Gina Piccalo has a piece in the L.A. Times on the most vital issue facing the nation: green celebrity hypocrisy. It’s far more thoughtful and less glib than most discussions of that subject. Still, by the end of the piece I was ready to jump out the window. Somehow taking a serious journalistic approach to the issue just reinforces the fact that it is a vapid, silly distraction. I’m embarrassed on behalf of the environmental movement.
A few things I found remarkable:
… in June, [ecorazzi.com] landed some exclusive dish on the movement’s reigning mouthpiece. [Laurie] David, "An Inconvenient Truth" co-producer who had helped drive Hollywood eco-chic, was spotted cavorting at dawn on a boat dock with her building contractor, Bart Thorpe, shortly after her separation from "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David was made public. … It was ecorazzi.com’s first big scoop …
[Ecorazzi proprietor] D’Estries admits David’s personal relationships have nothing to do with her activism. But unlike other causes, environmentalism is all about shifting our private habits to help the Earth. So David’s personal life, more than other celebrities, is subject to especially intense scrutiny.
Two things. First, the notion that Laurie David’s romantic life has some bearing on her fitness to raise awareness of environmental issues — or, alternatively, that her awareness raising makes her dating life fair game for starfuckers — is so spectacularly stupid I hardly know what to say.
Second, D’Estries pulls a familiar trick. He says that because David speaks out on environmentalism, she "is subject to" scrutiny. What’s with the use of the passive voice? The scrutiny doesn’t just happen, like some weather event. D’Estries does the scrutinizing. It wouldn’t be "happening" if he and people like him stopped doing it. You see this constantly from people who choose to spend their time examining and judging celebrities’ personal behavior — that what they’re doing is some kind of inevitable consequence of celebrities being famous. Uh, no. It’s a choice.
And check this out:
Ecologist and green activist Glen Barry, a Wisconsin-based blogger and occasional media spokesman for green causes, criticized Live Earth and its star-studded performances as “shallow reformist tokenism [that] reinforces current blind faith in technology, capitalism and corporatism that has brought us to our current situation.” …
In an odd twist, Barry grew so worried that his past struggle with substance abuse might hurt his activist image that he came clean in a posting on Aug. 20 on his personal website, earthmeanders.blogspot.com. “As I become more of a spokesperson for the global environment, I have no doubt that my opponents will not hesitate to dig for dirt,” he wrote. “I am telling you of my ‘bats in the attic’ before others do.”
Um. Despite his exalted status as “spokesperson for the global environment,” I doubt Barry’s opponents
know he exists care any more about his personal life than I do. His exhibitionism on blogspot is not some high-minded gesture, it’s just exhibitionism. It bespeaks the exact same craving for attention and validation that drives people to seek, you know, celebrity.
And if he’s worried about “blind faith in technology, capitalism and corporatism” (zzz …), is Al Gore’s concert really the most important focus of attention? Are there no systemic features of our economy or culture that are more relevant to that subject than an idealistic rock show?
Perhaps Barry knows that writing about what’s really damaging the environment won’t bring him the same attention and links that he’ll get from Gore bashing. Of course, I wouldn’t normally speculate about his motives, but his position as spokesperson for the global environment makes him subject to this kind of scrutiny.
This psychosexual dance of narcissism and envy, building celebrities up and tearing them down, is very, very American, and it’s worthy of some study by sociologists. It doesn’t have a shred of consequence for the environment, though. It’s something we can all talk about instead of how to tackle environmental issues.
Environmentalism is first, second, and third a policy issue. Policy is boring and complicated and most people don’t care to get into the details. If you want to write about Streisand’s entourage or the ratio of private to commercial flights on Leo’s credit card statement, fine. Just don’t pretend it’s anything more grandiose than high-school gossip writ large.