In our celebrity culture where news is as often gotten from The Daily Show as from any more traditional source, the issue of do-gooding celebrities is complicated. In an interesting article in the National Interest on the issue, David W. Drezner points out how far more successful Gore has been as a celebrity than as a more conventional politician while also noting that not all look favorably on celebrity involvement.
Development expert William Easterly has argued that the celebrity focus on Africa’s problems has been misguided. By focusing exclusively on the diseases of sub-Saharan Africa, celebrities have unwittingly tarnished an entire continent: “[Africans are] not helpless wards waiting for actors and rock stars to rescue them.” Many African officials and activists share this sentiment, even heckling Bono at a development conference.
I’ve written here and here before about my feelings about celebrities and Africa. It still feels churlish to complain yet too often the result is not a better understanding of the issues, of the continent, or even better help. I’m not sure Drezner’s article changed my feelings, but it certainly gave me plenty to think about.