An open letter to the people who keep posting open letters to Sinéad O’Connor, Miley Cyrus and their ilk*.

Dear fans of Miley, Sinéad and other oft-telephotoed purveyors of fleeting distraction: I’m sure that the ladies in question appreciate your concern and support for their respective plights.

Far be it from me to detract from the global significance of a young woman in the music business doing something mildly provocative and another, slightly older and less famous woman publicly offering an opinion. It’s not as if anything more important has been happening. I mean, there’s war and poverty and injustice and the like but they’re so boooring… but there’s not been anything more noteworthy happening in the knockabout, laugh a minute world of celebrity. Unless you’re in North Korea, of course, where pop sensation Hyon Song-wol has been executed by firing squad. Oh, and she’s the ex-girlfriend of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. But, you know, keep watching a video of a naked former child star on a demolition ball.

Edward Murrow misquoted Marx in describing television as “the opiate of the masses”. He’s be hard to come up with a metaphor for popular culture tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow –  “It is the chloroform soaked rag, smart blow to the back of the head, three years of brainwashing and overdose of Ketamine of the masses.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that a cabal of evil, middle-aged white guys are secretly conspiring against you to hide the truth of the world while they rob you blind. If only they were – we’d have something to fight against. The truth is infinitely more depressing –  any opportunistic ne’er –do-well with something shiny to wave at you can distract you long enough to steal your wallet, watch and one of your kidneys before you even notice.

Yeah, yeah, it’s another self-important rant about what’s important. Where’s the harm in a little twerking controversy anyway? Well – nowhere. Depending on your precise taste in entertainment it’s either: fine, not sufficiently arousing, an offence against decency or a slightly rebellious young woman celebrating her sexuality. Nothing wrong with any of those and no reason not to devote a few minutes of your day to it.

But is it really more important than the massacre of entertainers in North Korea? More worthy of comment? Couldn’t we try to do just a little to influence our media not to pander to the lowest common denominator? Could we maybe choose to buy one serious newspaper and one less glossy magazine full of half-naked women who’ve been hand-picked, polished and electronically modified to make people feel sufficiently inadequate to buy a mask to hide behind?

There’s a line in the bible when Jesus defends his disciples for eating with dirty hands and says that “it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him, it’s what comes out of it.” (I’ve gone a bit thought for the day here…) Not without relevance here. There’s nothing wrong with having a look, a laugh or a gasp at anything going on in the world. What you choose to focus on as your topic for discussion and what you choose to ignore – those are the things that point to what’s in your heart.

Sinéad, Miley and the rest of you: you have a rare position – public attention is yours and you could make a greater difference to so many people by taking an interest in something other than your own fame and encouraging people to look at a wider world.  Until you do, your cavorting, your spats and your open letters are “a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.”


*It’s a little known fact that Miley and Sinéad adopted a baby ilk together before they fell out over twerking. It’s the accent. A similar thing happened to Bono, I hear…

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