Actor's are making their political visits to Cuba when they should follow Sean Penn to Baghdad
George Bush is making headway with his stupid war against Saddam while the influential actors of Hollywood sit back and play the roles of heroes and heroines but run scared at using their voice to stop the insanity of George Bush.
They do not remember the black list days of the McCarthy Era. They are not going to jeopardize their ability to make another million dollars or so impersonating real persons in a sanitary no risk environment. Castro is a low risk effort to speak a few words against the Bushman.
It has always been interesting to me that many millionaires worry that a million dollars is not enough money to live on when there are people who survive on almost nothing. Yet at the end of our short lives, the money we made stays in circulation while we are planted in the ground to rot away.
'From Cuba with love' stars under fire
JACQUI GODDARD IN MIAMI
HOB-NOBBING with the rich and famous is the prerogative of any dictator. But the growing number of Hollywood stars cosying up with Fidel Castro is prompting outrage among America’s Cuban exile community.
Castro, the Caribbean country’s unelected leader since 1959, has had a trail of celebrities beating a path to his door, all apparently eager to express public support for the man and his policies.
Director Steven Spielberg is the latest to make a ‘pilgrimage’ to Castro’s door, describing his November dinner with the septuagenarian in Havana as "the eight most important hours of my life".
Now, using the 44th anniversary of Castro’s rise to power on New Year’s Day to highlight their complaint, Cuban Americans have spoken out. Fed up with stars paying tribute to the man they say has destroyed their homeland and murdered thousands of their countrymen, they are calling for a halt to the celebrity love-in.
Dennis Hays, executive vice-president of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation, said: "People turn into lovesick rock groupies when they get into Castro’s presence. These celebrities should open their eyes."
Spielberg’s visit, following on from those of Hollywood actors including Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio, particularly angered the group, the largest Cuban organisation in exile.
Joe Garcia, the foundation’s executive director, said: "You have to question his thought processes.
"Steven Spielberg is a guy who produced probably his best dramatic work about the Holocaust in Schindler’s List and then, without thinking about it, he jumps on a plane to Cuba to see one of the world’s biggest murderers who had tens of thousands of his countrymen executed and sent a fifth of his country into exile.
"It’s never good when celebrities speak out on issues they are highly ignorant about. It just augments ignorance."
There is increasing debate as to whether the US trade embargo on Cuba should be lifted 40 years after it was imposed as the island descended into communism.
The CANF wants it to remain in place, saying there can be no compromises while Castro, 76 - with his policies of religious, social and political oppression - remains in power.
But Spielberg is among those who have called for the embargo to be lifted.
"I see no reason for accepting old grudges being played out in the 21st century," he said, adding he felt "at home" on the communist island during his visit last year.
Other celebrities to have spoken out on Cuba include Kevin Costner, who described watching the Havana premiere of his film 13 Days with Castro as "the experience of a lifetime". The film recounts the events of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war for nearly two weeks after Castro allowed Soviet nuclear missiles to be placed in Cuba.
Commenting on the embargo, Costner said: "Who is to say the United States is right and Cuba is wrong?"
Jack Nicholson has previously described Castro as a genius, fellow actor Chevy Chase said he believed Cuba would prove that socialism works, and Naomi Campbell even said the ageing dictator should be acknowledged as "a source of inspiration to the world" after her visit to the country with fellow British supermodel Kate Moss.
These celebrity tributes have angered Garcia. He said: "Cuba attracts celebrities because it is interesting and surreal. It’s close to the US, it’s a closed and totally controlled society and in many respects shows the allure of a forbidden place.
"Fidel Castro is the ultimate celebrity. It’s like Mickey Mouse at Disneyworld. "
The entertainment writer Michael Medved is another outspoken critic of celebrities cosying up to Castro, accusing them of "immaturity".
"They can’t handle their wealth and become animated by guilt, causing their political views to become skewed. One of the ways people deal with that guilt is they become revolutionaries, and Castro is perfect for them because he is an intellectual," he said.
Medved was also surprised by Spielberg’s claim that his time with Castro was the most important of his life.
"Not the hours when he met his wife, not the birth of his children, it was the eight hours he spent with Fidel," he said.
But there is an increasing number of examples of celebrities making what many say are ill-conceived forays into the world of public affairs.
Professor John Orman, a politics lecturer at Fairfield University in Connecticut and co-author of the book Celebrity Politics, said: "Politicians are becoming indistinguishable from rock stars, actors, celebrities and talking heads, and whether someone has something to say is far less important than who is saying it."
Charities and organisations such as the UN have used celebrity advocacy to good effect, recruiting people such as Roger Moore, Angelina Jolie, Geri Halliwell and the Brazilian footballer Ronaldo to become "goodwill ambassadors" highlighting Third World causes and refugee issues.
Professor Orman said: "Some activists are great and do their homework. But many don’t, and that’s not conducive to public debate. Pop culture has eaten the political system and we just sit back and watch."
He added that the media needed to share the blame for publicising ill-informed or irrelevant celebrity input on world affairs. "After the September 11 attacks, for example, CNN had ‘crawlers’ running along the bottom of the television screen and I remember one reading simply ‘Madonna urges restraint’. That’s where we’re at.
"There are four components - celebrities who are treated as politicians, politicians who are treated as celebrities such as Bill Clinton and the Kennedys, celebrities who endorse politicians’ candidacies, and celebrities who bypass the regular politicians altogether and just speak out on their own, such as Sting with the rainforests, Bono with the Third World.
"It’s not just in America. In Britain there was Screaming Lord Sutch, a Sixties pop star who went on to lead the Monster Raving Loony Party. Perhaps we need something like that here. And if Posh and Becks ever stood for office, wouldn’t they get elected?" said Orman.
THE modern tradition of celebrities speaking for or against America’s foreign policies began most notably with actress Jane Fonda’s controversial visit to North Vietnam in 1972, from where she described US president Richard Nixon as "a true killer" and "a criminal" and was photographed sitting on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun trained on US bombers.
Director Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Cruise (right) spoke out in support of Bush’s policy towards Iraq. "If Bush, as I believe, has reliable information on the fact that Saddam Hussein is making weapons of mass destruction, I cannot not support the policies of his government," Spielberg said at the premiere of his film Minority Report.
"Saddam has committed many crimes against humanity," Cruise said.
Actress Jessica Lange, an active campaigner for the Democrats, announced at a bizarre press conference that Bush "stole the election" and that he "struts around like he is in some Wild West show". She added that she found him "absolutely reprehensible", adding: "I despise him and his administration." Meanwhile, Lange joined actress Susan Sarandon, rock star Michael Stipe and actors David Duchovny and Matt Damon among others as a signatory to a letter to Bush opposing war in Iraq.
Actor Sean Penn, Madonna’s former husband, made a high-profile visit to Baghdad last month and criticised the US stance on the Iraq crisis. He called on President Bush to publish whatever evidence he had about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. In an earlier letter he condemned the president’s "simplistic view of good and evil".
Actress Vanessa Redgrave last year posted £50,000 bail in a London court at an extradition hearing for Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev, wanted on terrorism charges in Russia. Redgrave also travelled to the United States and delivered a lengthy speech calling for US intervention in Chechnya to stop Russia "killing everybody who is capable of building a normal life for Chechen people".
Naomi Campbell (left) accompanied fellow British supermodel Kate Moss to Havana on a fashion shoot in 1999 and spent 90 minutes talking to Fidel Castro before comparing him to Nelson Mandela. "He said that seeing us in person was very spiritual," she reportedly said.
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