Individuals have right to black list

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, April 23, 2003

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
In the months leading up to, and even during, the Iraqi war, people from all walks of life expressed their opinion in one form or another. Many felt that the war was not in America's best interest. Some of the most vocal of these protesters were celebrities.
Now, with the success of our armed forces in Iraq, we see many of them playing damage control and playing the spin game. Some of them are even claiming that they are being ridiculed and punished for expressing their own opinions and thoughts. Some of these entertainers are even claiming that blacklisting - a relic from the McCarthy era - is taking place
Individual speech and thought is the basis of any democracy. We all have the right to have our own opinions on government and should be able to express them freely. We should not be afraid that those opinions will diminish our rights in the pursuit of happiness.
However, when we speak, we must acknowledge that there may be consequences. Just because we express our opinions it does not mean that everyone else has to like them or even listen to them. In fact, we have the right to associate the message with the messenger - if we do not like the opinion, we have the right to dislike the person expressing it. It is an easy concept. Isn't this, to a large extent, how we determine who our friends will be in the first place?
When it comes to celebrities this is even more true. When celebrities use their fame and public status as a means of expressing their personal opinions, they are putting their reputations and careers on the line. They do have a right to express their opinions, but do they have a right to express them to the masses? After all, Larry King isn't going to let an everyday Joe come on his show to discuss his political views. Why should Martin Sheen be given airtime when he has no real insight into the Iraqi situation. All he has are opinions that are no more valuable than the meekest of American citizens. If celebrities want to protest government, they should get in the picket lines like other protesters.
Now that the anti-war talk has cheapened, celebrities everywhere are maneuvering themselves attempting to downplay their comments. That is because they have seen the polls that say the vast majority of people supported the war. They know that as individuals we can choose if we spend our dollars to rent the latest Susan Sarandon or Micheal Moore movie. Sheen knows that we can read a book instead of watching West Wing.
They also know that producers and directors have the right to not hire them. If a producer feels that a particular actor may slightly diminish the number of tickets sold, than he has a legitimate right to hire somebody less controversial.
I do not believe that government or professional organizations should be involved in blacklisting. Of course, there is no blacklist in Hollywood because there is not a strong pro-war faction in the industry. After all, this isn't the Hollywood of the 1950s.
We should all try to be open-minded and 'agree to disagree.' But, when celebrities use their fame to voice their opinions, they have to expect that some consumers will turn against them. And, consumers have every right to take their own blacklists with them to the video store or theater.

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