There are those who would do anything rather than think. Grease the cat’s boil, clean out the henhouse, kill the cockroaches in the back bedroom – anything rather than get down to applying the grey matter. I’m inclined that way myself (and yes, Virginia, there are those who say I demonstrate it on a near-daily basis). Instead, many people substitute Follow-the-Star. That’s why Arnie Schwarzenegger became governor of California and Ronnie Regan president of the United States. That’s why Tony Blair had Noel Gallagher and other Britpop artists round to No 10 for drinks. And that’s why so many headlines are being given to J K Rowling’s donation of £1 million to the No campaign in Scotland.
Of course there’s no reason why artists or celebs shouldn’t be sharp political thinkers. But there’s equally no reason why they should be. If you were scheduled for a brain operation, you’d be unlikely to call on the services of Alexi Sayle because he makes you laugh or Lionel Messi because he’s magic with a football. Sometimes it works: Mike Nesbitt got to be leader of the Ulster Unionist Party because people had seen him on the telly, but he still led the Ulster Unionist Party to a very creditable performance in the recent elections. In the south, Jimmy Deenihan is Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; before that he was a highly successful Kerry footballer. Nesbitt and Deenihan, Schwarzenegger and Regan are different in that they became politicians; but should we pay any heed to celebrity endorsement of a political party or cause?
No, no and no again. Because it links two things – the celeb and the cause – between which there’s no rational connection. When I worked in education I used to meet people who were eminent in the university’s management system. Sometimes they assumed this entitled them to pontificate on other, unrelated matters with equal authority, and they got quite tetchy when challenged by those lower in the academic pecking order. Alas, there were more often deferred to, even though there was no reason why their management skills entitled them to superior insight in other areas.
J K Rowling has, I understand, accompanied her £1 million donation to the No campaign in Scotland with a detailed argument on her website. I have no idea whether that argument is sound or not and I doubt if I’ll spend the time checking it out. In that I’ll be like a lot of people, I suspect. They’ll hear about the headline endorsement and, lazy sods that they are, they may well allow it to influence their September vote on Scottish independence.
Celebrity endorsement stinks. And we stink too if we let it take over our brains.