Mike Rowe, best known for his work on the show Dirty Jobs, was challenged to say something about what took place in Charlottesville by someone who claimed he was staying silent because offering an opinion wouldn’t be good for business. Instead of denying it, Rowe admitted he did worry about falling into a trap where, no matter what you say, someone is offended. He went on to say there is nothing more annoying than celebrities offering political opinions:
Since we’re being candid, allow me to say how much I dislike your post. Everything about it annoys me – your smug and snarky tone, your appalling grammar, your complete lack of evidence to support your claims, and of course, the overarching logical fallacy that informs your entire position. What really bugs me though, is the fact that you’re not entirely wrong. It’s true; I haven’t shared any political opinions this week, in part anyway, because doing so might very well be “bad for business.”
What can I say? I work for half-a-dozen different companies, none of whom pay me to share my political opinions. I run a non-partisan foundation, I’m about to launch a new show on Facebook, and I’m very aware that celebrities pay a price for opening their big fat gobs. Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Milo Yiannopoulos…even that guy from Google who just got himself fired for mouthing off. There’s no getting around it – the first amendment does not guarantee the freedom to speak without consequences. And really, that’s fine by me.
So no – I’m not going to share my personal feelings about Charlottesville, President Trump, or the current effort to remove thousands of statues of long dead soldiers from the public square. Not just because it’s “bad for business,” but because it’s annoying. I can’t think of a single celebrity whose political opinion I value, and I’m not going to assume the country feels any differently about mine.
Rowe does eventually defend his mikeroweWORKS campaign for skilled trades that don’t require a four-year degree and argues that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about what is happening on campus:
Millions of reasonable people – Republicans and Democrats alike – are worried that our universities are doing a poor job of preparing students for the real world. They’re worried about activist professors, safe spaces, the rising cost of tuition, a growing contempt for history, and a simmering disregard of the first amendment. These people are concerned that our universities – once beacons of free speech – now pander to a relatively small percentage of students who can’t tolerate any political opinion that challenges their own.
That’s dangerously close to being a political opinion. Still, even if the motive for not saying more is admittedly self-serving, Rowe has a point about celebrities weighing in with their (frequently ill-informed) opinions after every national tragedy. For those of us who follow the news closely, it’s like white noise that adds little substance to any discussion. I think most people just tune it out. Most celebrities who think people care about their political opinions could use a dose of Rowe’s humility.