives, their images protected. … Very few people were aware of how tough it is and how incredibly hard and difficult it is to go through the day-to-day ardors of a campaign. … Maybe that’s why so many [politically active celebrities] come up to the water’s edge and decide not [to] jump in.”

Later, the piece quotes George Clooney about his decision not to run for office (which I thought was hilarious):

“I didn’t live my life in the right way for politics, you know,” he told Newsweek in 2011. “I f—-ked too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that’s the truth.”

While I agree with most of the points addressed in the article, I think it has a very narrow definition of “politics.”  The political science definition is “who gets what and how.”  Meaning, the entire process to move an issue forward is by definition a political action.  So, anytime a celebrity advocates for an issue, they are engaging in politics.  Issue advocacy by celebrities is not a new trend by any means.  During World War II, celebrities put forth propaganda to support the war effort for the U.S. government.  The U.N. has a vast library of celebrities endorsing numerous causes in the 1940-50s  The article mentions Ronald Reagan making a career of going after communists, but he also advocated against socialized medicine too.  Who can forget Jane Fonda going to North Vietnam  or the many writers and celebrities who visited the USSR?  Not to mention benefit concerts for HIV/AIDS, natural disaster relief, and cancer research.  These issues rose to prominence because of celebrity endorsements and can actually advance issues much faster culturally than any congressmen.

I would also add the rise of celebrity politician who leave office and become political stars of their own.  Sarah Palin is great example of this.  She left her post as governor after half a term and receiving notoriety from being John McCain’s running-mate in 2008.  Her personality and charisma have brought her numerous adoring fans and a very loyal following that has translated into a SuperPac that endorses candidates, two reality shows, and, until recently, a contract with Fox News.  Not to mention millions of Twitter and Facebook followers.   Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former House Majority Leader Dick Army have received large followings for books and political action groups.  Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have moved onto issue advocacy with their respective foundations.  I can go on.  While in office, these politicians certainly accomplished quite a bit, but I would argue their political capital has gone up even more since they left and their power has increased because of their supporters.

Celebrity is a very strong political force because there is very little accountability to constituents and mainly requires photo-ops and monetary donations to causes.  It’s a unilateral form of political action, except without all the bureaucracy.  It makes a lot of sense that celebrities and former politicians would embrace fame to advance causes for the common good.

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Why Fox News is Alienating Conservatives

By Luke Brinker

Keach Hagey’s Politico story about mounting conservative disillusionment with Fox News has been making the rounds today. Hagey reports that Fox chief Roger Ailes’s conscious effort to “tone down” the network’s heated rhetoric and the channel’s hiring of liberal-leaning commentators have provoked the ire of rock-ribbed conservative viewers.

Perhaps most striking, however, is the sense on the part of some viewers that the channel has become little more than a partisan mouthpiece for the Republican Party. (That’s not quite the same thing as being a promoter of conservatism). Here’s how Hagey begins his story:

As a white, male, middle-aged conservative talk radio host from Virginia, John Fredericks is something close to the Platonic ideal of a Fox News fan.

And until last year, he was one. But then Fox’s treatment of the Republican primary race — the presentation of Karl Rove as a political analyst despite his having “thrown in for Romney” andSean Hannity’s clear ties to the Republican establishment — began to grate on him. So he changed the channel.

“I’ve gone from all Fox to no Fox, and replaced it with CNN, which I think right now is giving me a much fairer analysis of what’s going on,” he said. “I feel they’ve lost that independent conservative mantra that had drove people like me to them. I used to feel that I got it straight, and I got an independent conservative view. Now, what I get is some wholly owned subsidiary of the RNC [Republican National Committee].”

This dynamic reflects a choice made at the highest echelons of Fox. Ailes, who made his name as a public relations adviser to President Richard Nixon, is a committed Republican, and as someone who wants to see President Barack Obama defeated in the fall, his main focus is the nomination of an electable GOP candidate. Hence the increasing prominence of analysts like Karl Rove, who has made quite clear that he views Mitt Romney as the most acceptable candidate in the Republican field. The story goes on to mention that Andrew Napolitano, a libertarian Tea Party type who supports Ron Paul for president, recently had his show on Fox Business cancelled, to the consternation of many of his fans. While Napolitano’s ratings were poor, such a move, coming on the heels of Glenn Beck’s departure last year, engenders suspicion among anti-establishment types who see the network as squelching grassroots sentiment in favor of the GOP elite.

Blatant partisanship is not unparalleled in cable news, of course. There’s never been any question which party Fox favors, and while MSNBC employs conservatives like Joe Scarborough and eclectic liberal Chris Matthews, its “Lean Forward” ads show an increasingly strident partisanship. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but as Hagey’s story attests, viewers may not countenance a network that serves primarily as a party propagandist, instead of a principled voice for conservatism or liberalism.

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