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Commentary: Conservative dismissals of celebrity political opinions are lazy and unhelpful

Fox News host Laura Ingraham criticized NBA players LeBron James and Kevin Durant for their harsh comments about President Donald Trump. This is the kind of discourse that widens the ideological divide in our nation, and hinders the growth of conservatism. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

“Shut up and dribble.”

That was Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s suggestion to NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant after the release of a video interview in which the two basketball players criticized President Donald Trump.

Here are her full comments:

Must they run their mouths like that? Unfortunately, a lot of kids — and some adults — take these ignorant comments seriously. Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in LeBron for kids: This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA. And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball. Oh, and LeBron and Kevin: You’re great players but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach. So keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, shut up and dribble.

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This type of response makes for good television, and elicits a positive response from those who don't ever care to hear from people with different opinions.

But it’s also lazy and unproductive, and is exactly the kind of discourse that widens the ideological divide in our nation, and hinders the growth of conservatism, especially among younger people. This kind of condescending, venomous media has poisoned political conversation in America as it trickles down into the words to those who consume it regularly.

What is the goal of political discourse, whether it’s in the media or in everyday life? If it’s to influence voters to make the decisions we believe best serve the nation, then “just shut up” is the worst response we can have to those we disagree with.

I don’t personally believe LeBron James and Kevin Durant have anything compelling to say about politics. I feel the same about most Hollywood celebrities.

But there are many people who care what celebrities have to say, and many who take them seriously, as Ingraham admits. If that’s the case, then it’s foolish for her to use her platform to insult both the celebrities and the people who identify with them, rather than taking an opportunity to correct and influence them.

When she insults LeBron James for only having a high school education, she insults millions of people who never went to college. When she insults someone who makes money playing sports, she insults people who are, or who dream of becoming, professional athletes. When she says “no one voted for you,” she implies that only the winners of elections can have a valid opinion.

I don't think anyone voted for Ingraham either, yet there she is, on television day after day, giving us her political commentary. Why? Because people care what she has to say, just like some care about LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

If nothing else, the fact that the president is a wealthy man with no political background should give us pause before we tell someone their opinion is invalid because of who they are, how much money they make, or what they do for a living. You don't have to be a politician to be political. And you never had to be a politician for your opinion to matter.

Celebrities are always going to have something to say about politics, because people are always going to be asking them. And they should always have something to say, because if they’re citizens of this country, we should take no joy in silencing them.

So when a celebrity gives an opinion, even if it’s uninformed or offensive, instead of telling them to shut up, let’s actually have something to say. Seek to reach and influence people with truth, rather than trying to silence them. If we don’t start engaging those who disagree with us in a more civil and empathetic manner, we’re just going to be talking to ourselves. And that’s not how you change people’s minds, nor is it how you change the country for the better.

One last thing…
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