MOLLY SCHOEMANN: The leaked portions of a Rolling Stone Interview with Justin Bieber in which he discusses politics and healthcare has only confirmed what I’ve suspected for a long time now—when it comes to magazine interviews, we’ve got everything backwards.
Think about it. These days when reporters interview powerful, internationally known world leaders and politicians, they ask what kind of beer they like and whether they’re rooting for the Steelers. From sixteen year old pop start Justin Bieber, on the other hand, they demand an opinion on abortion in cases of rape.
I can’t count the number of times I have put down a magazine in disgust because the actress or pop star being interviewed in it has been positioned as an authority on finding inner peace or having a healthy relationship. I have grown tired of the presumption that any opinion a celebrity has is automatically widely of interest. When it comes right down to it, I do not actually care what Amy Adams’ favorite easy week night meal is. I don’t give a damn how Marcia Cross feels about being a mother. Ultimately unless someone’s job, education or experience with a particular subject gives them some sort of authority or wisdom in that area, I will likely not find anything they have to say on that topic to be informative or interesting.
Going back to Justin Bieber though, I can of course understand why Rolling Stone was so eager to publish a sixteen year old’s thoughts on politics and government. Of course they wouldn’t publish these adolescent musings if there weren’t an army of readers out there who have an insatiable curiosity about such details. So I guess by noticing and reacting to the fact that Bieber has an opinion on government (even if it’s that he doesn’t like the one they have in Korea, whatever that means), I am effectively becoming part of the problem. Damn!
JESSICA BADER: Molly makes a valid point about the media fixation with what famous people think about issues outside of their area of expertise. That being said, I was more than a little bothered by the criticism of Rolling Stone for asking a teenage celebrity for his opinion on hot-button political issues. That Bieber is 16 does not preclude him from having a set of beliefs about political parties or abortion, nor should it; when I was 16, I would spend my lunch break arguing with my best friend about the invasion of Iraq and illegal downloading (he was pro, I was con), albeit with a bit more substance and maturity than The Biebs displayed in his Rolling Stone interview.
To me, the most fascinating aspect of Bieber’s comments was the juxtaposition of two beliefs that are not often paired in the American political arena – the belief that a single-payer health care system is better than (and morally superior to) a for-profit system, and the belief that abortion is always wrong. Although there’s no inherent reason why these two positions can’t be held simultaneously – in fact, I’d imagine that a lot of social-justice Catholics agree with Bieber on both points – in Congress, there’s little, if any, overlap between supporters of the Stupak Amendment and sponsors of Medicare For All. That the Bieber interview excerpts leaked right around when the House of Representatives was debating cutting federal funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide vital health services regardless of a patient’s income level and perform abortions paid for with private funds was oddly appropriate. It’s an issue that was black and white for most elected officials, but might have been less so for one young superstar.