Celebrities doing good…a Catch-22?

From Mike’s forum  on Discovery

Q: Good Morning Mike,

Well, believe it or not, as much as I do like your show I have admit I’ve already used that VHS tape to record over your program. An episode of House was on that I hadn’t seen before. Oh, and yes, I still own VHS tapes.

So, I’m not sure I can quote a specific line from your show that led me to my assumption (such as it is) that there was indeed a comparison between you and your fellow celebrities. However, I can see how I may have misunderstood your comparisons and if so I apologize for the “High and Mighty” comment. However, I must admit that I agree with Kristi. And really, Mike, you must be aware of it too. Whether you set out a specific goal to be a role model, the perception will always be there because you are a celebrity, on television, with a hit show, etc. etc. (By the way, congratulations. Admitting that you are a celebrity is the first step). Right or wrong, the assumption that because you are celebrity you are also a role model is there. I applaud you in every way for showing me these men and women and the jobs they do every week. You have no idea how much you have opened up my eyes through your show. My respect for the dirty jobs that exist has grown tremendously. I agree whole-heartedly that these men and women are role models. Absolutely.

But where do you come in? Why do you reject that you may be considered a role model to a lot of people? Does being a celebrity automatically discount you? Is it all smoke and mirrors? Constantly stepping aside and saying, “Oh no, not me” gets a little old after a while and dare I say a little insincere? I know you are not a fan of sentiment but why go in the absolute opposite direction?

But that being said, I did get the impression that you have a problem with celebrities attaching their names to causes, movements, charities, etc. I guess my original question was is there any harm that you see with doing well by doing good?

Regardless, I still think what you have done and what you are doing is terrific. For what it’s worth, I think you’re a pretty good guy.

Thanks Mike

Happy Holidays,


A: quote:

“I guess Mike can’t win either way.”

Hi Kelby

That sentiment, and the always tender musing of my favorite rodent, are probably the truest things written in this thread.

If I take a point of view on any topic – even a detached one – I’m certain to rankle the sensibilities of those loyal fans that see the world differently than me.  (See Gayle’s post.) I then become another guy trying to impose my beliefs on the masses. On the other hand, if I try and keep my personal feelings out of it, I’ll be accused of being too detached, or as Kristi suggests, another “Do as I say not as I do” type.

Let’s start with Kristi, who writes:

“Ugh Mike. Just Ugh! Can I ask you an honest question? Does the phrase, “Do as I say not as I do,” really belong in the message you are trying to put out?”

In my opinion, yes. I do my best to be congruent in what I say and what I do, but I fall short of the mark, and prefer not to pretend otherwise. My ideas and opinions are no more valid than yours, or Leo’s, or Brad’s. (Isn’t it cool, how we’re all on a first name basis?) If an idea has merit, it should be able to stand on its own. If it can’t, I don’t want the job of propping it up single-handedly. Sure, I’ll play the cards I have as best I can, but not to the point of claiming some moral high ground. Personally, I’d be very suspicious of anyone who claimed to always practice all that they preach. Besides, I’m not preaching.

“Of course you wouldn’t HOLD yourself out as a role model, but you are perceived as one nonetheless.”

Only by those who insist as perceiving me in that way. Screwy Squirrel for instance, may have another opinion.

“Once any of us have taken a stance on an issue it places people in a position to accept or reject our stance.”

Other options might include considering the facts, analyzing the facts, or ignoring the issue altogether. Accepting and rejecting are merely extremes, in my opinion.

“Just as we can’t possibly “Know” you personally neither can we “Know” the Brad Pitt’s and Sean Penn’s of the world. What we “Know” of you lies in what you allow us to see, the same with any celebrity.”

Which is precisely why you should look past the source. Examine the claims, separate from the claimant. Look to the facts and the evidence, not the packaging. Not the spokesman.

“As humans, we follow what lies closest to what we believe.”

We believe what makes us comfortable, by and large. And our beliefs should be constantly challenged, in my opinion.

“By making a statement for or against something you unwittingly hold yourself out as a role model. The mere nature of “celebrity” makes the view more widely known.”

Sure, but that doesn’t make the view any more valid. And the mere nature of “individuality” gives any thinking human the power to dismiss bad ideas out of hand, regardless of who promotes them.

“(As unsavory a word as celebrity is Mike, you are one.)”

Millions and millions of people that have never seen my face or heard my name might disagree. As would dozens of close friends and family members who laugh at such a description. However, you have every right to see me that way, if you wish.

“For example take your MRW initiative. It asks the public at large to re-examine why they think the way they do in regards to a hard work and our nation’s infrastructure. It has your name on it. You obviously feel passionate about it. You feel a genuine change is needed. Why is your message different in any way from another random celebrity who comes out in support of what they feel?”

It isn’t. And I encourage you to examine my claims and contentions, separate from my belief or my passion. Like Dirty Jobs, MRW should only succeed if the underlying premise has merit.

“I guess I am just trying to point out that taking a stance on something, and especially doing it publicly, places you in a position to be a role model.”

It also puts me in the position of being maligned. The decision to do either is not ultimately up to me.

“You know I almost always side with you, but on this point I just get tired of seeing you with the, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” attitude.”

Your words, not mine. My attitude is more along the lines of “Here’s what I think, and this is why. Now figure the rest out yourself.”

Not as snappy on a tee-shirt perhaps, but there it is.

Hello Gayle,

“While I know my support of the Green Movement here is comparable to going upstream against a big glib wave of personality I am the ever faithful opposition.”

Then I can only assume you enjoy the challenge. There are thousands of websites and millions of people who would welcome another true believer the rank and file. You might start with Earth First.

“Your High and Mightiness is only exceed by your barely concealed slightly seething antagonism for those celebrities you feel don’t share your views.”

I can only hope that they will find the strength to accept the idea that others might not see the issue in the same way that they do. I sure hope I didn’t hurt their feelings, but assume their skins are thick enough to absorb a slightly different view. Besides, I have no qualm with them. I just challenge a few of their assumptions, and humbly suggest that other people might offer a more relatable and practical example for “green” living.

“The term you used, apologist. The placement was positively full of a rather pitched contempt.”

Gayle, I have no contempt for people who disagree with me. Take you for instance. I think you’re swell.

“I’m sure those people you’ve named are far from the lives of the people you profile but so are you in many ways.”

Which is precisely why Gayle, I’ve made no such claim. I merely point those who I believe are providing great examples for the rest of us. In this case, the people I’ve met on Dirty Jobs. I’m not putting myself out there as an example. I’m pointing to those who impress me the most.

“Your respect is to be commended and I have always admired it.”

Thanks. For a minute there, I was afraid you saw me as a “glib personality.” Don’t know where I got that idea.

“But, I also know you would not take a turn in their lives and forgo the one you now have.”

You assume a great deal, as well as imply that they would change places with me. I’d be careful about that.

“Let’s be realistic about that now.”

OK, I’ll level with you. The truth is, I wouldn’t trade my life for anybody’s, Gayle. Not Bill Bretherton’s, not Bob the Pig Farmers, not Albert Einstiens, not George Washington’s, not Brad Pitt’s. I like the life I have, and wouldn’t trade with anyone. But tell me, as long as we’re being realistic, who would you prefer to be, instead of yourself?”

“I have never seen you as a role model. Although I am quite sure there are many others who do see you as such. Mr. Rowe, it comes with the territory and I’m sure you are quite aware of it. Being in a form of public life and having a soap box and an opinion does that you know.”

Indeed I do.

“So what if Brad wants to live in NO and ride his bike when he is home. Work with the people there to help rebuild their homes. Where it seems the powers that be want them to give up their land to development by others with say an income closer to your own. I say more power to him.”

I agree, wholeheartedly. Brad seems to care deeply about the issues and I applaud his efforts to help out. So do millions of others, as evidenced by all the press he generates. (Check out the feature on him in this month’s Architectural Digest.) I just think that, when it comes to a relatable role model, Matt Freund is a better choice. As is Bob Coombs, and about a hundred others featured on Dirty Jobs. Unfortunately, no one seems terribly interested in their stories, and no one is putting them on the cover of anything. Their actions are ignored because they are anonymous.

“If Leo wants to lend his name and money to environmental causes. Those he clearly believes in. Because he wants the children he has some day live in world if not better at least close to the one we have now. I say I wish him well.”

Me too.

“It may be just your style. One that may in the final truth be one I cannot accept, but I must say you may want to take a look at the beam in your own eye before you go talking about the speck you say is obscuring the vision of others.”

Ahh, The New Testament. (Matthew, right?) Tis the season!

All I can tell you Gayle is that I have no delusion about my own shortcomings. My vision is most certainly impaired, and I’ve never tried to pretend otherwise. However, I have a point of view, and I’ve shared it openly and honestly. All I can do is thank you for watching, and wish you a Glib and Merry Christmas.


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