Volume 93, Issue 20

October 1, 1999


Stars built to be broken

54-40 maintain longitude

Tovey wears many selves

DDT produce infectious sound

Stars built to be broken

A time honoured axiom says celebrity and politics don't mix. News pundits, world economists and the media regard politically active superstars with a smug tone of self-righteous cynicism.

The Beastie Boys' much-maligned effort to raise awareness regarding the tyranny in Tibet this summer was met with the patronizing tones of smarmy suits who lost sight of the cause and instead happily pointed out each and every one of the campaign's minor hiccups.

A similar air of bitter condescension emanated from the press earlier this summer when superstars such as Bono (U2) Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and singer Bob Geldof gathered at a G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany, to support Jubilee 2000, an international movement aimed at getting the G8 to cancel all outstanding debts owed by Third World countries.

This unmanageable debt has forced many of the world's poorest nations into an unenviable state of financial ruin, one which diverts a sizable chunk of money away from more important things such as health, education and sanitation.

Exorbitant interest rates and sputtering economies mean these countries never get a chance to rebuild their social structures.

Jubilee 2000 aims to eliminate this debt (which is peanuts for the G8 countries, but crippling for the Third World payees) in time for the new millennium.

In short, it's a brilliant and noble cause. And yet, without fail, the involvement of people like Bono and Yorke has been met with hasty criticism by hypocritical swine who seem to believe pop stars with fat wallets and guilty consciences shouldn't be entangled in events of political regard. In other words, leave the job to the real dignitaries – those same politicians who are content to keep things at the status quo.

While people like Bono are certainly not at the focal point of the cause, they've undoubtedly played a huge role in luring the celebrity-hungry media to cover the event and have also played vital parts in raising awareness among the 17 million people who have signed the Drop The Debt petition.

For these reasons, they must have been incredibly gratified to hear the news from Washington last Wednesday, when American President Bill Clinton announced to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, that the U.S. would be forgiving 100 per cent of all outstanding debts owed by the world's impoverished nations. Clinton followed the announcement (which was met by a standing ovation) by issuing a challenge to the remaining G8 nations to do the same.

In essence, this is a huge, tangible step forward, one aided in part by some very public figures. So why do we continue to patronize them and downplay their role in helping raise awareness? The media lives and dies by the cult of celebrity – it builds them up to inhuman heights and then gleefully tears them down again without rhyme or reason. It's a vicious cycle which has no real basis in reality or relevance. This media weapon functions with brutal efficiency and we eat it up.

The bottom line is that celebrities deal with fame in different ways. Most choose to bask in a selfish haze of pettiness and pointless adoration. Others wield their influence like weapons, using their status for self-advancement. However, when a select handful are concerned enough to exploit their fame for the sake of altruism, the least we can do is listen.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999