By Richard Lee
At the start of the start of the HBO Max West Wing Special, Bradley Whitford, the actor who played Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on the NBC series, spoke directly to the audience and acknowledged entertainers may not be the best choice to do deliver messages on public policy.
“We understand that some people don’t fully appreciate the benefit of unsolicited advice from actors,” Whitford said.
But then he explained why he and the West Wing cast had decided to offer some unsolicited advice:
“If HBO was willing to point a camera at the 10 smartest people in America, we’d gladly clear the stage for them,” he said. “But the camera’s pointed at us, and we feel, at a time like this, that the risk of appearing obnoxious is too small a reason to say quiet.”
Whitford’s comments also help explain why the Jandoli Institute has decided to explore the relationship between music and social justice in a new project called Smart Notes, Smart Thoughts.
Efforts by political leaders to address social justice issues have fallen short.
Although some journalists have done outstanding work on social justice, the media industry itself is broken.
And much of the citizenry has simply tuned out.
So the camera is pointing at entertainers. By no means is entertainment the solution to all of the challenges confronting media and democracy in America. But it can be part of the solution, and we have chosen to examine a very powerful segment of the entertainment industry — music.
Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, is a former music journalist who often writes about the intersection of music and current events.