I clicked on the TV for a few minutes today to catch up on a little news during lunch and saw MSNBC’s “breaking news” of George Clooney being arrested in from of the Sudanese Embassy. It wasn’t totally surprising, since Clooney had been outspoken on the Issue of Darfur for years. When I had time I checked the internet I got a little more detail
(Reuters) – Hollywood movie star George Clooney was arrested at Sudan’s embassy in Washington on Friday at a protest of an escalating emergency as Sudan blocks humanitarian aid from reaching a volatile border region where hundreds of thousands of people are short of food.
Clooney, his father Nick and other anti-Sudan activists ignored three police warnings to leave the embassy grounds and were led away in plastic handcuffs to a waiting van by uniformed members of the Secret Service, a Reuters journalist covering the demonstration said.
“We need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” Clooney told reporters just before his arrest.
“The second thing we are here to ask is for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children. Stop raping them and stop starving them. That’s all we ask.”
Clooney, who on Wednesday was a guest at the White House banquet in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and several others posted bail and walked free later on Friday.
“You never know if you are accomplishing anything … We hope it helps,” Clooney told reporters after his release, adding that the arrest was his first and “let’s hope it’s my last.”
Yes you never know. Although I’ve never been arrested, I don’t think if I did it would particularly accomplish anything. But of course, I’m not George Clooney, in spite of the uncanny resemblance. I don’t know about the starving masses in the Sudan, but I’m pretty sure Clooney’s publicist feels that something was accomplished.
These sort of stunts really bring out the cynic in me. Not because I think Clooney is insincere; far from it. Clooney has been involved in and has been on many trips to Sudan over the years, trying to raise attention to the “crisis” that’s over a decade old. But what Clooney actually accomplished today did nothing to help the humanitarian crisis, but everything to burnish his “activist” credentials.
Like First Ladies, Hollywood stars, once they make it big, are usually issued a “cause” to identify with. This is pretty basic public relations. It can generate news and interest that have nothing to do with a stars latest box office bomb, drunken arrest or failed marriage. It can also raise trashy to respectable. Angelina Jolie went from being thought of as brother kissing, blood necklace having, tattooed freak, to United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.
But for celebrities, getting arrested in a protest isn’t just about pleasing their publicist; it gives them street cred to think of themselves as “activists.” During the Civil Rights era, real activists got fire hosed, attacked by dogs, beaten by nightsticks, and spent a bit more time in the pokey than a few minutes filling out paperwork.
A celebrity activist merely has to submit to an afternoon of inconvenience. I remember in the 1980’s during the height of the anti-apartheid protests, it was common practice for celebrities to trespass on the grounds of the South African embassy, get arrested, and presto, instant credibility as an activist. Bill Cosby even had his limo drop his kids off at the South African embassy to be arrested, then have the limo pick them up at the police station. That sounds like a fun afternoon.
I’m sure the law enforcement personal forced to waste their time and valuable taxpayer dollars so that celebrities can assuage their egos really appreciate being props in a Hollywood publicity stunt. If celebrity activists or celebtivists (yes I coined it!) really want to impress me, they should fly to the Sudan and have their little protest in front of Sudanese President al-Bashir’s palace. A couple of international celebrities in Bashir’s jails for a few weeks would not only raise attention to the multi year long crisis in Sudan, it could provoke an international incident, depending on how long Bashir wanted to keep beating and starving his Hollywood guests. In either case, that would do far more not only to bring attention to the issue but perhaps even force the US government to act.
Now that would earn my respect! Far more than Clooney getting dropped off in front of the Sudanese Embassy in a limo anyway.