Caitlin Johnstone: The Silence of the Artists

Celebrities are reluctant to criticize the U.S.-centralized empire because they benefit from it directly.

Busking on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 2006. (Owen Lloyd, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article.

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 U.S.-backed slaughter in Gaza. But it’s not really a mystery why this happens: celebrities are reluctant to criticize the U.S.-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.

Macklemore performing in France in 2022. (Selbymay, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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 U.S.-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.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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27 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: The Silence of the Artists

  1. Eddie S
    June 1, 2024 at 12:25

    I’ve long been puzzled about why we are tacitly encouraged to ascribe higher importance to what a celebrity says about politics than we do to any lay person like a plumber, dishwasher, carpenter, etc. The celebrity may or may-not even know much about the political subject, especially since they’re typically busy doing ‘celebrity stuff’. They obviously have a right to their own opinion, but — like any other person — the level of knowledge behind it may vary greatly. Additionally, many of these celebrities are ‘driven’ individuals which brings a certain non-sympathetic mindset with it.

  2. Tony
    June 1, 2024 at 06:44

    “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.”

    Hitler understood this principle very well and made sure that his generals were well-bribed.

  3. Jon Kershaw
    May 31, 2024 at 12:25

    Celebrity worship is a disease, and it displays an utter lack of self-respect.

    • Susan Siens
      May 31, 2024 at 16:44

      Judge John Deed (British drama show): Celebrity is the pursuit of the talentless by the mindless.

  4. Johnny Rotten
    May 31, 2024 at 10:40

    Which only shows how ‘sold out’ and ‘corrupt’ these modern, corporate-backed, corporate-produced, “artists” are.

    In American history, artists who oppose the state and the war machine have always been popular. Thus, the “artists” you describe are turning down popularity and the expression of messages that have wide appeal, in favor of a corporate paycheck.

    Corporate art is not art.
    Corporate art is commerce, it is selling, its getting suckers to part with their money for pablum, corporate-approved @$%$.

    • Susan Siens
      May 31, 2024 at 16:48

      Thank you, Johnny! That’s what I wanted to say. These musicians / writers / actors / etc are PRODUCED by the corporate system. I remember when the corporate music moguls came up with the likes of Paul Anka and Pat Boone to counter [even] Elvis, black artists, the Beatles, etc. They find someone with a modicum of talent then promote them. Do I believe Taylor Swift and Beyonce write their own music? I do not. They may scribble a few lyrics, but their music is written for them. Why would I say this? Because you don’t have to dress like a porn star if you’ve got real talent.

  5. Mark Stanley
    May 31, 2024 at 10:37

    The art of any period directly reflects the nature of society at that time. The art in 2024 is at a low on the mediocrity scale. History will see this, but it is hard for us because we are mired in it.
    Pink Floyd gained popularity in a time when a significant portion of a musician’s popularity was organic, and producers went along with the natural popularity. In the 1980’s producers began to tell rock musicians what to play, and what to wear~~thus the death nell of a style.
    Melody. What melodies of today will be hummed in ten years? In my opinion, melody is the core music dances with. The greats were all melody miesters~~~John Dowland, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmoninov, the Beatles. The staggering volume of memorable melodies from the last half of the 20th century’s popular music is remarkable. We still sing those tunes. We still sing Greensleeves, and yet no one knows who composed it–in the distant past.
    I still believe John Lennon was conveniently removed because he had immense power~~~a brand of power they fear.

  6. Michael McNulty
    May 31, 2024 at 06:12

    Perhaps it’s because although they have a fan base most celebrities do not have political power. Even somebody like George Clooney who moves amongst the political set probably couldn’t alter a political course. And though the McCarthy purges of the 1950s were before the time of most of us I would say its memory remains fresh in Hollywood. How easy it is for corrupt politicians to end the careers of famous people who speak out should remind us how evil politicians can be, not the artists they may have forced into silence. Some artists like Charlie Chaplin and Sam Wannamaker were forced to leave America. All because of an agitator senator called Joseph McCarthy.

    • Johnny Rotten
      May 31, 2024 at 10:47

      In other news, the Clooney Foundation has just announced a big, expensive campaign to get pro-Russian journalists sanctioned and arrested. The appointed head of George Clooney’s foundation talks about how they are going to work in secret and get secret lists in Europe, because they want these journalists not to know they are on double-secret probation and thus mistakenly think that they can travel in Europe so they can be arrested as they travel and get what is coming to them. They are talking about secret Europol warrants being taken out for daring to disagree with George Clooney and his corporate partners. The head of the Clooney Foundation announced this on American propaganda radio, aka, “Voice of America”

      That’s what George Clooney and his big corporate bucks are up to these days.

      • Michael McNulty
        May 31, 2024 at 15:30

        George has been captured, then? I never knew he was so … authoritarian statist. He keeps that quiet. It’s unfortunate that artists who stand for the opposite of decency are always able to freely express those opinions. Like Michael Rappaport, a good actor but lacking in empathy for anything but Jewish eternal victimhood. If he thought differently he wouldn’t be so free to say it, or if he felt confident enough to say it he probably wouldn’t get much film work afterwards.

    • Susan Siens
      May 31, 2024 at 16:56

      Not all because of McCarthy. He was following through on the huge support among the U.S.’s corporate class and even ordinary people for Nazism and fascism. The Bush family was caught financing the Nazis and lost their German assets; many people thought they should have lost ALL their assets (I agree, living in Maine, and having to watch idiot meat puppets standing outside their properties in Kennebunkport when one of them is croaking). These are the people, deep in the recesses of government, who brought us McCarthy.

  7. Konrad
    May 31, 2024 at 06:10

    The US colonial empire and its vassals are ruled and supported by people who have sold their souls, if they ever had any, for the sake of material abundance and well being, with hitherto impunity. In biblical terms they are all fallen angels who are following the devilish rule of money and material possessions over soul and morality. The eternal battle of good versus evil raging in everyone’s soul. Moral justice cannot be done, crimes against humanity can never be adequately punished, such is the human existence which essentially is live long suffering. It can only be relieved by merciful death, the end of human existence, the end our only friend I believe. In that I agree with Buddha.

    • J Anthony
      June 1, 2024 at 06:07

      Yes, they are psychopaths, and the more we refer to them as such, perhaps the better it will sink in for those still on-the-fence about the supposed validity of the system.

  8. Michael G
    May 31, 2024 at 04:11

    The first glimmer of hope I’ve had for the Palestinian people came to me from Colonel (Retired) Douglas Macgregor yesterday while I was making my podcast rounds. He was a guest on Judge Napolitano’s Judging Freedom (h**ps://, giving his analysis on the situation in the Middle East. He mentioned there was an Arab contingent (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) in Beijing possibly seeking economic assurances from Xi if they abandoned the U.S. and it’s “rules based order”. He said particularly the people of Egypt have had enough. And if Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was to retain what legitimacy he had left in the eyes of his people he would have to do something.
    And if your worried about what ramifications that might have for your own status quo, try sleeping in a tent in Rafah right now.

    • Johnny Rotten
      May 31, 2024 at 11:03

      The American backed military dictatorship in Egypt has been complaining to the American backed genocidal “democracy” in Israel trying to warn the Israelis from militarily taking control of the Rafah Crossing and the Philadelphia Axis (which is the strip of land between Gaza and Egypt). Egypt has been warning that do so would violate the Camp David Accords between the two American-backed governments.

      America and Israel of course treat this as just some Arab yammering, not to be paid any real attention. But, it could explain why the American backed military dictator might be looking for other options, and at least willing to listen to China. UAE would be the key part. Egypt has become dependent on oil sheik money.

      UAE and the Saudis are interesting to watch. They show separation, but its a bit of a mystery as to whether this is a real split between old friends, or just they spreading out a bit to play both sides as best they can. The Saudis have of course already made some big moves to make their growing Chinese trading partners happy by getting along better with Iran. UAE has been closer to USA and Israel, but, its not impossible that they might follow the Saudi lead as time goes on. The Saudis might be playing a role of “facilitators” now by bringing UAE and Egypt to the meeting.

      The Saudis have also been looking for financing for their post-oil plans/dreams. Its in the western financial press. But, China would of course be a good place to sell some bonds and Aramco shares. Maybe in exchange for setting up the meeting?

  9. anon
    May 30, 2024 at 21:32

    Hollywood, showbiz and the media are all controlled by 6 Zionist billionaires.

    The celebs, the journos and the politicians all dance to their tune.
    Celebrity whores.

    Trumpo The Magnificent has just been convicted of 34 felony charges.
    Though not for the real crimes he is guilty of.
    Roll on the Civil War.
    Break out the popcorn and watch the fun.

    • Johnny Rotten
      May 31, 2024 at 11:17

      70% of Americans tell pollsters they believe a civil war is coming.
      The Democrats big issue is to try to get everyone to disarm. They of course know that this will not make the right give up their guns, so the only possible thing the Democrats can be doing is getting their own supporters to disarm on the eve of civil war.

      Warning, supporting the Democrats can be dangerous to your health. Just ask the older Midwestern factory workers, who were a part of the FDR coalition, only to be sold out by Bill Clinton and Wall Street. Ask them about the rising rates of “deaths of despair” in Genocide Joe’s America? Supporting Democrats can be dangerous to your health.

      (And, no, since I’m a pacifist, that is not a ‘gangster’ style threat. Just an observation from the 1960’s to today of the general outcomes of the people who support the Democrats. The next chapter of an imaginary book would be how the inner-cities supported Democrats only to be sold out and left behind by the Obama and Biden admins.)

      • Susan Siens
        May 31, 2024 at 17:03

        I’m not a pacifist, but it is eyebrow-raising when you see a 64-year-old woman from Westchester say, “Burn it down!” regarding DC. I never want any of the real people in DC harmed, but I’d like to see the gangsters come to an unhappy end.

    • Bill Mack
      May 31, 2024 at 12:34

      Racist and cowardly

      • floyd gardner
        May 31, 2024 at 15:28

        And true.

  10. Jacinto Molina
    May 30, 2024 at 19:15

    “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.”

    The overwhelming majority of American celebrities are out-and-out soulless, mindless. talentless frauds whose only concern is maintaining the ostentatious lifestyles of wealth and luxury that their ill-gotten fame has bestowed upon them—being loyal to the empire sure pays well, genocide be damned! And, to add insult to injury, we have to endure having these vacuous, greedy non-entities crammed down our throat 24/7 by the MSM. The celebrities do an outstanding job of keeping the simpletons distracted, therefore, they are quite valuable to the powers-that-be, who are very happy to give them fame, wealth, and a platform, as long as they don’t challenge the status quo. That is why I have been boycotting the entertainment industry in ALL of its manifestations for many years and will continue to do so for the rest of my natural life! I loathe these modern American celebrities and everything they stand for—I wish we could remove them from their gated communities and ship them all to Gaza to face the IDF and give them a taste of the very harsh reality the Palestinians are facing day in and day out!

    BTW, with very few exceptions, these so-called celebrities are NOT artists in any way, shape, or form!

    • J Anthony
      June 1, 2024 at 06:11

      I agree, nothing would please me more than to see a massive expropriation of all the extractors’ ill-gotten wealth, and their banishment to some place where they can do no more harm.

  11. susan
    May 30, 2024 at 19:08

    McCarthyism at its finest…

  12. Andrew Nichols
    May 30, 2024 at 18:14

    Or like gresy old Bono, get coopted to support western messages

    • Michael McNulty
      May 31, 2024 at 15:37

      I used to like Bono, before he became God.

      • J Anthony
        June 1, 2024 at 06:14

        I use to like God, before he became Bono.
        But seriously, many of them have a god-complex, understandably, but it’s still sickening to have to see or hear, as their massive but undue influence continues to steer the more gullible into mind-rot.

        • Susan Siens
          June 1, 2024 at 16:03

          Is this a takeoff on the doctor joke? Fellow goes to heaven and sees someone dressed in black wearing dark glasses. He asks, “Is that Bono?” and is told, “No, that’s God. He thinks he’s Bono.”

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