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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Newsweek on Lindsay Lohan and celebrity do gooders: Do they just twist news into triviality?

August 9, 2010 | 12:36 pm

Lindsay_lohan When it comes to trying to make a difference in the world, if you're a celebrity, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Conservatives are always complaining about Hollywood environmentalists who fly in private jets and live in huge houses, as if having a swank lifestyle means that you shouldn't speak out about the onslaught of global warning. I mean, do you have to fly coach before you get to become a spokesperson?

Now Newsweek's Ravi Somaiya, reacting to the news that the Haitian-born hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean is making a run for the presidency in Haiti and that supermodel Naomi Campbell has testified at a war-crimes trial in the Hague, is making the case that maybe it's a bad idea for showbiz stars to get involved with serious issues, saying that when celebs meddle in world affairs, "do they merely help twist news into triviality?" Somaiya even drags Lindsay Lohan into the equation, based on the flimsy pretext that Lohan was criticized in some quarters after she tweeted about a Newsweek story detailing the woes of a woman in Iran who is facing the punishment of stoning after being charged with adultery. 

Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don't. Isn't it nice to think that Lohan might finally be aware of a bigger world around her? But Somaiya says that some Lohan watchers are criticizing the troubled, recently incarcerated starlet for comparing her legal woes to the Iranian woman's problems. Of course, the only complainer cited is Gawker, the snark-filled website that makes a living bashing celebs, even the ones who aren't dipping their beaks into international affairs.

To me, Somaiya's story is yet another example of how we almost reflexively bash celebrities when we really should be bashing ourselves for our collective inability to confront most of the complex issues that wreak havoc in the world. It's easy to make fun of Wyclef Jean, who apparently owes $2 million in back taxes and is probably ill-equipped to solve Haiti's ruinous problems. But I don't notice Somaiya making fun of Sean Penn, who's been a prime mover in reconstruction efforts in post-earthquake Haiti, even after spending an enormous amount of time in New Orleans after the city was leveled by Katrina.

The point being: some celebrities can make a difference, others can't. The ones that do are usually the ones who put in the time to educate themselves and put in the time being directly involved at ground zero, the way Penn has. It's always easy to mock celebrity involvement in important world issues, but if they're willing to raise money or raise ordinary people's consciousness, aren't they already doing more than most of the rest of us?   

Photo: Lindsay Lohan arrving at the Beverly Hills Courthouse last month to serve her jail sentence.

Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images

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