Celebrities are everywhere in modern society, and this cannot be denied. Their antics, be it drink-driving or drug-taking, make the front pages of newspapers and are discussed on the Web. But should we punish them more harshly for drug (legal and illegal) abuse?
All the Yes points:
- Celebrities and drugs
- Our treatment of celebrities reflects our national stance on drugs
- Celebrities endorse drug abuse
All the No points:
- Such measures would be unfair and unjust
- “Celebrity” is very hard to define
- Everyone should be treated equally
- Punishments should be the same
Celebrities and drugs
It is clear that young people today look up to celebrities. Magazines; the Internet; television; radio; posters; any form of media you name, there will be ‘celebrities’ there somewhere. Children and young people are constantly bombarded with images of what to be. Already, two-thirds of mothers feel they can’t compare to celebrities. And celebrities continually flaunt the system when it comes to drugs. Pete Doherty and Kate Moss snort cocaine. Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears drunkenly drive. Yet little or no action is taken. When an average person is caught drunkenly driving, they can expect fines and possible a custodial sentence. Paris Hilton was in jail for less than an hour before being released. What image does this set for young people? The media shows people committing drug-related offences and getting away with it, and hence it makes it socially acceptable for young people. Celebrities need harsher punishments to show young people that taking drugs is in no way acceptable.
There are two questions here. Firstly, what is a role model? Secondly, are young people as influenced by celebrities as the proposition makes it out to be?
The definition of a role model isn’t someone that a young person copies the behaviour of mindlessly. A definition of “role model” is someone worthy of imitation, implying that people wish to emulate the good aspects of a person’s character, such as their ability to sing or to play football, and not the aspects that are socially unacceptable, such as drug-taking. Remember, drug education in schools and colleges is larger and more in-detail than it ever was.
In addition, young people are not solely influenced by celebrities. They do not look up to one person alone, but a whole range of people, including parents, friends, teachers, members of the community. It is arguable whether celebrities or other people are of main importance to children; however, who is responsible for giving the young people drugs? Do celebrities hand out drugs? No. It is often friends or people known to the young person who push drugs on. Peer pressure is more of an influence on young people than the example of Pete Doherty, and it is not celebrities who are most to blame for young people getting into drugs, therefore sentencing celebrities more harshly would have little, if any, effect. We are all human, whatever happens to one person with drugs should be the same with others.
that would be not treating one person equally to another…bias
Our treatment of celebrities reflects our national stance on drugs
Celebrity is an international phenomenon. Those who we make famous can be found on the covers of magazines the world over, and they represent us on the world stage. People like Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson are well-known in other countries. But when our celebrities break the rules and are not punished (and it is fallacious to say that celebrities are punished equally and fairly), how does this make us look to other countries? Giving harsher punishments to celebrities who commit drug related offences shows that we can and will take a stand on drug abuse, be it alcohol or illegal narcotics. We will set an example to the rest of the world, that drug abuse is not acceptable.
By punishing celebrities more harshly than the regular public, we would not be reflecting our national stance on these offences to the world. Rather, we would be seen to be treating drug-abusers on the streets less harshly than they deserve. The offenders on the streets commit more of the drug related offences, including those that celebrities do not commit, such as petty theft to fund drug habits. If we want a fair system for all, we must make all drug-related sentencing harsher. After all, who is likely to take drugs in a country where the punishments include very lengthy jail sentences or even the death penalty?
In addition, very few celebrities have a truly global presence, and of those only a select few commit offences. Most of the celebrities who break the laws have fame restricted to that country, such as the contestants on Big Brother. How can we say that making celebrity sentences harsher will make other countries think again if those we’re punishing harsher have never been heard of in other countries?
Celebrities endorse drug abuse
The words “celebrity”, “advertising” and “media” go together like, to use the characters from a cereal advert, Snap, Crackle and Pop. Wherever you go, a celebrity is promoting the use of a beauty product, a new cleaning product, or another ingenious way for us to part company with our money. When a celebrity takes drugs, or drinks excessively, is this not endorsing such behaviour? Isn’t this just “Cannabis. Every little helps” or “Drink and drive. Just do it”? The International Narcotics Control Board has said that when celebrities take illegal drugs, it glamorises it. Making sentences harsher will discourage celebrities and make it less acceptable.
This argument is ludicrous. Can it really be suggested that people will think that drug-taking is acceptable because a celebrity has done it? Would people be more inclined to murder others because OJ Simpson might have done it? The amount of negative media coverage Kate Moss has gathered, such as cartoons and tabloid headlines, can only disprove this argument.
Such measures would be unfair and unjust
Our justice system works on the basis of fair and equal justice. Who are we to say that certain people deserve a harsher punishment than others? Giving harsher sentences to some than others creates two justice systems: one for ‘us’ and one for ‘them’, and this would be damaging to the justice system in general.
Celebrities are not “normal” people. They have been elevated above everyone else, fairly or unfairly. They enjoy benefits greater than other members of society, the massive gift packages given out at the Oscars being a sign of this. Is it not, in a sense, fairer to give celebrities punishments harsher than other members of society? They do more harm in their drug abuse – because by taking illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, they promote it to others and render it socially acceptable because they won’t get punished under the current system. They deserve harsher punishments and that is what they should receive.
“Celebrity” is very hard to define
There are some to whom the title of “celebrity” is clearly applicable; Hollywood film stars, international footballers… However, where is the line drawn when deciding who gets a harsh punishment or not? Are wives and girlfriends included? Is a person who got voted out on Big Brother a few years ago a celebrity? Is the friend of the mother of a film star a celebrity? It is impossible to define what is and isn’t a celebrity, and because of this we cannot have two separate punishment systems. Therefore, celebrities should receive the same level of punishment as normal citizens.
It is not impossible to define who is and who is not a ‘celebrity’ – all you have to do is to look at who is publicised highly by the media.
Everyone should be treated equally
If you were to walk into a shop, and there were two queues, one for rich and famous people and the other for the ‘regular’ shoppers, would you not think this was unfair? You would be upset and think to yourself “everyone is the same, just some are more fortunate than others”.
You would hope that everyone would be treated equally. And there are laws in place to try and encourage this. So, just as it is that famous and successful people are mostly meant to be treated equally and just as fairly in every other area (if with some slightly unfair advantages to being successful), why should they be punished any more harshly?
Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Making penalties more severe for celebrities would amount to plain discrimination. Besides, no rational criteria exist to define who’s more equal in law than others.
You don’t want young people looking up to these people seeing them do drugs, then you’re little kids all want to be “Famous” and so they think doing drugs will make them famous when it will only make them stoned.
Punishments should be the same
It should not be relevant whether a person committing a criminal act is male, female, single, married, famous or obscure. The punishment should match the crime as far as the courts are concerned.
What annoys me is the way in which some magazines glorify drug-taking. That is what has a bad influence on young people.
This is an argument of proportionality. If there is a crime committed a punishment needs to be delivered which is proportionate to the crime. This I agree with. But it is not only the act that is important when deciding punishment but the surrounding issues and context of the crime. If a woman takes drugs, there is one punishment which she should receive, the same as a man. However, if that woman took drugs whilst looking after her children, she should receive a harsher punishment, but still the same as that of a man who takes drugs in front of his children. With celebrities, they owe a similar duty of care. They have responsibility on their shoulders by being in the public lime light. Therefore, they too should receive a harsher punishment for drug taking.