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Celebrity Endorsements

Entry 843, on 2008-09-01 at 18:20:16 (Rating 4, Skepticism)

What's the harm in celebrities using their popularity with the public to push a belief or ideal they have? Shouldn't people be free to use whatever means they have to make their opinion known? I mean, isn't this a free world we live in?

Well its not a free world, of course, There are restrictions on everyone - even in the area of free speech. And some people have a privileged position in society, often through no great efforts of their own, and they have a greater responsibility to use their influence wisely.

This is starting to sound suspiciously like a rant now, isn't it? So let's cut to the chase, what is this all about? I'm picking on two people in this tirade, two people who you might not ever have heard mentioned together before: American TV personality and comedian Joe Rogan, and Prince Charles. Yes, I said they were an unlikely combination!

So what's my problem with these two. Well they are both guilty of using their fame to endorse silly ideas. In Rogan's case the idea that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax and in Prince Charles' case that natural food is best and that genetic modification is evil.

I've discussed both these topics in the past and have reached reasonable conclusions on both. The Moon Hoax conspiracy theory is particularly ridiculous. None of the objections people have to the evidence demonstrating the landings were true stands up to even superficial scrutiny. I discuss most of these in the opinions section of my web site here.

The genetic modification issue is a bit more complex because there are significant scientific, economic and political perspectives on this question. Scientifically speaking there is no doubt that genetic modification is a good thing. It has increased food yields and provided many other benefits and we would be in real trouble without it. Public perception of it is often negative so I agree that there are economic and political considerations which might make non-GM food a useful option.

The prince seems to be making vague statements about GM being dangerous and evil and that trusting food supplies to large corporations (who might control patents on GM foods) is dangerous. He does have a point there. I think its important to control the control companies have over technologies which contribute to the good of the entire population of the planet. But he betrays his real motivation when he says something like "genetic modification is playing with something that only God should be doing".

OK, he can have some sort of nutty religious belief if he likes but using it as a basis for public comments which might influence public opinion and maybe even government policy is not a good thing. Many people think he's a bit of a nut (including me) but many British people take their royalty very seriously and might even take this stuff seriously.

And Americans shouldn't feel too smug. OK, so they might not have a bunch of antiquated misfits in the form of a royal family but they do have perhaps an even worse celebrity culture regarding movie and music stars. Sure Prince Charles is a bit of a buffoon but what does that make Joe Rogan?

There is less danger in denying the Moon landings than there is in rejecting genetic engineering but by minimising the great achievements of NASA in the past it must make their future plans more difficult. Why would the public want to fund NASA better if their greatest achievement was just a big fake?

So what's the answer? If the media didn't give these people the publicity they really don't deserve it would make things so much better. They should be asking what expertise a person has before they publish their opinion. And they should be asking whether its responsible to publish an opinion which has already been discredited on a subject like the Moon landings.

I guess it gets back to the fact that the media no longer exercises any reasonable scrutiny of what they publish and are more interested in churning out a lot of cheap and sensational stories instead of investigating the facts properly. But that's a rant for another day!

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Comment 6 (1630) by OJB on 2008-09-18 at 22:13:59: (view earlier comments)

Oh come on. I don't aspire to godhood. Well, perhaps I could be a minor god or demigod, or maybe a daemon. Anyone feel like making an offering? I believe wine and chocolate were popular gifts to gods in earlier times.

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Comment 7 (1637) by SBFL on 2008-09-19 at 20:23:42:

Yes but I think the wine and chocolate went to the goddesses, you might prefer a good roasted calf.

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Comment 8 (1644) by OJB on 2008-09-20 at 14:43:32:

I believe Dionysus/Bacchus received tributes of wine. Maybe he would be a good god to be.

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Comment 9 (1675) by SBFL on 2008-10-01 at 12:54:12:

NASA turns 50: Why aren't we on Mars yet?

"WASHINGTON - The signs of a midlife crisis are there: A 50th birthday approaching; a longing for the glory days of youth; a hankering to dump the aging partner of 27 years; and a costly flirtation with a new young thing.

This isn't some balding businessman in a sports car. It's Nasa.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which opened its doors on Oct. 1 1958, is struggling with its identity and its future. The agency's angst is stuck to the vehicle that Nasa has been married to for more than half its life and is seeking to dump - the space shuttle...."

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Comment 10 (1686) by OJB on 2008-10-02 at 11:36:08:

Yes, the US space program is a mess now, but surely that doesn't reflect on the reality or otherwise of the Apollo missions.

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