Hollywood, Wealth, Hypocrisy, And Solidarity

Adam Carolla, master of subtlety and complexity, is sort of on to something in complaining about celebrities who make an enormous amount of money even while claiming solidarity with the poor, but as usual, misses the point:

“These bigger name guys, they go out and do corporate gigs, they do casinos and theaters, they make 200 grand a pop,” says Carolla, whose own ideology defies simple labels. “Then, they come back to their pulpit and talk about Joe Sixpack and how times are tight.”

“They never talk about the money they make… and you pretend you’re one of them? Bullshit,” he says.
Carolla isn’t shy about telling tales of woe from first class flights or how he feels uncomfortable around his nanny. Nor does he mind being in a cutthroat entertainment business, one that cast him aside in 2009 for failing to live up to Howard Stern’s ratings legacy on the FM dial.

It’s not actually more attractive to complain about your first world problems than it is to reach for solidarity, however clumsily, with people who have fewer resources than you do. But that doesn’t mean it’s not useful for rich people who want to support everyone else to recognize that they aren’t coming from the same place as someone who, say, is losing their home, or experiencing a prolonged period of joblessness. Kathy Bates’ desire to see Obama go after the “rat bastards” on Wall Street does not actually spring from an identical place as someone who is crushed under the weight of student loans, or whose mortgage was part of a complex financial transaction.

And that’s actually a good thing. It’s critically important to illustrate that there are large constituencies for issues like financial system reform, or for student loan forgiveness. And it’s important to draw connections between issues that people will argue are separate to avoid regulation. Bernie Madoff’s fraud was different from the rise of mortgage-backed securities, in terms of both how they were carried out and legal culpability, but they’re both part of a culture that valued profits over accountability. It would be useful to have wealthy victims of Madoff’s fraud, like Larry King and Kevin Bacon, come out in favor of much higher regulatory standards for the financial industry as a whole. You don’t actually have to establish credibility as a member of the working class to be a useful ally to the working class. But it is useful to know which one you are before you start acting as an advocate.