I must admit that the response caught me by surprise. Most of the comments tended to follow one or both of these themes:
- How dare you suggest that the free-speech rights of Hollywood actors should be suppressed!
- The free-speech rights of Christian leaders should be suppressed.
Multiple misinterpretations later, I decided it was time to give it one more try. I shall attempt to lay out my view as a logical sequence of statements. Please make sure you understand each statement as I meant it before proceeding to the next.
- Of course entertainers enjoy the same free-speech rights that every American is supposed to have.
- I do not get upset when entertainers exercise this right, even when I disagree with the view being expressed (which is most of the time).
- [Pay careful attention to this one, because it is the foundation of the point I was trying to make] Our culture grants far more weight to the political opinions of entertainers than those opinions would receive on their own merits.
- [This one is important as well] Most entertainers are fully aware of the preceding point, and make every attempt to use their celebrity to influence political outcomes. "Support this policy, not because I've appealed to your mind with a series of persuasive arguments, but because you like my acting/singing/whatever."
- Politicians are all too happy to exploit entertainers' willingness to leverage their celebrity, and thus we're treated to the spectacle of entertainers headlining political rallies (which is fine) or being invited to give testimony to starry-eyed congressfolks on some bill that's being debated (which is silly, unless the entertainer actually is an acknowledged authority on the topic of debate).
- [And here we finally get to Sam Elliott] So many entertainers follow this course that it's surprising (and in my opinion refreshing) to come across one who declines to play the game.
- We say that "all [people] are created equal," but the reality is that in our celebrity-obsessed culture, the political opinions of entertainers are somehow "more equal" than yours or mine.
Okay, I'm ready for some to shift the attention away from entertainers to some other disliked demographic group again. Whatever.
Whether or not you agree with my seven statements above or not, please understand that I was trying to make a cultural observation, not a political one.