The first presidential debate on Wednesday night brought some memorable moments more so on our social media sphere than on our little screens.
As I was skimming through my Facebook news feed, I caught one very interesting status update posted by none other than the biggest pop star in the world, namely Lady Gaga, which within minutes somehow seemed to have instantly caused massive reaction from her legion of little monsters.
Here's what Gaga posted:
"Watching the debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney. On in 30 min on CNN. #BeInvolved #Vote
I believe it's important to note before this begins that Romney is a millionaire and paid well below the average tax rate, paying only 13.9%."
Evidently the content of her last paragraph is what (to date) provoked some 6,729 comments from people who have clicked "like" on her page. Needless to say an overwhelming majority attacked the pop star for making a personal political comment about Romney's financial status, they clearly not only deemed to be sans logical substance but most importantly hypocritical nonsense.
The core of the debate revolved around the general sentiment that, yes Mitt Romney is a millionaire, but so is Lady Gaga. Some even labeled it "the pot calling the kettle back," arguing that the pop star surely has an army of accountants utilizing every possible loopholes of the U.S. tax system to keep her tax burden to a minimum and maximize her wealth, guaranteeing she'll have more money than Romney could ever dream of by the time she'll reach his age.
Lady Gaga was put under fire by fans (or haters) for entering the political arena, which raises the question: Should celebrities stay out of politics?
This is the million-dollar question that we'll probably still be arguing over 20 years from now. Sticking strictly to our constitutional amendments, the answer, evidently, is a big fat NO. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution defends our freedom of speech, which means we (celebrities included) are entitled to voice our opinions and speak our minds about anything and everything.
Yet put within the context of today's uber celebrity-centric society, is it morally and ethically right, not to mention fair, to let these celebrities use their fame to influence their fans? There's no denying celebrity worship has become a fixture in American culture. Generally speaking, we're smitten with celebrities. Just one look at what dominates our news coverage with celebrity news snatching the headlines over (perhaps) more important national and/or international current events is proof enough that we are obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous.
Let's not even mention the ungodly amount of rags, magazines, TV shows and websites that have surfaced in recent years all dedicated to gossipy stories about our revered hordes of pop stars, actors, models, sports athletes, reality TV stars, etc.
With that in mind, how much of what celebrities do and spew out impact our beliefs and potentially herald change in our thinking and opinion?
Some critics will point out to the Oprah Winfrey phenomenon and how much of an influence she had on her fans back in the days when she hosted her hugely popular talk show. And as NBC news www.thegrio.com recently reported in an article dubbed "Can Obama Still Win in November Without Oprah?":
President Obama recently joked about that pivotal Oprah endorsement at a fundraiser saying, "And then, there is my good friend, Oprah, who very early on, when I was still running, just decided that she would support this guy with a name that nobody could pronounce," Obama said, "And just like books and skin cream, when Oprah decides she likes you, then other people like you, too."
Sure famous people can certainly use their celebrity to help shine a positive spotlight on certain issues and causes that are close to their hearts -- and quite frankly there are a lot of them that do merit public awareness. However, the danger, in my opinion, is when said celebrities use their lip service in an immature, unintelligent and uneducated manner.
Some might argue: to each his own. True!
But the problem with celebrities is that, first of all, by the sheer fact of having achieved stardom, they ceased to live in the same tax bracket reality as most of us and therefore cannot, realistically and objectively speaking, significantly empathize with and relate to problems affecting the majority of Americans (middle class or not). In addition, stereotypically speaking, most of these celebrities have unfortunately built a reputation for themselves as having little brain cells making them unlikely capable to speak intelligently about politics or any other topics for that matter.
Of course this wouldn't be much of an issue if we were all taking the time to educate ourselves about politics and current affairs; but the truth of the matter is that most of us are completely ignorant, partially informed, or entirely disinterested when it comes to politics. How many of us do actually invest the time to thoroughly study and meticulously dissect each candidate's proposed strategies and methods of action?
It's easy for celebrities to divert the message away from the real problems and refocus it on none other than their own selves to further their celebrity status. While it can certainly backfire at times, the bottom line is, as P.T. Barnum said, "Without promotion, something terrible happens... nothing!"
Is it reasonable to assume that the majority of us are capable of forming an opinion independent of what our favorite stars are thinking? After all, celebrities are already engineering many aspects of our lives. They tell us what to wear, how to eat, how to speak, how to exercise, what books to read, what beauty products to use, what plastic surgeon to trust, etc.
Why then wouldn't they also be able to sway our political views when they publicly express theirs? Surely their celebrity power can dictate how and for whom to vote, right?
Yes we need to take everything anyone says with a grain of salt, but how many of us can detach ourselves from the addiction to the so-called celebrity "cult of personality"?
While I do believe in freedom of speech and the liberty for all of us to exercise our First Amendment rights, I'm also concerned about the idea of any political elections -- presidential or not -- morphing into a popularity contest. It distracts our attention from the crucial issues that should be put under a microscope and become the determining factor when we cast our vote at the ballot box. It's a case of superficiality versus substance.
As I said earlier, chances are we'll never get to the bottom of this question as both sides will keep arguing, defending and making a very strong case for their respective views to infinity -- and rightfully so.
Personally, I prefer my celebrities out of politics and, likewise, my politicians out of show business!
Follow Mona Elyafi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ILDKMedia