Annie v. Elvis

When celebrities get involved in politics, they should look to Elvis rather than Annie Lennox

In January, Annie Lennox released a statement on the Gaza conflict, saying that as a mother and human being, she thought that war wasn’t “a solution to peace”. Never mind that this doesn’t make complete sense – at least she recognised her duty, as a famous musician, to express her private views. So watching a similar clip of Elvis Presley at a press conference in the 1970s left me feeling confused. When asked for his opinion on the Vietnam War, Elvis responded that he didn’t think it was his place to comment. Ridiculous. In those circumstances, one must always do what Annie does: say something, and follow the “What Would Annie Say?” rule.

Elvis committed a fatal error when failing to apply this foolproof rule, thus forever limiting his legacy to the narrow confines of King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. And to think that he could have been a patron of the Master’s Course in Humanitarian and Development Practice at Oxford Brookes University, like Annie.

As Fran Healy, the frontman of the quite-famous-for-a-bit indie band Travis, said, “People forget that we have the power and not the politicians.” (I must have forgotten that when I mistakenly found myself looking at the Government’s policy ideas, rather than McFly’s.) But Annie never forgets. It’s good that the Gaza conflict emerged and inspired her to exercise her political power. (What do you mean, she can’t have real political authority without a mandate? What’s a mandate if it’s not four Best British Female Artist awards at the Brits?) Clooney and Angelina are hogging the Darfur crisis, Bono and Geldof have Third World Debt covered (nearly, any minute now), and now she’s got her own mini-project of Middle-Eastern policy-making.

Maybe Elvis just didn’t have Annie’s insightfulness. Maybe it didn’t occur to him that war could be tough. Or maybe he thought the issue was more complicated than that, and that commenting on it would put him in a position of responsibility.

But if so, then he really wouldn’t have understood the “What Would Annie Say?” rule in the first place – the point is that none of these considerations matters. Just say what you feel, there’s no need to think about it. Because if there’s one thing that most endangers the “Annie” rule, it’s reasoning.

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