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Political posturing as last year’s fashion statement.

ACTORS, MUSICIANS, CELEBRITIES in general these days don’t seem satisfied with whatever success they already have. Now they have to have the latest fashion statement to enhance their status. It’s not fast cars, flashy dresses, mansions, bling, toy boys, gay marriages or accessory children. Today’s it’s the public political pronouncement. Flaunt your correctness credentials by railing against the demons destroying civilisation: racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, sugar, and you get an extra glint of stardom as well as few more column inches.

Will Smith has joined the outrage in-crowd in Hollywood over the lack of “diversity” in this year’s Oscar nominations. What he means is, there aren’t any black actors on the list, and neither is he. Diversity in this case should include Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, Jews and a multitude of others, all part of America’s “gumbo”, as Smith describes it, but from the publicity it’s clear the diversity meant here is pretty exclusive.

wsmithBenedict Cumberbatch last year stepped forward at the end of his Hamlet to harangue the British government for its “slow” and inadequate response to the immigrant crisis, and asking the audience to donate to Save the Children charity. After three hours of slaughter, treachery and mental indecision on stage I suppose this unsubtle blast of propaganda may have been refreshing but I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness it.

In 2014 Emma Watson, having been appointed as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launched the UN’s HeForShe campaign, which came with the obligatory hashtag.  Ms Watson complained about the systemic sexism of the movie industry, proclaimed how she’d started challenging gender-based assumptions many years ago, decided that she was a feminist and something must be done.

But the HeForShe campaign, as the name indicates, is more to do with targeting, ie attacking, the male of the species than the female. It aims to get boys and young men to change their views on masculinity and campaign for equality for women and girls. It proceeds from the standard assumption that there is a problem, in this case masculinity, that needs to be corrected — by the right people, of course. Even if no problem exists, you can create one by going on about it long enough. I wish Ms Watson all the best in getting her message across to those parts of the world outside the awful sexism-riddled west.

Both Cumberbatch and Watson, by the way, have been appointed “visiting fellows” by Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Many universities are using this glamour by association tactic. It’s cheap, uncomplicated and generates PR so we’ll have to get used to it.

It’s a pity that black lives matter less to other black people than whites, given that most black men are killed by other black men rather than white cops, but never let the facts get in the way of a righteous campaign.

Musicians aren’t immune to the political fashion statement. At the halftime show in the Super Bowl Beyoncé and her troupe, dressed in Black Panther-style outfits, performed her latest single, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. There is a bit of a tradition for pop singers to don political regalia (usually Nazi) for outrage effect, but Beyoncé is staying well within the pale of progressive orthodoxy on this one. She has managed to fuse style and virtue signalling in one go. It’s a pity that black lives matter less to other black people than whites, given that most black men are killed by other black men rather than white cops, but never let the facts get in the way of a righteous campaign.

Least stylish and less flamboyant but equally inane in the posturing game is the latest from Jamie Oliver, the chef and restaurateur. At a parliamentary committee he demanded that Mr Cameron do something about the childhood obesity crisis in Britain. Again this is the standard progressive “ban, regulate or tax” approach. In this case Oliver is asking for a sugar tax on fizzy drinks and the like, rather than demanding parents take control of their children’s diets. Not their fault, you see.

Now Jamie Oliver obviously knows something about food, since it’s his job, but we have to assume that he was called to the committee less for his knowledge than the fact he’s a gobby celebrity. If he were the non-celebrity owner of a successful restaurant in Grimsby and had a sound understanding of nutrition and business, I hardly think he’d have been called and given the publicity.

Oliver also made the most terrifying threat Mr Cameron is likely to receive. If the PM wasn’t forthcoming with action, said Oliver, he’d have to go “more ninja” on him. Chilling.

This posturing wouldn’t be so bad if you knew these various celebs had done their research beforehand and exercised some independent thinking instead of following whatever line the Guardian or The Independent or the mainstream media in the US are peddling. But it’s not going to happen. They’re part of the in-crowd and you’ve got to go where the in-crowd goes, even if your fashionable pose quickly goes the way all fashions go: into the charity shop.

suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.

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