Saturday, November 10, 2007

O, Brother, Where Art Thou Next?

We recently commented on the natural limitations of celebrities to resolve our domestic crises, such as the “assault on the Constitution” that Bruce Springsteen, John Brown-like, has been confronting on behalf of “us Americans,” about which Springsteen reportedly “roared” at the Palace last week: The E Street Band is here to do something about it. We'll sing about it.”

On a similar page, Leon Wieseltier, literary editor at The New Republic, and who writes like a genuine prig, takes a shot at George Clooney and the whole Hollywood, “celebrities-with-portfolios,” trend, smartly hitting his target (“Smirks”):

Speaking of smirking, I was watching “Charlie Rose” the other night and there was George Clooney. His fun-loving face has a certain vitiating effect upon his moments of solemnity. Even when it is not winking, it is winking. There he was peddling one of the great hoaxes of American life: the celebrity as moral leader. He reported on a recent mission to China, which he made to reverse Chinese support for the genocidal tyrant in Khartoum. “I took Don Cheadle and a couple of Olympic athletes. ... Our argument was to sit there and say, ‘We need you, the world needs you.’” That ought to work. And if Beijing remains unmoved, it may be time to send in Bernie Mac. Clooney, Brad Pitt (who remarked last spring that sitting in a room with Angelina Jolie and Marianne Pearl is “like sitting down with Roosevelt and Churchill--only much better-looking”), Matt Damon, Cheadle and others have started an organization to help “stop and prevent mass atrocities,” called Not On Our Watch. Their watch? They are mere movie stars. Just as philanthropy should not be regarded as sufficient for social policy, celebrity should not be regarded as sufficient for foreign policy. The attention that Clooney can focus on Darfur is certainly useful, though I suspect that it passes quickly, since fandom is not a form of political action. Clooney is plainly an intelligent person, even if he may not be, as one human rights activist described him, “smarter than any politician I've dealt with on this issue,” which is anyway faint praise; and it is nice to see Danny Ocean giving back. But I must insist that one of the many wonderful things about Cary Grant was that he never believed he could get Mussolini out of Abyssinia.

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