Celebrities are free to comment on politics, but at a price

Because of their ability to influence society, celebrities sharing their political views should expect healthy scrutiny

The internet is a complicated and nuanced place where people like to share their opinions. Much like what I’m doing right now. Except, unlike celebrities, I do not have 100 million followers on social media examining my every word. 

Many celebrities have chosen to remain out of politics for the longest time. However, in the past four years—and particularly in this past American presidential campaign — many famous individuals have voiced their opinions about which way they are voting and have encouraged others to get out and vote. 

In the age of cancel culture and (hopeful) political change, staying silent is not an option. But speaking up can’t be easy, especially for artists who have a wide array of people looking up to them — people with different political views. On many occasions celebrities have chosen to remain silent or neutral in fear of alienating their fans; however, in these current times silence is likely to be a bigger issue for fans.

Celebrities who have chosen to remain silent on their political views have received a ton of flack for it, and when other celebrities do voice their opinions they also receive flack. Social media in most cases is a lose-lose situation. Further, whether celebrities choose to speak up because they want to make a difference in the world, or simply because they don’t want to get cancelled, is not something we can figure out.

During the last presidential election, The Rock posted on Twitter encouraging everyone to vote with a video in support of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. This post received over 500 thousand views on Twitter and he was trending for quite a while. 

People were divided about his post, with many people stating that celebrities are not qualified enough to speak for the American people. But, are they speaking for the people? We’ve all seen the Instagram stories urging people to vote and telling them their voice matters. At the end of the day celebrities have the right to voice their opinions about who they are going to vote for, just like anyone else, and they can also urge you to vote like them. However, every individual has their own autonomy when it comes to voting and the idea that everyone is going to have the same political opinions is highly unrealistic.

It would, however, be foolish not to acknowledge the fact that celebrities posting about their political views and the average citizen posting about theirs are guaranteed to have different reactions. Celebrities are an intrinsic part of social media and the internet. They hold large amounts of influence over individuals, and we need to acknowledge posting about voting might have a direct impact on the amount of people who register to vote or vote for a particular party. 

An endorsement from a major celebrity will most of the time work in favour of the party or candidate. For example, in 2018 Taylor Swift posted on Instagram encouraging her 112 million followers to go vote in the midterm elections in Tennessee. According to CNN the number of voter registrations in the 24 hours after her post spiked with up to 65 thousand new registrations.

All in all, asking famous people to stay out of politics is unrealistic and not possible. The democratic process encourages people to have opinions and voice the things they want to see differently in the world. Some people just have a larger platform to do it, which comes with the ability to make good things happen but also with the cost of scrutiny for your every move.

Malaika Arif

Malaika Arif is in her third-year of a commerce degree in human resources and previously served as a Deputy Opinion Editor for The Gateway in Summer 2021. In her spare time she likes to read and collect an endless amount of novels, go on long walks, binge Netflix shows, and attempt to focus on writing.

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