Celebrities: a Strategic Resource for Peace?

D

onald Trump made headlines recently over comments about illegal immigrants living in the United States. These controversial statements ignited celebrity outbursts. Most notably, actress America Ferrera wrote a letter in the Huffington Post speaking out against these statements, and singer Pitbull declared that he would no longer consider staying at one of Trump’s hotels.

With the 2016 US Presidential Elections already drawing the attention of celebrities, it leaves one to wonder what kind of power and influence celebrities have over political events.

It is beyond doubt that celebrities do possess some influence with the public. With the rise of mass media, social media, the Internet and the World Wide Web, celebrities can easily influence those who follow them, whether it is through social media, such as Twitter, or receiving regular news updates about the daily lives of celebrities.

Should this mean that actors in the international political realm, such as NATO, utilize celebrities? The United Nations regularly does, one example being the prominent appointment of Angelina Jolie as Special Envoy of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 12.48.05 PM
The United Nations features many celebrities in a wide variety of roles

When Dennis Rodman went to North Korea, many political leaders cited it as a missed opportunity to strengthen political access and communication to North Korea. However, it is fair to say that Rodman lacked the necessary political skills to be able to achieve this. However, had an political organization or leader approach Rodman earlier and both collectively tried to promote international peace to one of the world’s most secluded countries, then possibly with the help of Rodman’s celebrity influence, a change could have taken place.

However, celebrity influence and power is hard to measure. When the fall of the Berlin Wall occurred in 9 November 1989, some attributed the fall to celebrity David Hasselhoff , whose hit single Looking for Freedom, had topped the German chart for eight weeks prior to the fall. He also performed a few weeks after the Wall fell in Germany. However, it is highly unlikely regarding this particular political event that Hasselhoff had any influence.

Nevertheless, it is fair to say that celebrities are gaining more and more influence and that maybe it is time for the political international community and its institutions to become more active in incorporating celebrities to achieve the goal of peace. Canada, for example, could utilize Justin Bieber further than just presenting him with the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

When initially announced that Kanye West would perform at Toronto’s Pan Am closing ceremony, thousands of people actively signed a petition against this decision. The response time over an international sporting event’s closing ceremonies by the public is remarkable. This kind of engagement should be envied and desired for international political events as well.

The goal of peace is often a long, slow process that for decades has been following some of the same political procedures and methods. Perhaps it is time with the new changes that the 21st century has brought upon for new transformative methods. With increasing globalization and mass communication in the so called Information Age, it is time for political institutions and leaders to seek out help from celebrities to reach new solutions of obtaining peace, as well as help in engaging the younger generations in the future with politics.

About Sukhpal Kaur Sangha

Sukhpal is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. Graduating with distinction, her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree focused on a double major in History and Political Science with a minor in Anthropology. She has spent much of her time devoted to volunteering in the community and the world around her. Her various passions resulted in her receiving the University of Toronto Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award. She currently volunteers on a Young Leaders Council in her community. Her passions include global history, Latin America, security, intelligence, international issues and development. She welcomes any questions or comments. Email: sukhpal.sangha25@gmail.com