Not being 13, I have never consciously listened to a Justin Bieber song. However, it has been hard not to be aware of his charming button nose and allegedly artfully youthful appearance in some paper or magazine somewhere in the world. Harder still not to know that he is a tween heartthrob and takes his influence seriously enough to be a fervent “Belieber” himself.
I suppose he’s in (if not always good company) at least quite a crowd. According to Twitter, @justinbieber is the world’s most popular celebrity account with more than 37 million followers. Apparently, another follower signs up to the account every other second.
That gives young Justin enormous clout (and I’m spelling it as it always was, not in the way of Klout, which describes itself as “the standard for influence”. Klout, by the way, gave Bieber a 100 rating or whatever they call the figures that tell you what other people really think of you).
Unsurprising then that the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam doesn’t mind at all that Bieber described the 15-year-old Holocaust victim as a “great girl… Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.”
While almost everyone else works themselves up into a rage at Bieber’s “self-absorption”, the Anne Frank house said the 19-year-old singer’s comments were “quite innocent” and they thought it was more important to note that “he was here for more than an hour and interested in Anne Frank’s life…”
Quite so. And it’s perfectly possible that Anne Frank might have been a Belieber had she been on the cusp of adolescence today. Part of what made her diary so evocative, was that she was the typical teenager.
Anyway, what did anyone expect Bieber to say? He’s adored by his young fans for looking and sounding the way they want to be. That’s hardly likely to be someone who comments gravely on the Holocaust.
One of the most amusing sidebars to this story is Funny or Die’s spoof take, Justin Bieber’s Thoughts On 10 Other Historical Figures. Check it out to find out what Bieber might have said (but didn’t) about civil rights leader Susan B Anthony (“Hopefully, my song ‘One less lonely girl’ would have eased her suffraging”); the remarkable Helen Keller (“I can’t think of one good reason why she wouldn’t listen to my music”); Mother Theresa (“Much respect to Theresa and all the mothers out there. Without my mom, I wouldn’t be the down-to-earth person I am today”).
One of the more canny comments I heard on the BBC World Service today was that of a UK spokeswoman for the Anne Frank house. She said it was all to the good that many more people were talking about this issue today, April 15, 2013, on account of Bieber. Today, she reminded us, is the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald camp, outside Weimar, eastern Germany, where the Nazis killed 56,000 people. Had the Bieber row not happened, people wouldn’t have paid attention, she suggested.
In other words, Bieber’s inclination to self-promotion has helped a ‘cause’ promote itself.
Cause and effect; affecting a cause?