English News


Sensationalism makes international celebrities comment on farmers’ protest

Singer Rihanna

Dissent is a part of democracy, thus making comments a part of life and events. However, it does not mean that anything and everything can pass off for criticism and comment. More so when those voicing them are hardly qualified to make them.

The ongoing farmers’ agitation against the three Union Government farm bills has drawn attention of people from all walks of life. Earlier we had Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Preity Zinta and Richa Chadha among others commenting on the agitation. Now we have international celebutantes like Rihanna joining the bandwagon.

Extending her support to the farmers, Rihanna, the 32-year-old singing sensation commented “Why aren’t we talking about this?!#FarmersProtest,” alongside a CNN article on the clash of the agitators with police. A good number in India would wonder why she is talking about Indian farmers, and what does she know about them? To address the latter half, most probably nothing. Born in Barbados, is the UK-based singer aware of the farm laws and how does it affect agriculture? One never heard from her, when the agitators on the tractors ran amok on the Republic Day or when they hoisted the Nishan Sahib that same day, disrespecting the Tricolour on a national day. She donned the golden silence.

Now onto Rihanna’s gains. As on this January end, she stands at the fourth position in the list of top 50 most followed accounts boasting of 100 million plus followers. Surprising Indians with her comment on farmers, she brought global attention to the issue, while being retweeted more than two lakh times and nearly 4.5 lakh likes, overnight. Reported to be worth $550 million with a salary of $70 million per annum, most of her net worth and income comes not from music but her partnership with luxury goods giant. The deduction is simple, the more in limelight she stays, the more publicity for her music and more importantly the goods she endorses including Puma, Dior, Fenty Beauty and Samsung.

The singer-business, Rihanna has had a tough childhood with her mother toiling hard for the family and a dad with a many addictions. She started a girl band Contrast and in 2005 made her first album. She achieved fame when her single Umbrella in 2007 won her the Grammy Award. At the age of 31 she was the first black woman to run a luxury fashion brand.

Joining Rihanna’s bandwagon, now is young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Indian-Canadian Youtube star Lilly Singh, niece of US Vice-President, Kamala Harris, Meena Harris, and, former adult star Mia Khalifa. Khalifa, desperate to wash off her former reputation of being part of the adult movie industry, wishes to don a new avatar as a saviour. Others too want to cash on to a crisis which is purely a domestic affair, and blow it up to catch international attention. All wanting to hitch on, to make popular waves. What is noteworthy is that none of them have any insight about the issue or how the Government has responded to it so far. Instead of making an appeal to both parties for reconciliation, their support is bound to stoke the fire.

Writing in the website Redbrick, comment writer, Issy Griffiths, had said, “the main issue is the extreme influence which celebrities hold over potentially impressionable fans. For instance, Taylor Swift (an American singer), as she explains in her recent Netflix documentary, actively chose to remain silent on politics for years since, knowing how much it could influence her young and impressionable fanbase, she did not feel qualified enough to offer her opinion.” Making a valid observation, Swift adds, “In fact, this spotlights another important point — how can we be sure that a celebrity has properly educated themselves on the issues of which they speak? And even if they have, why should the opinion of one (often unqualified) person have a more wide-scoping audience that of a highly qualified economist or political scientist?”

Swift believes the issue does not have a clear resolution. “So long as we remain infatuated with celebrity culture we are giving platforms to these people, and so cannot expect them to remain silent on important issues.”

Actors are too divided on celebrities commenting on diverse issues. The popular Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, said, celebrities should keep their political opinions to themselves. “A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family,” he said. Striking a similar note, actress Divya Dutta had said that as an artiste she would rather portray different characters on-screen than comment on current affairs that have no connection with her immediate field of work. "I just do not want to be a popular face who comments on social media just for the sake of it. We are living in that situation now where any celebrity, making or not making comments on current affairs, gets judged by a section of people.”

Countering the international comments, several Indian well known Indian personalities have responded. Joining the hashtag ‘India against propaganda’ are Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar and Suneil Shetty. Urging for reconciliation, they have asked people not fall for the false propaganda and remain united.

Ajay Devgn tweet on farmers protest

akshay kumar tweet on farmers protest

The Ministry of External Affairs has condemned comments by global celebrities. “Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible."