In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cassius tells Brutus,
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves.” When dealing with dictators and tyrants, that may often be the case but recently the fault in part seems to be our “stars.” In Russia, French actor Gerard Depardieu accepted Russian citizenship directly from the hands of Vladimir Putin after leaving France over its high taxes. Depardieu not only embraced the man who has destroyed the democratic movement in Russia but actually criticized Putin’s opposition which has risked jail and beatings to fight for free speech and other basic rights. In the meantime, actor Jackie Chan has again held forth in defense of China’s authoritarian government — telling Chinese that they need to stop criticizing the government in front of foreigners and that the U.S. is more corrupt than China.
In Russia, Depardieu showered praise on Putin, saying
“I like this man very much, he is a very powerful political activist. He has political wisdom.” Of course, his political wisdom was to crush opponents in the streets, fake personal accomplishments, and send critics to jail. The actor spent his first day as a Russia criticizing those who are demanding more rights: “The Russian opposition has no program, nothing. There are very smart people there, like (former world chess champion Garry) Kasparov, but what works well for chess is completely unsuited to politics.” It appears that Depardieu’s urinating openly on airplanes was not some fluke but his approach to both politics and personal hygiene. While many had rallied to Depardieu’s defense when he left France after the imposition of the 75% tax on the wealthy, he has now shown that he is entirely craven and corrupted in his values.
Over in China, Chan is showing the same contempt for civil liberties and critics of the Chinese regime. He previously called for protests to be curtailed in Hong Kong where citizens long enjoyed political freedom under British rule. He also castigated Chinese who criticize the regime: “We [can] talk about it when the door is closed. To outsiders, [we should say], ‘our country is the best.'” Of course, the regime that he is supporting will not allow people to criticize it “when the door is closed.”
Depardieu and Chan go beyond the usual nonsense from some celebrities who are out of touch with reality or contemptful of the struggles of average people. What is most disturbing is that these governments have cracked down the most on artists like themselves. These two stars are enjoying special status at the hands of two of the most repressive governments in the industrial world. They take these benefits gladly and turn on those who have sacrificed everything to fight for human rights. It is more than maddening. It is grotesque.