If this is Justin Bieber 'raising awareness' about Anne Frank and the Holocaust, perhaps he shouldn't

Celebrities 'raising awareness' is not an end in itself. Beyond that there has to be 'creating understanding' – and that’s before we even get to 'taking action'

Share
Related Topics

Take a breath because, no matter how inured you think you are to brainless celeb drivel, this one’s a real doozy: Justin Bieber visited The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam over the weekend and wrote these words in the guestbook: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

In fairness to the young pop sensation, it’s hard to imagine any comment he could have made that wouldn't have sounded breathtakingly crass. It’s Bieber. And the Holocaust. In the same sentence. These bywords for extreme inanity and extreme solemnity do not sit together comfortably. What’s more interesting is the response from Bieber’s people to the backlash his humblebrag par excellence generated. “This is an entirely positive situation that someone is trying to turn into a negative,” huffed a source close to the star. “The kid was doing a good thing, and now more people will learn about Anne Frank as a result.”

Are you buying that? In the multi-channel, information overload era, it is a well-rehearsed truth that capturing an audience’s attention, particularly young audience’s, is a struggle. Such a struggle, in fact, that somewhere along the way it became an end in itself. VICE magazine sends Dennis Rodman to North Korea and it’s hailed as a triumph for foreign reporting; Katy Perry visits Madagascar to “raise awareness” for Unicef and no one asks what happens there after she flies home to Hollywood.

Celebrities have nice hair and look good on magazine covers, but generally they’re not the right people to offer actual insight. That’s why the most pressing question in all this is obviously not, “Would Anne Frank be a Justin Bieber fan?” or even “Can celebs help engage kids in current affairs?” It’s what on earth are we doing seeking a profound statement on the meaning of human suffering from a 19-year-old Canadian pop star, who last month got caught smuggling his pet capuchin monkey through airport customs?

“Raising awareness” is not an end in itself. Beyond that there has to be “creating understanding” – and that’s before we even get to “taking action”. If you allow yourself to forget about stages two and three, perhaps you’ll believe that the institutions and individuals who offer real understanding are also dispensable.

In Britain in 2013, hundreds of libraries face closure, the education minister rides roughshod over the legitimate objections of experienced teachers, and the once-venerable BBC is under attack from all sides. But don’t worry; in the brave new world, we won’t be needing trained librarians, experienced history teachers or independent journalists. Justin Bieber’s got it covered.

But who will explain Bruno?

Thanks to the BBC for broadcasting a 91 second explanation of why the 51 second song ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ is at number 2, in defiance of those who suggested the chart show exists to play songs, not explain why people buy them. However, as most listeners had already noted Thatcher’s passing by Sunday, it was redundant. Rather what we need to be told about are the socio-political forces that kept Bruno Mars in the top 10. I’ve long suspected that only a Blairite could see any merit in his recording career and that will.i.am records are mainly bought by hardline eurosceptics.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes