Celebrities Don’t “Owe” Fans Insight Into Their Political Beliefs

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Days before the release of her latest album, reputation, Taylor Swift’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to the author of an article that explicitly compared Swift to Adolf Hitler. While Swift’s attorneys claimed the article was defamatory, the ACLU sided with the writer, Meghan Herning, citing her constitutional right to free speech in its defense. Although the piece drew unsubstantiated conclusions regarding Swift’s undisclosed political affiliations, the article falls within the traditional confines of the First Amendment.

Published by the blog PopFront, Herning discussed Swift’s lack of public political advocacy: “So Taylor’s [political] silence is not innocent, it is calculated. And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world—no matter what fan base she might lose, because in America 2017, silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”

However, with this assertion in mind, one cannot help but recognize that, just as Herning has the right to voice her opinion, Swift has the right to keep her beliefs to herself. Assuming the she or any celebrity owes the public insight into their private life or political preferences seems ludicrous. Being in the public eye comes with an innate level of transparency, but to expect such famous artists to forego any semblance of privacy simply isn’t fair to those whose professional success comes with constant scrutiny.

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, feminists have repeatedly called upon Swift to use her platform and denounce Donald Trump, as her influence could easily sway her widespread audience. Like Herning, critics constantly attempt to bully the platinum pop sensation into making a statement by claiming that silence signals support for the oppressor, but said threats have yet to shake Swift’s resolve.

Why should Swift feel obligated to speak out if she doesn’t wish to align herself with one side of the debate or the other? You wouldn’t approach complete strangers on the street and demand that they reveal their political affiliations. Why should celebrities be expected to do just that?

It’s not hard to understand why someone such as Swift might opt to remain neutral during this time of upheaval. While critics assume her reasons are selfish—that she doesn’t want to alienate her fan base for fear of reduced album and ticket sales—it’s more likely that Swift has purposely refrained from expressing her personal opinions for her fans’ benefit, not hers.

Thanks to today’s tumultuous political climate, even the entertainment industry, an industry many turn to as an escape, provides constant commentary on matters pertaining to the government. By staying on the outskirts of such debates, however, Swift continues to provide her fans with the very sanctuary they seek. Fans openly acknowledge how Swift’s music helps them cope with life’s struggles. If she were to allow her beliefs to infiltrate this refuge, those who turn to her tunes for solace and joy will have lost their one safe space.

Claiming celebrities owe fans insight into their belief system sounds reminiscent of those men who believe women owe them sex for buying them dinner. These matters aren’t transactional. There’s no fine print. Stars don’t even owe fans the pleasure of their talents. Just as everyone deserves to be heard, these individuals have the right to be left alone. Don’t call them; they’ll call you.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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Stop Using Social Media as the Scapegoat for Society’s Demise

During the early morning hours of May 7, Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to help fans in need. Over the course of this dialogue, Minaj agreed to pay out an estimated $30,000 of her own money to help the fans in question afford their college tuition and school supplies. While many critics might be skeptical about the motive behind her random acts of philanthropy, it’s hard to ignore that Minaj’s generous soul would never have connected with these struggling individuals had it not been for social media.

Of course, it’s easy for people to focus on social media’s failings. It promotes narcissism. It’s an unyielding distraction. It hinders everyone’s attention span. However, along with the bad, we’ve been exposed to a world of good that outweighs any negative sentiment. We now have an outlet for connecting with people outside our immediate circle, allowing us to learn and grow in ways we never could have before its creation.

Thanks to Twitter (and the Web, in general), we have the opportunity to remain abreast of international news in real time. Yes, there’s an enormous amount of content to sift through at any given moment, but by adopting healthy social media habits, it’s simple to filter through what’s important and what’s frivolous fluff. You see, those who claim that social networks drain people’s time and ruin kids’ attention spans are those who’ve failed to master healthy social habits themselves. All good things must be consumed in moderation—even media. We may live in the era of the Netflix binge, but that doesn’t mean such behaviors are smart. When used properly, social media arms us with the tools necessary to dismantle widespread ignorance and hold public figures accountable. Social media acts as the weapon we need to effectively fight for what’s right.

Following the U.S. presidential election, for instance, voters quickly took to social media—in some cases to celebrate, in some cases to express their disbelief and anguish while establishing the foundation for what’s now known as The Resistance. Women came together via social to plan and execute the Women’s March on Washington, as well as its sister marches across the world. And organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have turned to social media to mobilize supporters and bolster donations. Without such outlets, these groups never would’ve come together so quickly and effectively. Without social media, it would’ve been much more difficult for these like-minded activists to find one another and turn their mutual disgust into productive outreach.

Even in less extreme cases, social media has the potential to make people feel less alone. Prior to social networks, outcasts likely felt that there was no one else in the world who understood their struggle. But, by being able to express their emotions online, many have found support they might’ve otherwise gone without. Those with minor grievances can also take solace in social media, for the memes and comics that rule the space demonstrate we’re not as alone as we once thought. (No, you’re NOT the only one who feels that way!) Critics will argue that social media has the opposite effect, as Facebook and Instagram posts often make said outcasts feel even more out of the loop than before, but when you stop to evaluate the new connections at their fingertips, it’s easy to see that social empowers them to change their situation for the better.

Face it—bullies will never cease to exist. There’ll always be people who tear others down in order to make themselves feel superior, no matter their platform of choice. But it’s our responsibility to teach today’s children how to navigate these new networks. Our parents taught us how to handle the challenges that came along with growing up, and we’ll have to do the same. Kids still have to face the same battles, even if they’re fighting on uncharted battlefields. Remember! We’re the ones who created this supposed mess, so we’re the ones who will have to right the course. We will have to teach them how to limit their screen time. We will have to teach them how to be mindful of others online. We will have to teach them not to idolize the manipulated images and personas they see across platforms.

Parents and authority figures who believe social media has ruined today’s youth are merely projecting their own insecurities, for they exhibit these less than stellar behaviors themselves. They’re guilty of deifying the celebrities they follow, and checking their phones excessively. They’ve become addicted to refreshing their feeds and awaiting new notifications. Yet, each time another adult gives their child an iPad or smartphone as a stand-in for an actual caretaker, they perpetuate the very problem they wish to rectify. Unless we take responsibility for how we conduct ourselves, we will never be able to alter the issue at hand.

Until then, critics will continue to focus on social media’s failings and blame these networks for what’s wrong with the world. Social media isn’t without its flaws, of course, but we mustn’t overlook the value it brings to the modern world. As with any tool, social can be used for good or evil. Let’s remember what social media can help us accomplish—as was the case with Nicki Minaj—before we vilify these networks once and for all.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)