On Wednesday celebrities including standup comedian Chris Rock will head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to show support for President Obama’s gun control plan. Among the other notable names expected to appear are Tony Bennett, Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, and Anna Deveare Smith.
Since the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. last summer, and especially since the massacre in Newtown, Conn. in December, a number of celebrities have voiced their support for increased gun control. Politico documented tweets from celebrity advocates. Among them were Goldie Hawn, Alec Baldwin, and Kim Kardashian, all using the hashtag #GunControl. DemandAPlan.org, the website for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's Mayors Against Illegal Guns, also put out a star-studded public service announcement asking for background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines.
The president is often criticized for the support he receives from “Hollywood elites.” Although Hollywood historically leans left, I would argue that this status intensified with Obama. Upon his being thrust on the national stage in 2008, Obama had a rockstar presence unlike any candidate since John F. Kennedy. What’s more, the fact that he is African American energized part of the Hollywood base not previously tapped. If you listen closely to the lyrics of recent rap and hip hop music, it is common to hear a plug for Obama creatively embedded in the rhyme. “You’d think I ran the world like Michelle’s husband” comes to mind (Forever by Drake).
Support from Hollywood is definitely an asset to Obama. Not all Americans pay attention to politics and current events. Not all Americans pay attention to popular culture. When the two topics overlap, the audience attentive to politics suddenly grows.
After Newtown, the heart of America was broken. It seems as if that morbid event may have been the last straw for many as the call for gun control has grown louder. As Obama vows to take action, his celebrity supporters want to do what they can to make a difference. Critics may question the expertise of Chris Rock, Beyoncé, or Eva Longoria. Of course none of them are policy experts. They are not feigning political prowess; their expertise is in their personality. Political endorsements matter. People react to them. I do not believe political activism by celebrities is a publicity stunt; they get enough publicity as it is. Every citizen has a right to an opinion and celebrities are just citizens. Like most of us, they feel passionate about the issues that face our country. Unlike most of us, though, they have access to the political system and the media.
Rock’s presence on Capitol Hill is sure to attract a lot of press. It will make people aware of the event. Gun control experts savvier than he will be in attendance too, though. Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Law Center to Prevent Violence will be at the forefront of the event. Each piece of the puzzle has its own purpose, whether that is publicity and advocacy for celebrities, or policy expertise and political clout by interest groups and politicians. Every American has the ability to make his or her voice heard. This is why DemandAPlan.org has over 1.2 million grassroots supporters. You can make your contribution and show your support for Obama’s gun control plan by signing Demand A Plan’s petition here.