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17 Dec, 2019 15:58

As John Cusack beats his chest over Indian 'fascism', why do we still look to Hollywood for politics?

As John Cusack beats his chest over Indian 'fascism', why do we still look to Hollywood for politics?

Actor John Cusack is being praised for "speaking out" about protests in India, about which he is as ignorant as you'd expect a Hollywood star to be. But he's far from alone in indulging in uninformed political virtue-signaling.

Cusack let loose with a stream of tweets starting on Sunday night decrying "fascism" on the march in Delhi, posting videos purporting to show a savage crackdown on "innocent students" by police who entered the mostly-Muslim university Jamia Millia Islamia in pursuit of a violent mob protesting a controversial new citizenship law.

Protests and riots against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which would fast-track citizenship to religious refugees coming to India from majority-Muslim countries, have swept India in recent days, spilling over into the university campus and triggering a heavy-handed police response. However, Indian authorities have warned that some of the viral videos circulating that appear to show police shooting at peaceful protesters are fake

There is no reason to believe Cusack is in any better position than anyone to tell what is actually happening in India, but that didn't dampen his enthusiasm for condemning PM Narendra Modi's government. The actor tagged dozens of high-profile Twitter friends in the hope of convincing them to post impassioned tweets of their own about a subject they are hardly more knowledgeable about.

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Like many of his Hollywood peers, Cusack is fond of grand political statements, but not so wrapped up in understanding the details of the issues. He was a vocal supporter of the Russiagate conspiracy theory before that ignominiously collapsed, and manned the barricades with the rest of the Hollywood #Resistance even after the disappointing Mueller report was published, demanding an end to what he called a "complete whitewash coverup."

Cusack is refreshingly opposed to Israeli occupation of Palestine, especially considering most US public figures' refusal to touch that subject with a ten-foot pole – but the fact remains that he's an actor, not a political commentator. Even his biggest fans should not expect profound political statements to emerge from his lips (or Twitter thumbs). Nevertheless, both Indian and American outlets rushed to praise him for showing "solidarity" with the Jamia Millia Islamia students, encouraging more ill-informed political soapboxing from other Hollywood stars trying to earn political street cred.

The fact that there even is a Hollywood #Resistance is evidence of an American cultural malaise in which the worship of celebrity has led some stars to feel they need to take a stand politically in order to transcend the shallow Hollywood stereotype and be taken as seriously as their fans' obsession merits. But in trying to avoid that cliche, too many stars end up embodying it, latching on to a trendy cause without bothering to learn too much about it. The result is George Clooney lionizing the White Helmets in an Oscar-winning "documentary" that bears little resemblance to the usual interpretation of the genre, or Jane Fonda making a deliberate attempt to get arrested as many times as possible while protesting climate change without explaining how the planet will benefit from her narcissism, or Rosanna Arquette apologizing for being born white. A bevy of Russiagate true-believer actors who staged a marathon reading of the Mueller report in July to try to get Americans excited about the 400-plus page nothingburger that killed so many collusion fever-dreams had to consciously avoid educating themselves on "the details" in order to maintain their convictions months after even the media was (slowly) coming around to the fact that Trump had not turned the US into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin, Inc. 

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For actors, wearing their political convictions on their sleeve has surpassed a trend and become nearly a mandate. Will & Grace stars Erick McCormack and Debra Messing even hinted earlier this year that actors who didn't join the #Resistance – and who made the career-threatening mistake of attending a Trump fundraiser – might find themselves on a blacklist. They later insisted they had meant no such thing by the suggestion after even some of their fellow anti-Trump actors balked, but the idea continues to float around. People look up to these celebrities, meaning their bandwagon-hopping has an effect outside of their own lives – and not in a way that makes the world a better place.

Of course, not every actor who tries their hand at politics is a blundering dilettante. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger managed to act their way into political office. And Trump himself was a reality TV star before he was the bogeyman in Hollywood liberals' nightmares. Perhaps John Cusack has bigger ideas than merely fanning the flames of uninformed outrage on social media. If that's the case, one can only hope he does a bit of reading before jumping into politics headfirst.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.