Hollywood: an activist, acting newsroom

'Argo' wins Best Picture, a chronicle of hostages in Iran, but who knows about modern day prisoner Afridi in Pakistan? (AP Photo)

It’s Oscar season.  A time when gossip websites thrive and fashion experts sharpen their shiny swords of voguish justice.  Like many Oscars before this one, celebrities have used the awards ceremony to tout their political activism.  This year is no different.

Actors’ and actresses’ jobs are to, as you guessed it, act. Yet, set an actor in front of a few cameras, give them some praise for doing their job well, and nine times out of 10, a self-absorbed know-it-all is created.

With a sparkly name and a persona generated by the silver screen, an actor has a booming, national voice and a padded pocketbook for bringing public awareness to political activism. Now my question: is this where America should be getting political and world knowledge? The answer should be an emphatic “no!” But, I look around and I’m starting to doubt where some Americans are getting their information.

This Oscar ceremony, one of the political foci is bringing awareness to Dr. Shakil Afridi’s plight in a Pakistani jail. When I asked around campus who knew the name Afridi,  I was met with blank looks and nonchalant shrugs. Afridi is the man who helped verify the location of Osama bin Laden.  Without Afridi’s help, the terrorist may not have been brought to justice.  He’s the guy who put his neck on the line to help out the United States and now he is serving a 33 year jail sentence.

Afridi has been written about in national and international articles. He has been discussed by government officials from Leon Panetta to Hillary Clinton. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) even introduced legislation to award Afridi with the Congressional Gold Medal for his brave service. Yet, most people don’t even know the name of this hero.

Left to be arrested and tried for treason by the Pakistani government, Afridi has received weak help from the United States. It seems Washington is afraid of the mercurial temperament of Pakistan’s government and the threat of Pakistani militants attacking our soldiers in Afghanistan if the Afridi issue is pushed too far.

Now, back to Hollywood. A Californian philanthropist, Bob Lorsch, took an ad out in the Hollywood Reporter to bring attention to Afridi’s plight. His logic was that Afridi was depicted in the recent movie “Zero Dark Thirty” and that the people who worked on this Oscar nominated film should raise their voices at the event to bring freedom to “America’s Abandoned Hero.”

But, why does it take Hollywood to wake people up?  Hollywood is a place where movies are made.  The starlets from la-la land are not the people America should be turning to to first learn about political or world knowledge.

Is the fact that many Americans will first learn of Afridi and his heroic actions through the Oscars a reflection of our country’s intellectual decline?  Is it proof of a culture that rejects reading articles, or watching the news?  A culture that needs to be constantly entertained, and learns of news events solely through entertainment?

Hollywood is not a news outlet.  To have many Americans learn of critical information through the mouths of the modern day jester is a dangerous path. The news, the real news, is there at our fingertips, and though it may not be presented to the public in a swanky Oscar de la Renta dress, the facts are there and ready for the public’s consumption.

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