Saturday 5 December 2015

Should celebrities endorse politicians?

This post arises from a conversation in one of my Journalism Ethics lectures - we watched the YES WE CAN video, and it led to a huge debate about celebrities voicing their political opinions.

Celebrities are, to some extent, just like you and I. Just because their conversations about politics and the state of the country are viewed by a lot more than, say, a conversation between my mum and I, doesn't mean they shouldn't have those conversations. It doesn't make their opinions less valid than anybody else's, just because they also sing about love or promote the latest red lipstick.

One of my biggest issues with the British education system is what we aren't taught - useful skills in the home, how to deal with taxes, the political system. Young people are so often blind to how our government works/who their own views match up with/what the system can or does do for them and in my opinion, any conversation that opens their eyes is undeniably a good thing. Whether you like or agree with the celebrity or "celebrity" who is talking about politics, interviewing politicians or contributing to campaigns, it would be absurd to say that they shouldn't. Talking about the state of our country, or any country, and the way it works and the way it's controlled by the people at the top is a good thing.

Take, for example, Louise from Sprinkle of Glitter interviewing Ed Miliband in May this year. She wasn't paid for this (according to the ASA, paid-for videos must include AD in the title and this doesn't, so I'm assuming she wasn't!) and she contacted Ed herself, or so it says in the description box anyway. She says she also tried to interview David Cameron and Nick Clegg, but they weren't available. What this says to me is that Louise was trying to present a well-rounded view of British politics to her subscribers; she wanted to include the three main parties - she wasn't saying "vote for Labour", she was just interviewing him. People I've spoke to said to me that she was promoting him, or that his team had paid for it as part of his campaign.

But honestly - so what if his team had paid for it? Politics is, put simply, a popularity contest. Who gets the most votes, who promotes their best side and their best policies. Just because it's not a typical mainstream news outlet doesn't mean that a YouTuber or celebrity of any kind shouldn't be interviewing politicians or discussing politics in general.

Someone said to me that if young people see a famous person supporting or discussing one particular politician, "that's who they'll vote for". I think it's unfair beyond belief to suggest that all, or even the majority, of young people are unable to think for themselves and make their own decisions. A celebrity talking about politics in any way is simply using their platform for something bigger than themselves: the system that runs our country. Starting a conversation, a space for debate and education - and that, my friends, is a damn good thing.

This was long-winded and I'm not sure if much of it made sense - but I personally think it's okay for celebrities to talk about politics. Why shouldn't they? 

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