Guest Post: Is There a Celebrity in the House?

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Please enjoy another tongue-in-cheek guest post by my friend, “Anonymous”…

Among the many things that I do not understand is the high value that our society seems to place on the opinions of celebrities.  Many celebrities have spoken out about many topics, including politics, religion, science and medicine.  They, like the rest of us, are entitled to their opinions, and to freely express those opinions.  But I fail to see why so many people give inordinate credence to these ideas.  The opinions of celebrities should be no more valid (or invalid) than mine or yours—after all, most celebrities do not  have expert status, just their own opinions.  And, being a curmudgeon, I find it irritating when they use their fame to grace us with their ideas; and especially irritating when their ideas are ill-conceived and can potentially harm others, or simply promote themselves.  I offer a few examples.

Jenny McCarthy.  Former Playmate.  Actress.  High school graduate, college dropout.  Yet she publicly voiced some very strong opinions, basically stating that childhood vaccinations cause autism.  Quite frankly, I doubt that she could find her own butt with two hands and a butt map.  Yet with no medical or scientific background, she caused quite a few parents to refuse vaccinations for their children due to this fear.  Nothing, including vaccination, is risk-free.  But the diseases that vaccinations prevent are far more risky than the vaccinations themselves.  It is true that signs of autism are often manifested shortly after some vaccinations are administered.  But there is no cause-and-effect relationship.  It’s like saying that everyone who ate tomatoes before 1789 is dead; therefore, tomatoes are poisonous.  Just because one event precedes another, it doesn’t mean that the first event causes the second.  And there is no scientific evidence that vaccinations cause autism.  But her unfounded opinions were made highly public because of her fame, and children went unvaccinated.  Epic fail (OMG, I’m starting to talk just like they do on that internet thing).

More recently, Ben Affleck was involved in a disagreement with Bill Maher over Islam.  Both are celebrities, one more liberal than the other.  Affleck apparently didn’t approve of Maher’s disapproval of some of the basic tenets of Islam. And Islam strikes me as relatively intolerant compared to our society (yes, it’s my own opinion, and you don’t have to agree).   So Affleck seems to have been intolerant of Maher’s intolerance for a relatively intolerant culture.   But why should either of their positions affect our own opinions?  What special qualifications do either of them have that would render their opinions superior to yours or mine?  Why would news media report their opinions rather than some regular schmo’s?  Yes, because their fame seems to render their thoughts somehow valuable to all us little people.

Now I won’t even try to get into a discussion of immunology or political science.   The point is not about what we each believe, but how some use their fame or celebrity to espouse their positions, not necessarily having any qualifications that would make their opinions more valid than anyone else’s.   The other point is about the huge following that celebrities seem to have once they spout off.  In a perfect world (the one with rainbows, unicorns and unlimited barbeque), we would just think for ourselves and form our own opinions based on the best and most objective information available at the time.

Read.  Think critically.  Form your own opinions.  But don’t just follow someone popular.  It’s OK that there are disagreements and discussions—that’s how new ideas are born.  But have a reason that you think whatever you think.  And if anyone has Jenny McCarthy’s phone number, let me know—I’d love to get her thoughts on quantum electrodynamics.

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