Bieber was right
So in case you don’t know: Justin Bieber went to Anne Frank’s house, said he hoped she’d have been a fan, and a lot of people were outraged. This put me in a bit of an awkward position: as a 25 year old who is bitter he isn’t younger, I naturally despise Bieber for his fame and success, and relish any opportunity to mock him for all his music that I haven’t actually listened to. And here’s an ideal opportunity to do so, except…
…except I think he was right, and what he said was important. I think his words show more understanding of what Anne Frank means – and of what a holocaust really is – than most of the responses to what he thought and wrote. And so I have to defend this stupid person and his stupid hair, because while I hate him quite a lot it is fair to say I hate fascism more.
To get the first thing out of the way: the surface criticism of Bieber’s comments was that they were arrogant. That’s understandable, but at the same time I’m not sure it’s fair. Justin Bieber really is a massive star, so it’s completely possible that Anne Frank would have been a fan of his had she been born seventy or so years later than she was. I can’t imagine how you can retain a sense of proportion about yourself when you’re at once a global phenomenon and a person who isn’t out of your teens, but at the same time I’m not convinced a comment like the one Bieber made represents a loss of proportion. What I think it represents is something like true understanding.
Because Bieber could only have written those words if he understood Anne Frank really was a teenage girl, just like the ones who yell his name and send him pants in the mail. He could only have said that if he understood that she was not just a symbol of innocence or power, but that she was a human: that as a human, she might well have loved his awful music and sent him some abashed tweets. To me, this is what the outrage may really be about: the idea that someone like Anne Frank shouldn’t be considered to be someone with trivial wants or normal tastes in music, that she loses dignity if she is anything other than extraordinary. But the reverse has to be true, because if we think only extraordinary people died in the ovens of the Holocaust we completely misunderstand why it was an atrocity: we forget that these were people like us, and that the Beliebers are, too.
I believe that this is a time where we are in danger of forgetting our common humanity, and that the young are among those whose hopes and fears can be the most overlooked. So I was glad Justin said what he did, and glad he knew what Anne Frank was. It’s vital that she could have been a Belieber. It’s essential that she is more than a girl who is dead.
this post first appeared here.
Come off it, you really think ANY of that was going through his head when he wrote that? This is like that Rabbi who said Anne Frank was into American pop culture. Maybe so but Beiber made that comment with no knowledge of that. There’s no real record of pop culture in that museum.
I was baffled about the uproar. A storm in a teacup, I thought, and like taking potshots at a sitting duck. So thanks for giving this incident some real context.
My initial reaction was that this was just a stupid and self-absorbed boy saying a stupid and self-absorbed thing.
I still suspect Rob is overstating Bieber’s insight – I don’t think we’re dealing with an idiot savant uniquely gifted in reaching the humanity of Anne Frank. And I certainly still think that that the reactions of Outraged of Social Media are utterly absurd and probably rather attention-seeking given the blandness of the wee man’s comments.
But the more I consider those comments the more I realise that they represent not an abnormal self-absorption but the totally normal kind. Because although most of us don’t have a neologism for it, all of us surely can relate to the sentiment: “She seemed nice. I hope she would have liked me.”
I am so happy to see someone articulating these thoughts. I’m not thrilled by the sight of adolescent girls going crazy over overpaid plastic pop idols (I wasn’t when I was an adolescent girl, yep, I was a weird one), but that’s part of adolescence (and occasionally beyond) for lots of people, and someone like that being murdered is every bit as tragic as someone more thoughtful or cynical or with better taste in music being murdered. It feels to me like by getting outraged at the suggestion that Ms Frank would have followed a crap popstar had she been around now, people are judging her life to have been inherently worth more than that of a more airheaded girl, and that makes me uncomfortable.