Posted by: Frederik Balfour on May 5, 2008
Last Friday when Mia Farrow spoke at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club here in Hong Kong she was asked by the Consul General of Saudi Arabia why she had not taken up the case of the Palestinians and others in plight. She replied that as a mother of 14 and a movie actress, that trying to raise awareness of the problems in Darfur was keeping her plenty busy enough. The room broke into spontaneous applause.
Of course Hollywood actors have a long history of championing causes. Richard Gere is a long-time supporter of Tibet, Sean Penn went on a fact-finding mission to Iraq before the war and of course Jane Fonda famously visited Hanoi in what was then North Vietnam in 1968. Many others including Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore and more recently Angelina Jolie have worked as goodwill ambassadors for various UN organizations.
But as Alex Williams of the New York Times wrote a couple of days ago, celebrities are now using social networking sites Fanista and Youtube to promote their causes—in this case, the problems in Burma. An A-list of actors including Will Farrell, Jason Biggs, Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Aniston appear in short videos, a new one aired each day throughout May. The aim is to galvanize public opinion about the extreme suffering by the Burmese at the hands of the brutal military dictatorship led by General Tan Shwe, who ordered a crackdown against a peaceful demonstration the left dozens of Buddhist monks and other protesters dead last fall.
Unfortunately few of these videos will be seen in neighboring Cambodia. According to a Xinhua report citing the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that only 13,000 people have internet accounts, which is less than one tenth of a percent of the population.