It's Scary When Celebrities Get Serious

By:  Rachel Marsden

The media is more psyched about Paris Hilton going to jail than it was when Saddam Hussein went to the gallows.

Tracking celebrity bowel movements is about as riveting and relevant as a game of lawn bowling at the local retirement home. But here's the money shot: "I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things like the men and women serving our country in Iraq and other places around the world." Coming from the woman who once asked, "What's the Wall Street Journal? Is that good?" Hilton would likely be hard pressed to identify Iraq on a map. But her effortless throwaway to the front lines in the war on terrorism epitomizes what most celebrities are about nowadays.

It wasn't always this way. During World War II, legendary French singer Edith Piaf was in her 20s when she became a hero of the French Resistance. By agreeing to perform for high ranking Nazis, she earned the right to sing for French prisoners of war. She took photos with them, which were used to make counterfeit documents and facilitate their escape. Imagine: Piaf was about the same age that pop tart Britney Spears is today. (It's unfortunate these crucial events were left out of La Vie En Rose, the otherwise brilliant recent biopic about Piaf's life.) Around the same time, Josephine Baker, an American entertainer who became a decorated French icon, smuggled German intelligence out of occupied France and into the hands of British intel officers in Portugal.

Baker (whose son, Jean-Claude, now runs one of NYC's best restaurants, Chez Josephine, in her honour) was about 34 years old. That's the same age as actress Cameron Diaz, whose idea of "activism" is telling people it's not necessary to flush the toilet when you do a "number one."

Today, environmentalism is a favourite celebrity cause. It simply involves talking nonsense about something of which they know very little (that would be "science"), posing on the cover of Vanity Fair in a photomontage with a baby polar bear (as Leo DiCaprio did with Knut from the Berlin Zoo), and telling the great unwashed masses to limit their use of toilet paper (Sheryl Crow).

What isn't outright useless is at least misdirected: When not making movies reminiscent of a Noam Chomsky lecture, George Clooney has pressured the UN, China and Egypt to help Darfur, Sudan. Good luck with that. Last I checked, China had a good oil-for-weapons deal going with Sudan, and was otherwise focused on challenging a UN ban on selling tiger parts. If Clooney wanted to help Darfur, he'd visit Iran and use his acting talents to persuade President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop funding Iraqi insurgents so the U.S. would have a little more space on its plate for Clooney's pet causes.

And then we have U2's Bono -- Santa Claus for the political set. You can't run for office unless you sit on Bono's knee and let him lecture about AIDS and poverty in Africa. What about Reuters reporting terrorism experts are calling Africa the next al-Qaida hotbed? I didn't notice Bono cheering the Ethiopians in Somalia when they were bombing Islamists over there. If Bono doesn't get his priorities straight, there may not be enough infidels left to fight his endless war on poverty.

Celebrities like Piaf and Baker put their lives on the line to fight humanity's most serious threat. Although I'm sure there were heat waves and trees to save back then, too.