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There has been a lot of recent coverage on celebrity drug use as a result of the annual report from the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board warning that treating celebrities ‘leniently’ is undermining faith in the criminal justice system and has a damaging effect on young people. And whilst I agree, it struck a cord as the argument that young people see celebrities as true role models in the old-fashioned sense may well have lost some of its impact.
Today, young people are a lot more savvy, more aware. I recently heard the author of Wikenomics, Dan Tapscott (the man behind Wikipedia and author of many books) talk about his multi-million dollar research project, which showed, amongst other things how young people process information. Interesting enough, he found that young minds are ‘wired’ differently to ours due to the way that information is presented to them (the internet, facebook, myspace, youtube, mobile phones, computing in general, mulitmedia) and he feels that the great social and economic divide will soon be those young people who have been exposed to this, and those in developing countries who’s brains will still be wired like yours and mine.
Back to drug use and interestingly enough, if the media weren’t involved and we didn’t have individuals ‘caught on camera’, the impact might not be so great. It makes me think of elvis, the rolling stones, the beatles… the rock n’ roll lifestyle that has always been, and how we are prepared to forgive so much when it comes to those in creative industries… as we have always done. It seems that not only are our personal brands key here, even entire industries are branded and treated accordingly. We are still prepared to buy a movie ticket, a music CD, go to a concert, buy the goods that celebs endorse knowing that those involved use drugs. However, would we accept the same from our banker or doctor or personal trainer? I think not.
There will always be those who slavishly follow their idols, however, the rest of us recognise that drugs are slavery, and the best thing we can teach young people is how to be free. Often it is the media, not the celebrity that has the most clout and de-glamorising drug use should continue to be top of the agenda. And should celebs face the same penalties, well yes, after all we live in a democratic society, right?