Hollywoodites aren’t exactly known for their firm grasp of history. In Hollywood’s view, World War II was an aimless exercise (The Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan), the Vietnam War was an excuse for brutal white trash to go hog-wild (Platoon, Casualties of War), and JFK was shot by everybody but the Communists (JFK). But there is one thing Hollywoodites know: it’s all about them. That’s why there have been more movies made about McCarthyism than 9⁄11.
It’s also why this week, two A-list music stars demonstrated their complete ignorance and self-centeredness on a worldwide scale.
Justin Bieber, the 19-year-old out-of-nowhere pop phenom, visited Amsterdam, where he dropped by the Anne Frank House – the home where Jewish teenager Anne Frank hid with her family from the Nazis before being caught and sent to Bergen Belsen, where she died. On his way out, Bieber made sure to leave a note: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here.” So far, so good. Then: “Anne was a great girl.” Flippant, but passable. And finally the bombshell: “Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.”
Yes, even the murder of Jews in the Holocaust was all about Justin Bieber. In what world does it matter whether Anne Frank would have liked Justin Bieber’s music? Would she have been whistling it as the Germans packed her into a cattle car? Confronted with the true nature of evil, the Hollywood mentality says: if it doesn’t affect me, I don’t truly care very much.
But that was hardly the only massive historical ego trip of the week. Jay-Z, President Obama’s favorite rapper and hip-hop fundraiser, took a trip to Communist Cuba with his wife, Beyonce. The Treasury Department approved the trip, although everyone else in the Obama administration from Jay Carney to the State Department denied involvement.
Nonetheless, stung by criticism, Jay-Z cut a rap about his controversial trip. The track was replete with brilliant witticisms: “I done turned Havana to Atlanta”; “You gettin’ too much bread, they try to jam you / Boy from the hood but got White House clearance”; “Obama said ‘Chill, you gonna get me impeached’ / But you don’t need this s*** anyway”; “Politicians never did s*** for me / Except lie to me, distort history.”
But when it comes to historical distortion, Jay-Z needed no help from politicians: “I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans / This communist talk is so confusing.” Yes, communism is confusing. It’s not as though it can be summed up in 22 words or so: government ownership of the means of production, resulting in compulsory labor and redistribution of wealth, mass starvation, and murderous crackdowns on freedom.
Communism is confusing for those in Hollywood, but only when they want to travel to Cuba. In their everyday lives, they are the ultimate capitalists: they stash their cash in offshore accounts, rake in dough at incredible rates, and as Jay-Z raps, buy basketball teams: “Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free / Except I made millions off it, you f***in’ dweeb / I still own the building, I’m still keeping my seat / Y’all buy that bulls***, you’d better keep y’all receipt.” Good thing Jay-Z doesn’t live in Cuba. He just travels there.
Ignorance is forgivable. Loud ignorance is obnoxious. Egotistic ignorance is unforgivable. And whether it’s Justin Bieber hoping that a murdered girl from the Holocaust could have heard his music or Jay-Z feigning confusion over a system that has murdered millions, Hollywood forgives, over and over again.
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