When Andre Agassi ruled the professional tennis world, spectator Barbara Streisand called Agassi a “Zen master.” Really? In his autobiography, Agassi admitted that he had grown to hate tennis. It was just a job, not an ideology or a mystical philosophy. Still, liberal entertainers don’t hold patents on the dreaded foot-in-mouth disease.
Listen, if you can, to the tripe spewed by Ted Nugent or Kid Rock, who took the conservative dogma and twisted it into madness. I’m a staunch supporter of free speech, but sometimes when I hear a celebrity wax eloquent about something he or she seems to have little knowledge of, I almost hunger for possible sub-amendments to that glorious First Amendment of our Constitution.
Opinions, though, are still just that, the voicing of one perspective. They are not news. But the president of what used to be the world’s most powerful and influential country and government is hardly one person with one opinion. What we are seeing from the current White House is nothing less than an outright attack on the free press and decency itself. His outrageous comments are word-meat thrown to his base, but when that group comprises one third of the country’s population, we can safely feel that his bombastic rhetoric has become a bludgeon instead of one person’s opinion, and that makes the majority of us feel very unsafe.
Mark Twain didn’t have a fathom line long enough to get to the bottom of the lies now coming from the White House. It seems that its chief resident is following a plan straight out of the “Dictatorship for Dummies” playbook. He has already proudly used the old adage “Tell a lie enough times and it becomes the truth” in his book on artistic deals. Attacking the FBI and trying to discredit a free press is a basic strategy of the aspiring despot. And the early stages of a national takeover is where we find ourselves, a nation that supposedly venerates the truth and bipartisanship.
We only have to look at candidate Trump, of course. He has always been the quintessential celebrity. He is too powerful to repay loans or to follow democratic rule. “You’re fired” should be stitched on his red hats, not “MAGA.” His views and his morality have always been protean, his every act ego-stroking.
There are ways that celebrity voices can be useful. In Michigan, at the sentencing of sex offender Dr. Larry Nassar, doctor and abuser of Olympic gymnasts, presiding Judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed almost 150 victims to make public statements in her courtroom. As the trickle of witnesses turned into a flashflood, even celebrity Olympic gymnasts stood up to be heard. The female judge used words like “heroic” to describe the victims who were determined to put an end to this very personal reign of terror. Celebrities helped make this a prominent story that will ripple through not just the sports and entertainment worlds, but right to the heart of the sexual harassment issue.
I’m sure some readers will moan, “But when does it end?” Unfortunately, the shelf life of scandals is about the same as the three-day maximum on old fish and houseguests. Sexual harassment will end when men quit preying on and abusing women. It will not end with the business-as-usual “boys will be boys” attitude. The real question is, how do polarized news platforms cover such events? And, taking another idea from the totalitarian’s to-do list, billionaire control of newspapers and media sources is most assuredly a giant step backward. News is not a business.
So who do we elect for our highest offices? Would Oprah Winfrey be fairer than Rupert Murdoch? How often have we heard that one political aspirant isn’t a good candidate for office because he or she “is not a good fundraiser”? Money, celebrity and politics have merged into one ugly reality TV show and we, the voters, are then asked to decide whether a sports hero or a media celebrity is a good choice for leader of the Free World.
Make no mistake, Calaveras County is not immune from the national debate. I’ve mentioned the “Hello, Bush, Goodbye, Baldwin” sign on Pool Station Road before. That, in essence, is what I am talking about: a popularity contest pitting a conservative president elected under dubious electoral manipulations versus an actor who was stupid enough to say that he would move out of the country if said politician won. He didn’t, of course, and the sign, presumably one person’s take on the result of the election, was basically good reporting and hilarious in context. The unfortunate reality though, is that we have made cartoon characters out of the people who hold their collective fingers poised over the button that could start a nuclear holocaust that would destroy the entire world.