Why Celebrities Aren’t Speaking Up About Gaza

Caitlin Johnstone
4 min readMay 30, 2024


Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

For the last eight months people have been expressing frustration and confusion about the reluctance of celebrities to use their immense platforms to speak out against the US-backed slaughter in Gaza. But it’s not really a mystery why this happens: celebrities are reluctant to criticize the US-centralized empire because they benefit from it directly.

It’s actually a very important aspect of imperial narrative control how all of our society’s largest and most influential voices are intimately dependent on the political status quo upon which the empire is built. Fame and fortune come as a result of being elevated by the wealthy owners of media production platforms like film studios, record labels, TV and news media, and those extremely wealthy people have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo upon which their wealth is premised. Those who are threatening to the status quo are therefore not elevated to celebrity status, and the ones who get rich and famous either (A) understand this acutely or (B) are too shallow and vapid to have any interest in rocking the imperial boat.

Nobody becomes a superstar all on their own; it requires an extensively collaborative relationship with many individuals, and many of the most important of these are in positions of great wealth and power and have no desire to see socialism or anti-imperialism threaten their kingdoms by gaining a foothold in the political realities of their nation. This creates an impressively thorough gatekeeping system which filters out any clear-eyed rebels who might otherwise shine their way to the top.

Of course the filtration system isn’t perfect; sometimes someone sneaks through, or, more likely, is waved through and then has a political awakening after achieving stardom. But for every Susan Sarandon and Roger Waters there are a hundred enthusiastic celebrity supporters of the status quo, and a thousand others who just stay silent on all matters of real importance.

Just making someone a multimillionaire and giving them a cushy lifestyle is enough to make them loyal to the political status quo of the land. The mere fact that the empire is capitalist and allows the wealthy to live like gods ensures that most people who ascend to stardom will be heavily biased in favor of the system which allows for that lifestyle, and everything they say publicly will reflect this. This gives the empire a massive propaganda bullhorn which creates an information landscape where all the biggest voices speak as though the system is working perfectly, and the voices of all the ordinary people whose experience tells them otherwise are drowned out.

When Macklemore rapped about how “the music industry’s quiet, complicit in their platform of silence” about Gaza, he asked, “What happened to the artist? What d’you got to say?” And this is the answer. What happened to the most influential artists is that they stand too much to gain from supporting the status quo politics of the empire, and stand too much to lose by opposing it.

And that’s why the mainstream “artists” of today are so artless. How much depth and profundity can you express if you’re compartmentalizing away from reality like that? How authentic and meaningful can your art be while you are duty bound to help preserve the status quo of a mind-controlled dystopia where everything is fraudulent and meaningless?

Everything that draws human beings to art in the first place needs to be sacrificed to retain celebrity status — truthfulness, sincerity, rebelliousness, sensuality, inspiration, aliveness. That wild connection with something mysterious and strangely sexy which crackles just below the surface of everything.

All that needs to be flushed down the toilet to become a celebrity guardian of the information interests of the globe-spanning US-centralized empire. You’ll live like a king, but you’ll also have to sacrifice everything inside you that makes life worth living.

We are ruled by weird, phony freaks in Washington and Virginia who collaborate with weird, phony freaks at the top of the corporate world, and their rule is enforced by weird, phony freaks in New York and Los Angeles who use their celebrity status to help create an artificial mainstream culture that is mindless, heartless, soulless, and completely uninterested in the emergence of a healthy world.

That is why celebrities are silent on Gaza today.


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