Since the first day I embarked on this YouTuber adventure, I vowed to keep my channel and related social media free of politics. I may have come close to getting political with my rant against Denis Coderre’s proposed pitbull ban, but I don’t think that crossed the line of “getting political”. There is no point in getting political on social media unless that is your thing, in which case that is what your subscribers expect. And even then, you’re only doing one of two things, with the same consequence: Preaching to the choir, or talking to deaf ears, while alienating half of your audience.
It’s not that I’m not “political”. I consider myself to be well-informed, I have my opinions, and I will engage in political discussions. But it is touchy, even with friends and family. Politics is like religion. People have their fundamental beliefs through which they view the world and which generally serve as the conformation bias for how they interpret “facts”. People have their views on “G-d” (i.e. their political party and leaders), and no one likes to be told that someone else’s G-d is better than theirs.
It’s inappropriate when people who did not get where they are because of their politics suddenly get political. And it has nothing to do with the political leanings at issue. I like Casey Neistat. I subscribed to his channel. But it really irked me when he took advantage of that platform to tell his subscribers why they needed to vote for Hillary Clinton. Casey did not get those subscribers because of his politics, and his subscribers probably never followed him to get political advice. By the same token, I don’t need or want Kanye West or Clint Eastwood telling me to vote for Donald Trump. I don’t need or want celebrities abusing of their celebrity platform, built on an entirely different and non-political skill-set, suddenly thinking their success in a totally unrelated field gives them the moral or political authority to tell me what to think or do.
Case in point: Meryl Streep’s speech at last night’s Golden Globes. It’s not the content of the speech that irritates me. It could have been anti-Trump, anti-Hillary, pro or anti-Trudeau or Denis Coderre for all I care (I’m a Quebecer and Canadian after all – Denis Coderre is Montreal’s mayor). It’s not the content of the speech, it’s the political nature of the speech in a particular context that crosses the line. A political tirade at the Golden Globes while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award for her acting career. Politics is not the platform on which she built her celebrity status and career. It’s out of place. It’s not what people came to see. And it simply divides the crowd, despite any noble intentions. People came for a party, not a political convention.
As I was listening to her talk politics while accepting an acting award, I was thinking of the reaction she would have gotten had she embarked on a totally different subject… What if she started lecturing on parenting, and how people should raise their kids? What if she started lecturing on vegetarianism, the ills of the meat industry, and why people should stop consuming meat? Imagine if she had similarly abused of her platform to tell me what she thinks about vaccination.
Now, some of you will rightly say that vaccination is question of science. It’s fact, not opinion. And that’s even more to the point. Ms. Streep is at an awards show, accepting an award that celebrates her acting career. It is not the time or place to talk science any more than it is the time or place for her to preach her opinion on politics or tell me how wrong it is to wear fur or eat meat. It’s not because she’s rich and famous, having built a career on the quality of her acting, that her opinion on other unrelated issues somehow becomes more credible or authoritative. And it’s not just because she has the mic for an acceptance speech that she can jump into a political tirade at what is supposed to be a festive event (regardless of whether or not I agree with her).
Getting political is an even touchier subject when it comes to actors. I don’t necessarily want to know their position on politics, religion, and other thorny and divisive issues in general. I certainly don’t want it rubbed in my face, whether it’s Meryl, Kanye, or Clint. It makes it harder to lose myself in their art. It’s a distraction from their true talent and what made them successful in the first place.
Getting political on what are supposed to be a non-political and festive platform is fundamentally divisive. Everyone knows it. It may be common practice, but so is speeding. I have no doubt that Meryl deeply believes what she said, and some of it may have been insightful under different circumstances. But it is fundamentally divisive nonetheless. And worse than being divisive, it is deceitful. It’s like a salesman asking to use the bathroom to get into your house, only to turn around and try and sell you his widgets once the door closes behind him. The award was to celebrate Meryl’s acting career, not her political opinions. The platform that was offer to her to give her thanks should have been used for the former, not the latter – regardless of whether or not one agrees with the substance of what she said.
They say not to discuss religion or politics at parties. It’s pretty good advice if you want to make sure everyone has a good time. If people aren’t having a good time at a party, they probably won’t come back or tune in the next time. In which your “party” ceases being a party, and simply becomes a political / ideological convention.
On that note, I leave you with this: How to kill time during a prolonged power-outage when the kids are driving you nuts.