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Celebrity Diplomacy. Professor Mark Wheeler. Celebrity Diplomacy. This presentation will consider three concerns: The transformation in celebrity performance in transnational/international political engagement.

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celebrity diplomacy

Celebrity Diplomacy

Professor Mark Wheeler

celebrity diplomacy1
Celebrity Diplomacy
  • This presentation will consider three concerns:
  • The transformation in celebrity performance in transnational/international political engagement.
  • The ubiquity of celebrity diplomats in the United Nations and NGOs associated with Bob Geldof and the ‘Bonoization’ of celebrity intervention.
  • The debate about the democratic worth of such celebrity activists.
celebrity diplomacy2
Celebrity Diplomacy
  • 1. In investigating the transformation of celebrity activism, several key points can be made:
  • Original UN Goodwill Ambassadors such as Danny Kaye, Peter Ustinov and Audrey Hepburn saw that it was their role to propagate the work of UNICEF.
  • They acted as Good International Citizens who were non-controversial and understood their fame could bring international media attention to the cause.
celebrity diplomacy3
Celebrity Diplomacy
  • This attitude changed in the 1980s as:
  • UN Goodwill Ambassadors such as LivUllman became more politicised and saw that it was their role to speak out on issues.
  • UN Goodwill Ambassadors became more controversial because of their involvement in causal based activism such as Richard Gere and the Chinese oppression of Tibet.
  • A form of ubiquity in Celebrity activism which had occurred due to commercial changes in the media, state response to charitable activity and the success of Bob Geldof’s Live Aid in 1985.
celebrity diplomacy4
Celebrity Diplomacy
  • 2. The expansion of celebrity activism has occurred as celebrities have endorsed NGOs as well as supporting UN organs.
  • NGOs such as the Mine’s Advisory Group became more conscious in developing public relations strategies.
  • There has been a matching up of celebrities to causes to affect a ‘fit’.
  • Celebrities such as George Clooney and Angelina Jolie have become personally and politically involved in causes.
  • The most well-known/controversial of these actors have been Geldof and Bono.
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Celebrity Diplomacy
  • Bob Geldof established Live Aid in 1985.
  • This built on previous rock concerts and comic activities for the UN and Amnesty.
  • It was a global jukebox and an international media spectacle.
  • Geldof used his truculence and aggression to bully rock stars to perform.
  • He became a major international figure who has been an iconoclastic figure in an arena of public diplomacy.
  • He may be seen to be ‘bad’ cop who uses his bad language and an ‘outsider’ status to cajole for reform.
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Celebrity Diplomacy
  • In comparison the ‘Good’ Cop has been U2 singer Bono who became an international superstar due to Live Aid in 1985.
  • Bono has been highly political in Ireland and then internationally.
  • He has been involved in Brand Aid and used his position to gain access to the inner circle of world leaders.
  • According to Andrew Cooper, Bono has the requisite diplomatic skills to interlink and pressure for change.
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Celebrity Diplomacy
  • Geldof and Bono’s activities have been subject to criticism.
  • Many concerns within the popular media have been expressed about the worth and reliability of their activities.
  • Some comment that both have used their status for self-interest and commercial gain.
  • Others feel that the have become ‘Bards of the Powerful’ who have naively led their support for unjust western power relations.
  • Several of these critiques have emerged in the academy about the democratic worth of Geldof and Bono.
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Celebrity Diplomacy
  • 3. The debate about the democratic worth of celebrity diplomats in an era of late modernity:
  • Critiques of celebrity activism have referred:
  • A trivialisation of the issues as celebrities have debased the quality of the debate, diverting attention to ‘sexy’ causes and failing to represent the disenfranchised.
  • Neo-liberalism --- in particular there has been a focus on corporate interest in apparently ‘altruistically’ supporting aid campaigns such as Brand Aid.
  • De-politicisation and the sloganising of poverty.
  • A reinforcement of Global North and Global South values as Geldof and Bono are represented as selfless crusaders who will alleviate the suffering of ‘uncivilised’ nations.
  • An underlying ‘cultural imperialism.’
celebrity diplomacy9
Celebrity Diplomacy
  • Conversely, and the focus of this presentation’s argument , would suggest that:
  • Stars have made successful interventions within international policy circles.
  • Their fame ‘bridges’ the gap between western audiences and faraway concerns and may be used for a global governmentality to align international aims.
  • They are effective in creating a public ‘space’ to overcome the traditional ‘disconnect’ between diplomats and the public through emotional commitment.
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Celebrity Diplomacy
  • They affect a new type of agency in international politics through the Bonoization of diplomacy as political branding has been incorporated into networking skills.
  • This is reflective of celebrity activists ‘soft power potential’ so that campaigns benefit from the politics of attraction in an era of fluid politics, changing power relations, new structural arrangements and the commercial dictates of the media and social media.
  • This does not mean that there should be an uncritical embracement of such activities but more instrumental claims should be treated with circumspection to analyse that effective implications of the celebrity diplomacy.