How Misguided Celebrity Activism Does More Harm Than Good

This past Sunday night, “Jackass” star Steve-O climbed up a crane in Los Angeles, carrying an inflatable orca whale.

While nothing the actor does really shocks us anymore, the reasoning behind this particular stunt was a far cry from that of his typical feature-film shenanigans.

According to Steve-O’s Facebook page, where he documented the whole fiasco, he was protesting SeaWorld and its mistreatment of killer whales.

Steve-O posted several videos and photographs, so fans could follow him on his attempted revolutionary journey.

This is not the first time the actor/stuntman has spoken out about the corporation.

In fact, just a year ago, Steve-O altered a San Diego off-ramp sign to read “SeaWorld Sucks.”

Now, I’m not here to argue whether or not Steve-O’s cause is just. Maybe he is rightful in calling out SeaWorld, and maybe he’s not.

Regardless, his decision to climb the crane in Los Angeles actually distracts from the matter at hand.

No matter his intentions, Steve-O’s antics bring more attention to himself than to his cause. And it’s not just Steve-O.

When any celebrity acts in such outrageous ways, he or she ends up looking ridiculous.

The average citizen begins to question the star’s sanity, rather than listen to his or her views and arguments.

This could be said for Ted Nugent and his strong anti-liberal speech. The same could be said of Brad Pitt’s political agenda and economic opinions.

We typically talk more about the stars themselves than the concerns the stars express.

People tend to roll their eyes at people like Steve-O, and pass off each protest as just another publicity scheme.

Instead of having intelligent conversations about whether or not the celebrity has a point, we make him or her out to be insane and unreasonable.

Is this the media’s fault for framing stars in such a way? Perhaps, it is to an extent. But it’s more about human nature and the way we react to rebels and rioters who behave so far outside of societal norms.

“Steve-O broke the Internet,” “Steve-O broke Facebook,” and “Let’s all donate for Steve-O’s bail!” are just a few of the top comments on his Facebook page.

The last one seems to be the most striking, since this whole stunt resulted in fans throwing their money at the celeb instead of the celeb’s cause. This just further proves my point.

If Steve-O really wanted to spark discussion about the ethics of SeaWorld — instead of himself — he should have gone about it in a much different way.

Steve-O could have offered to donate a portion of "Jackass’s" profits to preserving sea creatures.

He could have been a spokesperson at a wildlife convention or ceremony. He could have hosted an open discussion with both supporters of SeaWorld and anti-SeaWorld animal rights activists.

Instead, he insisted on being radical. Even though he might think his protests are a bold way to state his opinion, they end up having a counterproductive effect.

Steve-O was arrested and charged with fines that night, which damages his credibility and the ability for others to take him seriously.

I don’t think celebrities should keep quiet about causes they believe in. Stars, like all American citizens, have the right to free speech. They can, and should, speak on issues they think are important.

However, if they really want to make an impact on the world at large, they should reconsider the extreme ways they express those opinions.

More reasonable approaches will yield more productive responses.