April 17, 2013

Top 10 Worst Celebrity Dictator Endorsements (Part 2)

I promised this a few days ago and didn't get a chance to post it.  Here's the top 5 of the Top 10 Worst celebrity endorsements.  You can find #6 through #10 here.  As a bit of a spoiler, there are no endorsements of Obama in the Top 10 despite the fact that he's damaging America, perhaps in a permanent way; and despite the fact that a lot of celebrities have endorsed him and that their endorsements made a big impact.  In that regard, perhaps Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Obama would rate a Top 5 mention.

Unfortunately the full scope of president Obama's damaging policies has yet to be felt and he certainly doesn't rate the pure evil intentions of the sinister bunch below.  He's naive, Utopian, and progressive, but he's not committing genocide or thuggishly beating down his own countrymen.  He just allows it to go on selectively in other countries.  In other words, he's voting "Present" on doing something about brutal dictators around the world.

Another spoiler, there are no celebrity endorsements of losing candidates as that's more of a Most Ineffective Endorsement category, perhaps deserving of it's own post eventually.  No losing candidate however, can be regarded as a dictator simply because they lost.

And now, the Top 5 of the Top 10 Worst Celebrity Endorsements:

Best-est buddies.
5 Dennis Rodman parties with Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-un is a not only the third communist dictator in a family string of crazy despots, he's also a basketball fan.  By day he starves his people and threatens to start a nuclear war, by night he parties with his idols.  He'd probably invite Michael Jackson if he could.  But he also fancies basketball and apparently is a now a friend of Dennis Rodman.  Not only did Rodman party with the madman, he's going back to do it again.

The former U.S. basketball star said at a charity event in Miami Beach over the weekend that he's keeping plans to visit North Korea again in late summer to have "fun" with the country's dictator, the website "Gossip Extra" reported. 
"I’m going back August 1," he told the website. "We have no plans really, as far as what we’re going to do over there, but we’ll just hang and have some fun!" 
Rodman raised eyebrows when he became the first American to meet the reclusive young leader in a visit to Pyongyang in February. 
Weeks after the controversial visit, Rodman, 51, described Kim as a friend. 
"I don't condone what he does, but he's my friend," Rodman said in a March interview with North Dakota's KXJB. Rodman continued to say he will be "vacationing" with Kim in August.
I'm sure everyone is glad that Rodman doesn't condone what Jong-un has done.  That's a relief.  Back when Paul Simon created the album Graceland with South African musicians (1986) he was pilloried.  Dennis Rodman hasn't been embraced by either the left or the right over this because as it turns out, nobody is crazy enough to embrace Kim Jong-un.  Except Rodman.  It's a terrible endorsement - and yes it is an endorsement, his actions speak louder than his words - but it doesn't rank higher because despite the evilness and danger of Kim Jong-un, nobody is going to have a more favorable opinion of Jong-un as a result.

4 Sean Penn mourns Hugo Chavez.  Sean Penn makes his second appearance in the Top 10, the only celebrity to do so, marking him as an uber-leftist.  He visited the Castros and wrote about it.  Buth with Hugo Chavez, he embraced him, lionized him and went so far as to mourn his death by attending his funeral.  That's hero worship, not journalism (the guise Penn uses as his cover for his embrace of Chavez).
The mourners lamenting the death of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez included the presidents of Iran and Cuba, a Spanish prince and a man that Chavez himself once floated as a possible American ambassador to Venezuela: Hollywood actor Sean Penn.

Penn flew to Caracas for the Friday funeral, where he was filmed among the mourning crowd. Earlier this week, he called Chavez “a great hero to the majority of his people.”

"Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion," Penn wrote in a statement sent to the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday.
That's an endorsement. Sean Penn has a lot of celebrity clout, but he's clearly a socialist.  It matters because he can still influence the vast swaths of low information voters in America and that makes a difference.  Making Chavez likable is not a good thing - he was a thug, he cheated his way into office forever (or at least until he died) and he was an enemy of the United States, cozying up to the likes of Iran and Russia, not exactly friends.  Penn couldn't be more wrong, or more blind.

Robson, left confused civil rights with communism.
3. Paul Robeson morally defects to the Soviet Union. Wait, who? Robeson was a multi-talented artist and athlete  having played football at Rutgers but he was also was a singer and actor;
At the height of his popularity in the 1930s, Robeson became a major box office attraction in British films such as Song of Freedom and The Proud Valley about Wales. Briefly returning to the US he reprised his title role in Dudley Murphy's film version of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones in 1933. 
The 1936 Universal Pictures film Show Boat was a box office hit for Robeson, and the most frequently shown and highly acclaimed of all his films. His performance of "Ol' Man River" for this film was particularly notable. He was also King Umbopa in the 1937 version of King Solomon's Mines.
Later he would become the grandfather of all celebrity dictator endorsements being the first high profile celebrity to do such a thing, and he did it on a grand scale, embracing Stalin and communism in a big way.
Robeson first visited the Soviet Union in 1934, during a genocide in which the Soviet government intentionally murdered some 14 million of its own citizens through deliberate starvation in an engineered famine. Upon his return, the official Communist Party organ The Daily Worker published an interview with Robeson, in which he gushed about the "workers' paradise": 
“I was not prepared for the happiness I see on every face in Moscow," said Robeson. "I was aware that there was no starvation here, but I was not prepared for the bounding life; the feeling of safety and abundance and freedom that I find here, wherever I turn. I was not prepared for the endless friendliness, which surrounded me from the moment I crossed the border. I had a technically irregular passport, but all this was brushed aside by the eager helpfulness of the border authorities. ” 
Robeson was asked about Stalin's then-ongoing bloody purges: 
“Commenting on the recent execution after court-martial of a number of counter-revolutionary terrorists, Robeson declared roundly: "From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet Government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!

"It is the government's duty to put down any opposition to this really free society with a firm hand," he continued, "and I hope they will always do it ... It is obvious that there is no terror here..."
Robeson often exhorted African Americans to consider communism.  His impact overall was small, but it was high profile and the impact has the added weight of additional generations to its sphere of influence.  Stalin was not likable in any way.  But communism was something he could sew the seeds of belief in his community and he did so vigorously. He made it celebrity chic to bash democracy and capitalism in favor of a Utopian alternative.

2 Jane Fonda goes to Vietnam and becomes Hanoi Jane. During the Vietnam War, Jane Fonda, already a star, visited the North Vietnamese and betrayed her country, indelibly staining her stardom with the military community while cementing her image as a counter-culture hero for the liberal crowd.

Fonda visited Hanoi in July 1972. Among other statements, she said the United States had been intentionally targeting the dike system along the Red River. The columnist Joseph Kraft, who was also touring North Vietnam, said he believed the damage to the dikes was incidental and was being used as propaganda by Hanoi, and that, if the U.S. Air Force were "truly going after the dikes, it would do so in a methodical, not a harum-scarum way". 
In North Vietnam, Fonda was photographed seated on an anti-aircraft battery; the controversial photo outraged a number of Americans. In her 2005 autobiography, she writes that she was manipulated into sitting on the battery; she had been horrified at the implications of the pictures and regretted they were taken... 
During her trip, Fonda made ten radio broadcasts in which she denounced American political and military leaders as "war criminals". Fonda has defended her decision to travel to North Vietnam and her radio broadcasts. Also during the course of her visit, Fonda visited American prisoners of war (POWs), and brought back messages from them to their families. When cases of torture began to emerge among POWs returning to the United States, Fonda called the returning POWs "hypocrites and liars". She added, "These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed." Later, on the subject of torture used during the Vietnam War, Fonda told The New York Times in 1973, "I'm quite sure that there were incidents of torture ... but the pilots who were saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that's a lie."  Fonda said the POWs were "military careerists and professional killers" who are "trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to the law"

She may have been duped, or she may have been a sympathizer, but her impact was more profound than she lets on.  Her decision reverberates to this day. 

Fonda has apologized numerous times and tried to explain her actions.
In 2005, Fonda published her autobiography in which she described in detail her decision to go to North Vietnam. She said it was primarily motivated by her desire to document the U.S. bombing of important dikes that, if destroyed, could kill tens of thousands of people and devastate the lives of millions.  The U.S. had denied the bombings. In the book, Fonda is unapologetic about the trip or her participation in broadcasts on radio Hanoi but regrets the pictures taken of her at the gun emplacement.  She said it made it appear as though she was celebrating armaments aimed at American planes, which was not how she felt and was not the context in which the pictures were taken.  She reminds readers that the U.S. investigated her trip and found no reason to bring any charges against her.  She also describes her longstanding support of, and interaction with, U.S. military personnel and says her only beef was with the U.S. government, not the troops.
But many do not believe the sincerity of those apologies,

Were Jane Fonda's actions treason, or were they the exercise of a private citizen's right to freedom of speech? At the time, the legal aspects of this question were moot: President Nixon was engaged in trying to wind down American involvement in Vietnam and had to face another election in a few months, so politically he had far more to lose than to gain by making a martyr out of a prominent anti-war activist. (No requirement in either the Constitution or federal law states that the U.S. must be engaged in a declared war -- or any war at all -- before charges of treason can be brought against an individual.)
On the one hand, Jane Fonda provided no tangible military assistance to the North Vietnamese: she divulged no military secrets, she gave them no money or material, and she did not interfere with the operations of the American forces. Her actions, offensive as they were to many, were primarily of propaganda value only. On the other hand, Iva Ikuko Toguri (also known as "Tokyo Rose") was convicted of treason for making propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the Japanese during World War II (although she claimed her betrayal was forced and was eventually pardoned many years later by President Gerald Ford), and Fonda's efforts could fall under the definition of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." It is also undeniable that some American soldiers came to harm as a direct result of Fonda's actions, an outcome she should reasonably have anticipated.
In 1988, sixteen years after denouncing American soldiers as war criminals and tortured POWs as possessed of overactive imaginations, Fonda met with Vietnam veterans to apologize for her actions. It's interesting to note that this nationally-televised apology (during which she attempted to minimize her actions by characterizing them as "thoughtless and careless") came at a time when New England vets were successfully disrupting a film project she was working on. It's also interesting that not only was this apology delivered sixteen years after the fact, but it has not been offered again since. More than a few have read a huge dollop of self-interest into Fonda's 1988 apology. (Finally, in an interview in 2000, almost thirty years after the fact, Fonda admitted: "I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft carrier, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.")

She clearly has not repaired her image because she really did some damage with her unjustifiable actions.

1. Charles Lindbergh supported Adolf Hitler.  It's hard to imagine topping some of the other celebrity stupidity on this list but when you endorse the policies of Adolf Hitler, it almost doesn't matter what your own star power is, or what impact it might have, it's about as close to endorsing Satan as a person can get.  It's hard to imagine blowing celebrity like Lindbergh had:
In May 1927, a shy, handsome 25-year-old suddenly sprang from obscurity to instant world fame when he flew a small single-seat, single-engine airplane, called the “Spirit of St. Louis,” from Long Island, New York, to an airfield in Paris. In a grueling 33-hour flight that covered 3,600 miles, Charles A. Lindbergh became the first person to fly the Atlantic ocean, alone and non-stop. His daring flight, and his aviation pioneering afterwards, made him, for some years, the most admired man in America, and the most admired American in the world.
There;s no denying his infatuation with the Nazi leader.  Lindbergh, a decade plus later, was not shy though about sharing his admiration of Adolf Hitler, and his achievements.  He went so far as to almost move to Nazi Germany.

“While I still have many reservations,” he wrote to a U.S. Army officer who was also a personal friend, “I have come away with a feeling of great admiration for the German people. The condition of the country, and the appearance of the average person whom I saw, leaves with me the impression that Hitler must have far more character and vision than I thought existed in the German leader who has been painted in so many different ways by the accounts of America and England.” 
In a letter to another American friend he wrote: “With all the things we criticize, he [Hitler] is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe has done much for the German people. He is fanatic in many ways, and any one can see that there is a certain amount of fanaticism in Germany today. It is less than I expected, but it is there. On the other hand, Hitler has accomplished results -- good in addition to bad -- which could hardly have been accomplished without some fanaticism.” 
Lindbergh’s wife was Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a remarkable woman who was, in her own right, an accomplished aviator and a successful author. In a 1936 letter to her mother, she wrote: 
“Hitler, I am beginning to feel, is a very great man, like an inspired religious leader -- and as such rather fanatical -- but not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power, but a mystic, a visionary who really wants the best for his country and, on the whole, has a rather broad view.” 
Charles Lindbergh was so impressed with Hitler’s Germany that he seriously considered moving there with his family. “I did not feel real freedom until I came to Europe,” he remarked in 1939. “The strange thing is that of all the European countries, I found most personal freedom in Germany, with England next, and then France.” After a search for a suitable place to live, he found a property in a suburb of Berlin that he came close to buying. But as the threat of war grew in Europe, he abandoned those plans.

That;s admiration. It's also completely wrong-headed.  It may have been less obvious to some at the time than it is today, but many people knew even then about the dangers that Hitler represented.  

Today far too many people associate Nazism with right wing fascism but the Nazi Party in Germany were socialists.

There you have it.  The worst celebrity endorsements of all time.  The lesson it seems is that celebrities should keep their political beliefs to themselves but we all know that's not going to happen. In the coming decade there are bound to be new entrants into the Top 10.  Look forward to that.

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