How dare those people have opinions!
People are wonderful creatures, aren’t they? I mean, we’re so full of ourselves. Take how we treat the validity of opinions, for example, when it comes to celebrities¹. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “Who cares what a celebrity thinks?”, then go on to spout their own opinion as if they are somehow more knowledgeable and/or more informed… and by inference, more worthy to be listened to… than the celebrity is?
First let’s establish what one would think would be some basic facts². An actor is not a scientist. An athlete is not a social engineer. A musician is not an economist, and so on. But guess what… neither are you or I, more often than not. And even if we are one of those, we are not all of them.
To be fair, I have seen some famous people that I have come to view with a skeptical eye. I once saw Ted Danson on a late night talk show pontificating on what was then called “global warming”. It was clear he was a tool and had no idea what he was talking about, but he thought so and the host oohed and aahed over everything he said. I also have come to discount pretty much anything Gwyneth Paltrow has ever said on life in general. That is one naive and easily led lady. There’s a lot of therapy in her kid’s future. But these are specific conclusions based on actual observations of distinct individuals and what they have shown, not blanket conclusions based on occupation, and I digress…
On the flip side, however, I have seen many celebrities that are quite thoughtful and articulate and well-read, and… gasp!… intelligent. Just like you and me, in other words. And that’s the thing. While celebrities are easy to dismiss, I often wonder if they’re dismissed out-of-hand by some as a way to cover for one’s own feelings of doubt or inadequacy. I believe that some dismiss celebrity opinions because they’re actually jealous that the celebrity has a broader audience than they do. Yes, it can be that petty. But the bottom line is that celebrities are just like you and me (we hate that thought, don’t we?).
If you disagree with a celebrity’s viewpoint, that’s fine. Just don’t knee-jerk dismiss them or their viewpoint simply because they’re a celebrity. Make your own legitimate counterpoint. Make an articulate case *why* they are wrong. An actor may not be an economist, but if they’re intelligent and thoughtful they can still have a valid opinion on the economy, just like you or I (there’s that theme again). When you dismiss a celebrity’s opinion over shallow reasons like their status as a celebrity, you’re effectively conceding defeat to the celebrity and saying, “I got nothin’.”… (not unlike dismissing an editorial viewpoint based on *who* wrote it).
There’s also the flip side… Overvaluing a celebrity’s opinion because they’re a celebrity. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone gush, “Jon Stewart said…”, as if Jon Stewart is some infallible mystical fountain of knowledge and wisdom, I’d be rich. Jon Stewart is a highly intelligent and articulate and dynamically funny man… and dynamic humor goes a long way in conveying a point… but too many people began to take everything he said as enlightened gospel when in reality they were more enamored with him than his message. You could tell by the way they talked that many people changed their own conclusions because it was Jon Stewart the comedian who made them laugh, not Jon Stewart the economist or doctor or whatever who made a valid argument. In other words because of *who* said it rather than what was said, and we’re allowing the politics of *who* to mean more than what, overall.
“Politicians are not doctors.”
I hear that a lot when it comes to healthcare legislation issues. Many people seem to be of the opinion that healthcare decisions are not the legitimate purview of politicians, but only of a doctor and the patient. As quaint as that thought may be, it’s extraordinarily naive, to the point of being downright wrongheaded. If you say that you probably say so because things aren’t going your desired way, but individual selfishness is not a good reason to dismiss what is (mostly) a legitimate legislative process. Politicians are generally very intelligent, and intelligent people can and do grasp issues outside their own areas of expertise, again, just like you and I. So no, the problem in the legislative process isn’t lack of first-hand experience, the problem is lobbying and corruption, not to mention sometimes simple difference in ideology. Corruption affects all issues, not just your pet issue. Follow the money.
Ask yourself this question the next time you feel the need to be blindly dismissive: Are YOU an experienced expert on every issue on which you have a strong opinion? Are you a doctor? No? Then why do you have an opinion on anything healthcare? Are you an economist? No? Then why should we care what you think regarding the economy and the federal budget? Are you a sociologist or a psychologist? No? Then where do you come off telling us your solution to mass shootings?
There’s your answer. No, you are not, but you still tell us your opinion anyway, as if we should care and be awayed by your conclusion. No person on the face of the earth is an expert at everything, regardless what they may say. Anyone who claims to be so is an outright liar.
Moral of the Story
Focus on the argument for the issue, not the superficial.
(1) For the purposes of this conversation, “celebrities” will be all-inclusive. Actors, athletes, commentators, pretty much anybody who is famous for their job, and as a result has more people listening when they say something on a topic outside their career or area of expertise.
(2) In the vast majority of circumstances. To every general rule there are exceptions to the general rule. Said exceptions do not invalidate said general rule. Don’t be dumb and get hung up on some individual anecdote that doesn’t fit perfectly, or worse, an individual anecdote that you think proves the general rule wrong. An exception by itself does prove or disprove anything.