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October 24, 2013

On the curious popularity of my post on Sam Elliott's political views

Nearly two and a half years ago I noted with approval how difficult it was to find out actor Sam Elliott's political views.  Little did I know that this would end up being one of the most-viewed posts in this blog's nine-year existence.  Google "sam elliott politics" and you'll see my two previous posts on the actor right at the top of the results.  Not bad for a blog that has for the most part been dormant for a couple of years.

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.
The first theme showed me that these readers had misunderstood my point.  The second theme was a reflexive response that, I suppose, was reasonable in light of the first misunderstanding.

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.
  1. Of course entertainers enjoy the same free-speech rights that every American is supposed to have.
  2. 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).
  3. [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.
  4. [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."
  5. 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).
  6. [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.
  7. 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.
I suspect that my detractors in the May 2012 post are less likely to be bothered by this final statement,  but only because they tend to agree with the stated opinions of the vast majority of entertainers.  After all, it's great to get some major-league assistance from folks who believe as we do.

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.


Lucky from Wyoming said...

Here's a guess that Sam Elliott's political leanings encompass just a little bit of both the two major political parties in the United States - he strikes me as liberal in all the right places & conservative in all the right places - but mostly he's made up of what he himself has experienced to be fair & good for the majority of people. & that's prolly how he votes. Count me as another one as appreciates his silence in the matter. So often when a celebrity opens up as to their political beliefs, one becomes appallingly aware of how vapid & meaningless their thoughts really are. Although I doubt such would be the case with my hero, Sam Elliott, I admire & respect him all the more for sticking to his profession as opposed to thinking his profession & popularity serve as a more viable soapbox than your average person's. Long live Sam Elliott.

Tim said...

Thank you, Lucky from Wyoming! You made my day.

Paladin51 said...

I know this is an old post, but I just googled this question and your blog discussion came up. I am questioning how one determines who is entitled to have a say and who isn't. Your basic belief seems to be that actors only gain attention through their fame from acting and, therefore, should not exploit that to have their views heard above the roar of others who are not as celebrated. I understand the feeling, but I disagree with your conclusion. No one is listened to unles they have gained a platform from which to be heard and people want to listen to what they have to say. I presume you believe it's okay for Sam Elliott to tell me to eat more beef of buy Dodge trucks, and I should do so because he suggested it, but if he suggests what candidate or charity to support, his voice should not have as much authority. I used to feel this way too. Then I realized that I was working to gain that fame in what I did so that I could step up on that platform and be heard. Every politician, pundit, blogger, newspaper, etc. has done the same. The fact of the matter is, many of our actors, those well known and not, are very intelligent. Some have degrees in neuro-physics. Others have graduated with other than acting or sports communication degrees from places like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and MIT, to name a few. Some have been presidents, governors, lawyers, legislators, congresspersons, senators, and ambassadors, and many have done quite well in those positions. The conservatives most beloved politician, Ronal Reagan, was nothing more than a second tier actor, whose only political experience before becoming governor was in the Screen Actors Guild. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and entitled to be heard to the extent people want to listen to them. merely because they are entertainers and have gained their platforms through that medium is no reason to exclude their voices and pooh-pooh their opinions on things, just because you disagree with them.

Tim said...

Thanks for your comments, Paladin51. I've pretty much given up trying to make the point that in an ideal world, arguments would be evaluated on their own merits, with no points added or deducted on account of who's making the argument.

We live in the real world, not in an ideal world, though. In the real world, it seems that people exercise their critical thinking skills in inverse proportion to how much they like the person they're listening to.

This is not a good thing, but human nature being what it is, there appears to be no cure. Alas.

There... I've restated my thesis in a different way. Time to sit back and watch as person after person misinterprets me yet again. Not being famous myself, I have no ability to disable my readers' critical thinking skills. :-)

Jamie Cragle said...

Sam Elliott is wondeful and I would love to hear his opinions on many topics. Being in Alaska I would likely never meet him nor be able to find out those opinions. If he ever does decide to express is beleifs I will be all ears.