What made him feel as though it was something he needed to comment on in the first place?
His story made it clear that he, similarly to many of us, doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the nuance, history and context of the situation needed to be able to cast judgement.
But the cultural pressure for celebrities to speak up whenever a tragedy happens is often insurmountable and leads to clumsy errors like Bieber’s.
Movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo showed us the collective importance of using our voices to make change happen. As an activist and advocate for the neurodivergent and disabled community myself, I pride myself on speaking up when it matters – and I greatly appreciate the support from others when they do the same.
Using your platform – however large or small it might be – to support causes bigger than your own can be an honourable way to change the lives of others.
That being said, I believe that, recently, we’ve seen this expectation for celebrities in particular to loudly and proudly share their stance on cultural and political issues take a step in a harmful direction.
We have created an atmosphere in which we seem to expect people with any sort of platform to opine each and every time a major news story breaks – regardless of the knowledge or lived experience they have pertaining to the matter.
Audiences have called out their favourite celebrities, influencers and people in the public eye when they have not been vocal about where they stand on certain issues (like if they’re voting Labour or Tory, whether they’re posting #FreePalestine or #PrayforIsrael, or if they’ve donated money to war efforts in Ukraine), or when they have not publicly or visibly shown their support for marginalised groups.
While, in some cases, I think it’s vital that we call out a lack of opinion – like demanding that brands and corporates publicly share their commitments to anti-racism – in other cases, such as the ongoing conflict in Gaza, I believe it is better to leave the cultural commentary to the experts and people personally affected.
It’s why I think that this onslaught of ill-informed opinion from famous people has led to more harm than good.
For fear of being called out or cancelled for their lack of response, celebs, influencers and sports personalities alike have rushed to share something, anything, that shows their position.
However, taking to social media to share a quote or infographic – as is most often the case – might not be the revolutionary act that celebrities think it is.
It does not share the reality of the horrific fate that the civilians in both Gaza and Israel are experiencing.
And while it might spread awareness of the fact that the conflict is happening, it doesn’t actually educate anybody on the reality of the situation itself, or the historical context that has led to this point.
While I would expect to hear the thoughts of the Hadids, for example, who have a personal connection to the region, I don’t think it’s necessary for celebrities like Bieber, Kim Kardashian – who is mainly followed for her selfies, fashion, and business empire – or The Rock to say anything at all.
Because ultimately, as The Rock acknowledged, they don’t have the level of knowledge or relevant lived experience to be able to do so accurately.
The current situation in Gaza is the result of decades of conflict. Understanding it requires nuance, research into the history, and context. This takes time.
It simply cannot be summed up or done justice in one post, and dispersing this snippet to millions of followers does everyone a disservice.
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When we consider the cultural sway our favourite celebrities hold, it becomes apparent that a rushed statement – whether that’s shared with good intent, or a selfish attempt to maintain appearances and avoid questioning – is not beneficial to those experiencing the conflict themselves, or those of us in the Western world who are keen to learn.
While I understand that some Palestinians and Israelis may want solidarity from celebrities, in the same way they have seen famous people jump in to defend Ukraine, I’m not sure that a viral, generic social media post is the answer – especially when it may be ill-informed.
While it is important for people to use our voices to shout out about key issues affecting the world, today we should be leaving spaces for the truly informed voices to break through and be heard.
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