The conventional wisdom in some quarters is that Hollywood movie stars who get involved in politics are light-weights and dilettantes who have no business holding forth on public affairs. Today's arrest of George Clooney at the Sudanese embassy, in a protest about Darfur, no doubt, is inciting some of the usual tongue clucking.
In fact, though, George Clooney's involvement in Darfur is a case study of many celebrities are actually very serious students of the causes they get involved with. Not only are people like Clooney not light-weights, they deserve respect because -- while they could easily just hedonistically enjoy being rich and famous -- instead they are devoting time and energy to issues that matter.
Clooney has been trying to stop violence in Darfur for over six years now. He first visited the region in 2006 on a five-day trip and has been pressing for stronger international action to stop genocide there ever since. That same year he visited China to pressure it to get Sudan to change its policies in Darfur. Clooney has also been involved in a number of documentaries and advocacy organizations aimed at bringing attention to the crisis.
Earlier this year, Clooney spent eight-days in the Darfur area, where according to the Washington Post "he snuck over the border, from south to north, where Sudanese government planes are attacking villagers in disputed territory where violence remains despite the hopes raised by last year’s agreement that made South Sudan an independent country."
That sure sounds like someone who takes their politics pretty seriously. Even the National Review is now impressed by Clooney, with a blogger there, Nina Shea, taking back her earlier criticism of Clooney.
There is much more to be said about Clooney's humanitarian work, including his work to help Haiti after the earthquake. And there is much to be said about other celebrities like Angeline Jolie and Sean Penn (Penn has devoted vast time to first-hand efforts to help Haiti after the earthquake.)
Look, Hollywood's culture of celebrity and wealth is gross in a great many ways. And, sure, stars can say some silly things about politics now and then, just like any other group.
But in an era characterized by rampant self-interest, we should be thankful that some of the most visible figures in our society care about some of the poorest and most terrorized people on earth.
So here's to George Clooney, a star in more ways than one.