Canadian children’s entertainer Raffi has been annoying parents with the Baby Beluga song since 1980. But they will find themselves humming and singing his catchy tunes. His original audience now counts themselves among the middle aged, and Raffi would like their children to eventually vote. In this cause, Raffi composed an awkward new verse to this classic song for the last Canadian federal election:
Must entertainers wade into aquariums they don’t fully belong?
Here’s an argument: Raffi revolutionized children’s music. He’s even been called the Bruce Springsteen of the toddler crowd. So, Raffi, just continue to shake your sillies out and be proud of that legacy. Your vinyl records and plastic cassettes are stamped, for children ages 3-8, after all. Your songs were about bananas and those five little ducks that kept getting lost, not the operation of liberal democratic states.
American economist Thomas Sowell would likely agree. His book, Intellectuals and Society, argues that experts on one subject should not act as experts on another. They are world renowned on one thing, and somehow get to thinking they have a mission to lead us to better lives outside of their bailiwick. And too often, we fall for this.
We’d think it daft to have purple dinosaur Barney marching at a Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street protest. The Teletubbies or Wiggles need not storm the state legislature in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights. Shall Big Bird pluck his (her?) feathers for PETA? (Or be used in a campaign ad by President Barack Obama?)
In the realm of politics:
Jenny McCarthy, let’s consider. She’s famous for something (her breasts?), so she must know that vaccinations are sinister. Now take Bertrand Russell. He is known for his explorations into metaphysics, and then got all anti-war on everyone. But campaigning against Britain rearming while Hitler was getting ready to unleash his horrors, in the 1930s, looks rather awkward, today.
Raffi is of course well-intentioned. And the status accorded artists such as he no doubt balloons their egos to a place where they might imagine themselves anointed to excogitate and then recommend in areas beyond their scope. They already have the soapbox and so why not stand upon it! I suppose, too, some of this comes back to Raffi starting out as a protest folk singer; he once tried an environmental-themed adult album, but it sank, perhaps Down By the Bay, where the watermelons grow! Further, it can be fallacious to appeal to authorities on subjects all the time. History is full of examples of experts not knowing their left from right.
Raffi is just one example of music artists singing about that which they don’t really know much about. There are no requirements for singers of songs to know of what they croon. Even Jenny McCarthy may be forgiven for not fact-checking a New York Times story from 2002 where she got her views on vaccines. Music has its share of dingbats like the rest of the population. Still! The status these artists and celebrities are accorded in society may warrant some voluntary discretion and forethought from them.