Vote for yourself, not for celebrities
Pop culture is destroying America. More and more the message to do something is being oriented around what a celebrity would want. One of the most memorable instances is the "Vote or Die!" campaign headed by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and backed by a number of other celebrities, like 50 Cent. Vote or die echoes Patrick Henry and his famous "Give me liberty, or give me death" quote delivered to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Clearly the message has not changed, although Henry was supporting a war effort for our independence while P. Diddy is promoting civic involvement. So why is pop culture destroying America?
It is because what once may have inspired people to vote is now being manipulated to serve a purpose. While vote or die is an extreme statement, it does not influence your reason for voting unless you truly believe you will die unless you do. Rather it inspires curiosity and interest. Now the message has become vote for someone. An arbitrary celebrity, who in no way cares if you vote, is no reason for a person to enter the polling location and vote. Unfortunately, this is what the group Vote Again 2010 is inspiring.
A video contest in which the grand prize is $5,000 has spawned two specific videos that I am taking problem with. The first, "Vote Again 2010: Do it for Bieber," uses Justin Bieber as inspiration for someone to vote. Pardon me, he is not even a citizen of America, he is Canadian. The message the group of young hopefuls is spreading is to vote because Bieber can't and while I hope people can see through this ridiculous ploy to inspire voter participation it does raise a question, who are they reaching out to? Bieber fans are not old enough to vote, or at least I hope they aren't. The answer — those young fans will tell other people who can vote how important it is to vote. Except they think it is important for someone to vote because an underage Canadian citizen cannot. While the video stresses the power we have for change through our election of our representatives, again it falls on deaf ears.
The next video the Vote Again 2010 contest inspired happens to use Lady Gaga in the same way. Except, arguably, this one slanders her. It uses looped shots and sound bites from the diva to express why she thinks it is important to vote. The video makes statements like, "Lady Gaga could die if you don't vote." Their inspiration for making the video comes from their desire to have the "don't ask, don't tell" policy repealed which — if you know anything about Lady Gaga — she would likely support. But, shouldn't she be the one putting that message out there? Should two college students from Colorado be manipulating their audience no matter how silly the message is?
Even the Vote Again 2010 home page video uses that Twilight vampire and Lady Gaga as examples for how you could make your video. Yes, "Twilight vampire" — because that is how little I care about that whole series. It just seems that now you have to care because a celebrity may or may not care. The videos that are getting attention are the ones using celebrities as a tool to enter the spotlight because that is what society wants. Who cares one cent about celebrities, they are for entertainment purposes only. While they have value as entertainers do they have value as political activists? Do they love the attention or the cause? I am more inclined to believe that celebrities love attention.
Patrick Henry used to be a celebrity. Believe it or not, people involved in politics used to get a lot of respect and attention. People read political writings and cared about problems and took a stance. Now the reason for doing something needs to be cool. Maybe people are afraid to take a stance, the amount of drama inspired by seemingly insignificant issues seems like a powerful deterrent and maybe it is easier to just believe what those in the spotlight want you to. Should our inspiration to vote be coming from Bieber, Gaga or P. Diddy? I think it should come from our own desire to see the world as a better place. Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world" and I couldn't think of a better reason to vote. Maybe someone should make a video with this idea in mind.
Neil P. Kypers is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science. He is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Targum.