Save Us from These Egotistical Stars Who Think They Are World Statesmen
Byline: by Christopher Hart
ANOTHER week and another vainglorious and ill-informed Hollywood actor wades into a serious political issue only to make a complete twit of himself.
Sean Penn thinks Britain is being 'colonialist, ludicrous and archaic' about the Falkland Islands, and insists we must accept some sort of sharing agreement with Argentina, or he will be very cross with us.
Well, the chaps aboard HMS Dauntless must be quaking in their hammocks.
But far from proving his heavyweight moral and intellectual credentials, as he evidently hopes, Penn has merely proved what we suspected all along. Actors should speak the lines that somebody else has written for them, and then shut up.
Instead, all too often, they glimpse something important on the horizon and dash after it -- only, with wearisome predictability, to grab completely the wrong end of the stick.
They are like simple-minded spaniels, only not half so cute to watch.
Even by the usual standards of pompous pronouncements from unelected and unqualified celebrities, Penn's latest outburst is toe-curling.
The status of the Falkland Islands, unusually in a wider world full of competing claims, half-truths and awkward compromises, is remarkably clear-cut.
The Falkland Islanders wish to remain British. As long as that is the case, there is simply no need for further discussion.
The involvement of Mr Penn, however, raises all kinds of interesting questions. He's a celebrated actor, a double Oscar winner and a relentless campaigner for world peace, but has been found guilty of domestic violence towards Madonna during their brief marriage, and of beating up photographers who displease him.
He's also fond of jetting off to visit questionable regimes such as Iraq, Iran and Venezuela in search of greater harmony and understanding between peoples and nations.
And the contradictions don't stop there. Penn has been highly critical of the foreign policy of his own country, the U.S., denouncing George W Bush for being 'simplistic and inflammatory,' -- surely words which now apply precisely to his own observations on the Falkland Islands?
Instead, his political hero and buddy is President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has been criticised by both the UN and Amnesty International for the intimidation of lawyers, judges and the media.
Mixing with heads of state such as Presidents Chavez and Ahmadinejad has obviously given Sean Penn a taste for grand pronouncements.
Taking his stand beside Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner in its capital Buenos Aires this week, he declared: 'The world today is not going to tolerate any ludicrous and archaic commitment to colonialist ideology.'
Quite. The trouble is there are all too many actors who think they are as clever as the lines they recite.
It's peculiar but not uncommon, for example, for overweening film stars to describe themselves as 'The World'.
A famous example is Richard Gere's address to voters on the eve of the 2005 Palestinian presidential elections.
Yep, the very same Richard Gere who was the lead actor in those towering explorations of global politics, Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride.
'Hi, I'm Richard Gere, and I'm speaking for the entire world ...'
Did you know that Richard Gere spoke for you? Did he check with you first?
Do the nomadic yak-herders of the Mongolian steppe know it? Or the Yanomami Indians of the Amazon jungle?
The bigger question, surely, is what gives these celebs the right to appoint themselves world statesmen?
In truth, though we bemoan the unlovely contemporary blurring of politics and showbiz, it's as old as history.
Roman emperors knew all about currying favour with superstar sportsmen, gladiators and charioteers. …