Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Britney Spears Is Stupid, Greedy, or A Coward.
(Or some permutation thereof.)

On a recent interview with CNN Crossfire's Tucker Carlson, Britney had this to say:

CARLSON: A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?
SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.
CARLSON: Do you trust this president?
SPEARS: Yes, I do.

This is the kind of message the Taliban was sending the people of Afghanistan. Of course, Britney is not inherently evil, nor is she attempting to enforce this message with violence, torture, fear and repression. The message is nonetheless reprehensible, and one Carlson was undoubtedly happy to hear from such a pop-culture mega-force. The republican right loves this message, and uses a similar tactic in accusing anyone who questions the president of being unpatriotic, or worse, a traitor to America.

One of the worst problems facing America in particular and the human race in general is the tendency towards intellectual laziness. It is far easier to accept what someone in authority tells you, than to think for yourself. Most of the problems in the Middle East can be traced to parents and the media teaching children to hate, and passing that hate from generation to generation. Young minds are extremely impressionable, and FAR too many American parents don't bother to treat their children as potential rational adults - again due to laziness (or in some cases, stupidity in not recognizing the child's right to free thought). It's much easier to tell your children that when the time comes, voting republican or democrat is right because Mommy and Daddy say so than it is to explain issues to them, teach them to do research, and have legitimate discussions on how to make a decision. It's even harder to let a child make up their own mind to disagree with you. As a parent, it's very very easy to tell a child they're wrong, think the way I do, or (insert vague threat here). It's much easier to accept that we are at war because the President says Iraq is a credible threat than to ask questions like "how can you back that statement up?", "have you exhausted diplomatic options?", "what is the exit strategy?", and "how will taking these actions affect our internation credibility and relationships?"

An example I was once given about how I myself sometimes acted in this way was this: someone asked me what stars were. I said they were the suns of distant solar systems, or more specifically flaming balls of gas. I was asked, how do I know? My answer was that scientists in the textbooks I had read (or been forced to read, from a certain perspective, but I digress) said so. I have never been to an observatory. I have never examined the data. For all I know, looking at a star through a powerful telescope would show a tiny fairy with wings winking at me, and there is a global conspiracy by the astronomical and scientific community to decieve humanity about the nature of the universe.

Now, obviously that is an impossible paranoid fantasy, and stars are in fact flaming balls of gas. The point of the excersize was not to question the fact that stars are what they are, but to illustrates an interesting point - nothing should be taken for granted. And we as Americans do take a lot for granted. Like, for example the idea that the President of the United States acts in the best interests of its people. When the first man ventured the theory that stars were in fact hydrogen reactors on a massive scale, there were thousands of skeptics who investigated his claims. Over time, the insurmountable evidence proved that to the best of human knowlege, stars are giant flaming balls of gas. So now, in the current day, it's ok to take that fact for granted. But scientific fact, proven by volumes of debate, data, and skepticism, are not the same as statements made by a political figure. We do not have a Ministry of Truth, this is not Oceana. So when Dubya claims that Niger sold weapons-grade plutonium to Iraq, our first reaction should not have been, as Britney suggested, to "just trust our president in every decision that he makes and ... just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens", but to say "Huh? Really? That's a pretty serious charge, can you please document the evidence?"

Because if we had, someone might have seen that the CIA had been tagging this "evidence" with the disclaimer that the source was highly unreliable and that basically the claim was bullshit.

Americans need to stop the trend of intellectual laziness, get up off their fat brains, and question the world around them. When you cede control over your mind in any measure to anyone in a position of authority, you make yourself into a slave. Britney's message is a horrible one that nobody should listen to.

Now in my article's title, I said that she may not necessarily be stupid. She could be greedy. Bush's tax cuts have given huge amounts of money back to the top 1% of Americans, of which Britney is undoubtedly a member. She's worth well over 200 Million dollars - Britney made $39 million in 20021 and additional tour revenues of $18.9 million2. She has had huge contracts with Pepsi, Toyota, McDonalds, and others. So she has quite a lot to gain from endorsing the Bush administration. Her six percent income tax cut from 39 to 33.x % would have amounted to almost 3.5 million in 2002. As you can see, greed could easily be a factor in her statements to Carlson.

Lastly, she could be afraid of the "Dixie Chicks Treatment"3. When the Dixie Chicks began to question the president's war in Iraq back in the beginning of the year, they were roundly vilified, painted as traitors, and the right attempted to instantiate a boycott. Sales of their CD's dropped viciously, and mainstream radio stations refused to play their singles. All of this was because they were asking legitimate questions that the Bush administration didn't want to answer and certainly didn't want the American public to think about. Frankly, this goes back to my initial statement that Americans need to ask questions. The Dixie Chicks were doing their civic and moral duty by asking these questions - intellectual laziness on the part of the public meant that as soon as the govurmint claimed the musicians were traitors, they accepted that characterization as fact and believed the same. Had they investigated exactly what was going on, we might not be trying to figure out how to pay for Bush's $87 Billion right now. Furthermore, the Dixie Chicks might not have had such a ridiculously hard time defending themselves against ludicrous, poisonous claims. I can certainly see how Britney might want to avoid similar treatment. Right now, she's still in the early phase of her career. It will take a long time for her to follow in Madonna's footsteps and transform herself from a material girl into an empress of a vast musical empire. (The Bush administration could never have gotten away with the kind of character assassination they aimed at the Dixie Chicks if they had tried it with Madonna. First of all, she's too smart, and has too much PR power, to let it get very far; secondly her fan base consists of older, wealthier, more powerful baby-boomers instead of screaming ex-mouseketeers.) Frankly I don't think that will happen - I don't think she's anywhere near as smart, talented, or brave as Madonna. In any case now is not the time for her to be exposing herself to that kind of attack.

I'd like to think all three are true, but it seems hard to believe that if she's calculating enough to support Bush because of his massive giveaway to the mega-rich she's also stupid enough to believe everything he says; if she's so stupid that she actually does, she's probably not scared about being painted a traitor because she probably doesn't understand how that would happen to her if for some reason she disagreed with Bush. You never know, though! This is America, the land of opportunity. If there is anywhere in the world where a greedy stupid skank could become popular and rich enough to appear on national network news and still retain the added incentive for obedience of fearing the political repercussions speaking against the president would bring about, it's the land of the free and the home of the brave.

- Jordan

3. For an excellent article about the Dixie Chicks' reaction to their being labeled traitors, read this article.

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