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Celebrity Used and Abused and the Crisis in Haiti

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This week I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing one of the finest gentlemen to grace the ranks of the broadcast journalism profession, Nick Clooney. Nick is old school in the best way possible, cut from the same cloth as his friend Walter Cronkite and one of his idols, Edward R. Murrow. He brings wisdom, integrity, and good humor to all of his endeavors. If there were more like him, I have no doubt that the news industry would be held in higher regard.

Several years ago, Nick and son George were lamenting the fact that genocide in Darfur was being covered like a footnote or afterthought. Where were the front page stories? Why didn't evening news anchors travel to the scene to report? Why, seemingly, did American journalists find the story unimportant? It was then that George had a notion to put his mega-wattage celebrity to good use. As Nick tells it, George said something like, "Pop, let's go there." The younger Clooney suggested that, since cameras and reporters were following him around constantly anyway, he could use that attention to lure them to Darfur. The Clooney's humanitarian mission is chronicled in the documentary they produced, "A Journey to Darfur." Since their trip in 2006, both father and son have attempted to direct the world's attention to Darfur whenever an opportunity presented itself. Nick is not satisfied with the results of their efforts, but continues the good fight.

Fast forward to the devastating earth quake in Haiti, and once again George Clooney has determined that his celebrity is a useful tool to help those in need. He'll be hosting a "Haitian earthquake relief" telethon on later this month. Politically involved celebrities are often ridiculed for their involvement when they get it wrong. They should also be praised when they get it right. Once again you've done well Nick. It's clear that George is a chip of the old block.

Unfortunately, at least in this case, every Yin seems to have a Yang. Which brings us to the soulless and cynical rants of the apparently shameless Rush Limbaugh. Rush is also a major celebrity, but that's where the comparisons end. While Clooney is using his gravitational pull to affirm life, Limbaugh has chosen a different path. And please, spare me the right/left, conservative/liberal polarizing nonsense. Human suffering is not a partisan issue. No one ideology owns the compassion and human decency market.

I believe that it comes down to responsibility. The fundamental thing we need to know about the exercise of great power can be found in the pages of Spider-Man. When Uncle Ben tells his nephew Peter Parker that, "with great power, comes great responsibility," he sets in motion a sequence of events that give birth to a hero. Celebrity is a form of power. Great power. And without the necessary "responsibility," it's a power that becomes corrupt. Maybe Rush needs to read more comic books.

It's said that a crisis will bring out the best and worst in human nature. That has always been the case and will most certainly be this time as well as nations and individuals respond to the horror unfolding in Haiti. The Clooneys and Limbaugh provide examples of the utility of celebrity in such matters.

Thank you, Nick and George.

Shame on you, Rush.

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