My Take

Rock stars and celebrities get in a mess over Tibet and Palestinian cause

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:53am

Should rock stars and celebrities take up political causes? Since they are rich and famous, they naturally provoke envy. And the way to dismiss them is to assume they are airheads; what do they know about politics, really?

One way for such stars to get around that is to go for causes that are difficult to fault. Bob Geldof is widely respected for his decades-long work on African poverty and famine relief, and has the title of sir to his name. Angelina Jolie won almost universal acclaim early this month when she denounced sexual violence against women in conflict zones at the opening of the first global summit on the issue attended by official representatives from more than 100 countries.

But it gets tricky when the stars entangle themselves in unending and controversial subjects like Tibet and the Palestinian cause.

Bjork got her knickers in a twist when she screamed - or whispered, depending on which version you believe - "Tibet, Tibet" during a Shanghai concert in 2008. She opened herself to charges of hypocrisy by activists for performing in China as well as angering her Chinese hosts - not exactly a smart move. She should have either shut up or doubled down on supporting Tibet.

Roger Waters and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd have certainly gone all the way. They started a media maelstrom when they criticised the Rolling Stones for playing in Tel Aviv this month. Previously, Waters had rounded on Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson for advertising for an Israeli company operating in the West Bank and tried to discourage Cyndi Lauper from performing in Israel.

While Waters' advocacy of a two-state settlement to the Palestine conflict is pretty standard and hardly controversial, you wonder if he is being a pest for harassing fellow stars who don't share his political beliefs. And this is what I love about the Stones, true hedonists who think all that politics is so beneath them; so long as you pay, they play. Funny how so few people worry about the Stones in Israel but so many people are busy defending or demonising Waters.

Stars are human beings too and so should be free to take political positions. But unless you are truly committed like Waters, it may be best to stick to things everyone can agree on, like fighting poverty and eradicating diseases.