The Ethics of Singing For Muammar…No, Wait, I Mean José

Mariah-CareyIt is seldom that an ethics controversy repeats itself so exactly that I am tempted to re-run a previous post word for word with just a couple of names changed, but the flack Mariah Carey is getting from human rights activists and others for accepting a million bucks to perform for Angola’s dictator is just such an instance.

I wrote about this situation in 2011, when Nelly Furtado (and Carey) were under fire for performing for the late Muamar Gaddafi, when he was dictating to Libya.  I officially incorporate said post into this one, in full.  Just read it here, with “Mariah” substituted wherever I wrote “Nelly,” “Carey” for “Furtado,” and the name of Angola’s president, José Eduardo dos Santos, wherever the dead Libyan leader’s name appears.It all still applies. To sum up for the large percentage of people who, surveys say, can’t be bothered to click on links, it’s completely bogus criticism.

Here’s Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen sputtering about Carey:

“Mariah Carey can’t seem to get enough dictator cash, reportedly more than $1 million this time. Just five years ago she performed for the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Now, she goes from private performances to public displays of support and credibility for one of Africa’s chief human rights violators and most corrupt tyrants.”

How, exactly, does taking a million dollars from a bad guy to entertain him “support him” in any way? Doing business with someone doesn’t “support” every wrongful thing he does. The U.S. chooses whether to do business with awful regimes like China and Russia based on U.S. interests, not theirs. U.S. corporations should not be expected to boycott every nation with a vicious leader. That’s foreign policy, not business. There are legitimate objections to be raised when a company directly underwrites slave labor, for example, but that situation doesn’t apply to Carey. She’s singing. She isn’t hurting anybody, unless someone listening feels about Mariah’s singing the way I do.

If dos Santos bought a ticket to a Carey concert in the states, would she get the same criticism? Why not? Who knows what other terrible people Carey has performed for…that any entertainer performs for? It’s costing dos Santos a ridiculous amount of money, that’s all. Taking money from dictators and putting it into the U.S. economy is a good thing. Brava. A dumb dictator and his money are soon parted, or something like that.

To his credit, Carey’s manager, Jermaine Dupri, has insisted that his client (and he himself, as some of that money is undoubtedly going into his pocket)  has nothing to be sorry about, and when asked if Carey was remorseful for performing for another dictator after she profusely apologized for her concert for Gaddafi, he answered,  “Why should she be?”

Well, to be fair, there’s the little matter of consistency and integrity, since Mariah claims to be a human rights activist herself (uh-huh) and begged for forgiveness when she and Nellie were being pilloried for serenading Muammar. Still, that was more than two years ago, she’s under different management, she can change her mind, and frankly, she shouldn’t have apologized then. She’s not selling bombs, she’s selling her music, and whose ears it massages is not her concern.

She has done nothing wrong.

Just like Nelly.


Facts: Huffington Post, Breitbart

Graphic:  HD Wallpapers

16 thoughts on “The Ethics of Singing For Muammar…No, Wait, I Mean José

  1. I actually agree, but may I yield to the temptation to play devil’s advocate?

    It’s unethical to receive stolen goods, or presumably to accept payment in them. A dictator’s money is stolen, either through corruption or through taxation without representation. If he’d bought a ticket, it wouldn’t have been the knowing acceptance that it was in this case.

    Another angle is that the dictator believed the concert was worth more than the money. He believed the transaction was to his benefit. Is it unethical to benefit evil people?

    Yet another is that many people consider it unethical to criticize a customer publicly, which means compromising the ethical duty to condemn human rights abuses.

    Dang. I may end up convincing myself.

    • What if the dictator believed that Mariah’s song made him immortal? Who cares what he believes? Since when are artists constrained by the beliefs of audience members?

      And this argument, which I deal with in the Furtado piece, is just bats.What’s better, for him to keep his money, however it was obtained, or for him to give it to someone who will not use it to do more evil? The contract with Mariah cleanses the money. I spit on the “dirty money” theory. Money is money.

      • The point being that it was a transaction that made the dictator happy. A free commercial transaction is one that leaves both parties better off.

        I understand the idea that commerce is valuable enough that it should be protected against likes and dislikes, but making a dictator better off sets off an alarm for me.

        Would you really accept payment for one of your classes in the form of a pile of stolen stereos?

        • What? We cannot expect independent contractors to make those kinds of (dubious) moral distinctions when the nations themselves don’t make them. Mariah’s music can presumably make Jose happy whether she is there to sing it or not—happiness is not a commodity, nor is it the kind of tangible benefit properly subjected to boycotts. So only unenjoyable musical acts should be able to accept money to play for dictators?

        • Wouldn’t a more appropriate question be to ask Jack if he would accept payment to give an ethics seminar to a dictator and his inner circle?

          I’d be willing to bet it would be the last ethics seminar Jack would give… Unless he’s just a super salesman and next thing we know North Korea, overnight, gains the world’s freest market with the world’s most representative and limited government.

  2. Two points to consider: (1.) If Mariah performed a show consisting of her greatest hits, I don’t see what the problem is. (2.) If she had written a song especially for him, “Hail Glorious Leader” or “Hymn to dos Santos” and actually performed it, then there would be a problem. Actually Dennis Rodman worries me much more at this point.

    • I must’ve glazed over this when I read it the first time:

      “She isn’t hurting anybody, unless someone listening feels about Mariah’s singing the way I do.”

      Oh, HELL no. Mariah’s da bomb.

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