Beyoncé urged Americans to “continue to take action to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system” when she was honoured at the Black Entertainment Television "BET" awards Sunday.
Was I the only person who saw the irony in a black millionaire who is married to a black millionaire, in an industry overflowing with black millionaires, speaking about racism and inequality at an awards show given specifically for black entertainers?
The media breathlessly reported Beyoncé’s words as if she was an authority on inequality, rather than a best-selling recording artist who - with husband Jay Z – has a net worth of more than $1billion.
It is symptomatic of an infantised culture that we treat people who are successful in one area of life as if they must therefore be an authority on all areas of life.
On September 23, just before Trump’s 2016 election victory, Rolling Stone Magazine ran an article headlined: “Bruce Springsteen Calls Donald Trump a Moron”.
Now as singer/songwriters go, there are few people alive who can match The Boss. Springsteen has more musical talent in his little finger than most of us have in our entire family tree.
But just because you play guitar well doesn’t give you special insight into the mind of the US President.
Maybe Trump is a moron; maybe he’s not. The point is that Bruce Springsteen’s opinion on the President of the United States is no more valid than that of the janitor at my local high school.
Springsteen told Rolling Stone: “The republic is under siege by a moron. Without overstating it, it’s a tragedy for our democracy.”
No. The tragedy for democracy, without overstating it, is when the media equate strumming a guitar well with expertise in political commentary.
On September 9 of the same year, Fox News tweeted: “In a recent interview Brad Pitt said that he seeks to understand Donald Trump’s appeal.”
Brad Pitt is trying to understand Trump’s appeal? I’m still trying to understand The Curious Case of Benjamin Button!
“Most Americans don’t have time to watch CNN and Fox and Al Jazeera," Pitt explained. "And so suddenly when this voice comes in - and it doesn’t have to be a voice of substance - saying he’s fed up with all of this, that’s the part that hooks into the DNA."
Brad Pitt was certainly right that the media doesn’t always promote “a voice of substance”.
Take Pitt, for instance. He is an actor; and a really good one. He is paid millions of dollars to pretend to be someone he is not, reading words written by others as if they were his own. When it comes to pretending, few people do it as well as Pitt, and he has an Academy Award to prove it.
But a career in pretending doesn’t make you a political analyst, let alone a sociologist. So why do the media fawn like he is one?
Not to be outdone, news outlet The Hill ran a lead story on May 23, 2017 headlined: “Pink Floyd Singer: Trump’s Wall a Ridiculous Idea”.
I remember wondering why the media would ask a washed-up 73-year-old English rocker his opinion on Trump’s proposed wall. And then I remembered that 1979 Pink Floyd released an album called … “The Wall”!
Evidently, releasing an album called “The Wall” qualifies you as an expert on border control and immigration policy and US-Mexico relations.
I fully expect The Hill to soon run a story headlined “Pink Floyd Singer: Trump’s Space Force a Ridiculous Idea” because in 1973 they had a hit with Dark Side of the Moon.
I’m not blaming Beyonce or Brad Pitt or a Pink Floyd bass guitarist for having opinions. They are as entitled to their views as anyone. The problem is the media who feed us celebrity views, as if they are important, because we lack the sense to realise that success in one area of endeavour does not make one an authority in other areas.
President Obama was a very effective community organiser, but that didn’t make him an expert on world religions. Whenever he insisted “Islam is a religion of peace” – which it may or may not be – I used to wonder when Obama had moved from Commander-in-Chief to Theologian-in-Chief.
Similarly, when the then Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten refuted claims that Islam was “incompatible with Western democratic liberal values” I wondered when it was that he had found time to study the Koran and the Hadiths. Shorten was a shrewd unionist. I wasn’t aware he was also an expert on comparative religion.
If my child swallows a coin, I am not calling my accountant. Don’t get me wrong, my accountant is very good. But just because he can count coins doesn’t mean he is qualified to remove them from my child’s throat.
If we insist the person fixing our pipes knows something about plumbing, why don’t we insist that the people lecturing us through the media know something about that on which they opine?
If only we had more successful people like Liverpool football manager Jurgen Klopp who, when asked in March about Coronavirus, told reporters that he was the last person they should ask about matters of public health.
“It’s not important what famous people say,” Klopp told them. “We have to speak about things in the right manner. Not people with no knowledge, like me, talking about something."
“Why me? I wear a base (ball) cap and I have a bad shave. My opinion about corona is not important. People with knowledge should talk about it … not football managers.”
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James Macpherson is a sought after international speaker with a background in journalism at the Courier Mail and Daily Telegraph. He previously pastored a significant church in Australia and South Africa. James' weekly Good Sauce podcast comes out every Tuesday. He also writes regularly for Caldron Pool & The Spectator.