Professional Chauvinism At “Above The Law”


Lawyers really need to get over themselves. This post, by Staci Zaretski at the legal gossip site “Above the Law,” was introduced in my e-mail inbox with this line:

“Amal Clooney’s lifetime achievements are far greater than those of her husband, George Clooney. Where’s her award?”

The flip answer would be: “George Clooney.” But to the point: one has to have an enhanced regard for the profession of the law and a dismissive and culturally ignorant attitude towards the arts to state that “Amal Clooney’s lifetime achievements are far greater” than those of George Clooney.” Zaretski is welcome to her biases, but by any fair measure, the lifetime achievements of an actor of Clooney’s popularity, daring and prominence far outstrips those of a lawyer like Amal Alamuddin Clooney.  “Above the Law” makes its case thusly:

“Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected to a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip.”

Hundreds of lawyers worked on the Enron case(s): you will have to prove to me that she had some special impact that another lawyer with similar skills, and there are thousands, would not have. So she was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria: is Zaretsky aware that Annan’s misguided and naive efforts to broker a Syrian peace saved not a single life, and may well have blocked more substantive and effective initiatives? Then she served on a commission “investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip.” Translation: she is a willing participant in the U.N. effort to demonize Israel for defending itself from Hamas shelling.  She also is defending Julian Assange. I don’t hold that against her: he’s a criminal, but he deserves a defense. Would he have not gotten one without Amal Clooney? Of course he would have.

Where’s her lifetime achievement award? Well, that’s up to her peers in the legal profession, and if she doesn’t get one, it’s because what she has accomplished just isn’t that unique, momentous or special. She’s a lawyer, that’s all. I’m sure she’s a good one. But Above the Law’s  implication that what she does dwarfs the significance of her husband’s achievements in his field merely tells me that Zaretski is one of those uncultured people who dash for the parking lot after one of my theater’s performances, and can’t be bothered to stay to show some respect and appreciation of the actors by applauding a littel. You know, it’s just a play…or in Clooney’s case, a movie.

Where his wife is more or less fungible in her profession, Clooney is undeniably a unique presence and talent in his. He is the only person ever to be nominated for Academy Awards in six categories, and in the process of exploring ethics, morality, courage and national policy in such important films (that may never have been made, or have been successful, without his involvement) like “Out of Sight” (1998), “Three Kings” (1998), “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005), “The Ides of March” (2011), “Syriana” (2005),  “Michael Clayton” (2007), “Up in the Air” (2009) and “The Descendants” (2011), and “Argo” (2013), Clooney made over a billion dollars for his industry, gave thousands of people jobs, entertained millions across the globe, enlightened them, started debates, and did what artists are supposed to do and need to do: make people feel and think–and he did it in ways that only George Clooney could. For Zaretski to dismiss this impressive and outstanding record of professional accomplishment shows her bias and ignorance regarding the entertainment industry and what it takes to be a successful movie star of Clooney’s magnitude. There are thousands of international lawyers who could do exactly what his lawyer wife does, and that’s not to diminish her skills or the importance of the law in any way. There is exactly one actor who can do what George Clooney does: George Clooney.

Zaretski chose a particularly poor example to denigrate. Clooney has been exemplary in using his prominence, celebrity and resources for non-show business related projects:

  • He  served as one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace since  2008.
  • He was an outspoken advocate of finding a resolution for the Darfur conflict.
  • He raised millions for the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2004 Tsunami, and 9/11 victims.
  • He has made serious documentaries such as “Sand and Sorrow” (about Darfur) to raise awareness about international crises.
  • He serves as a member of the non-profit  Council on Foreign Relations.

In fact, a strong argument could be made that Clooney’s achievements in his wife’s field of human rights and international relations have exceeded hers.

Zaretski’s gratuitous swipe at George Clooney reveals her ignorance regarding the demands and importance of the performing arts, and her ill-founded belief that lawyers are innately more valuable to society than artists. As someone who is both, I can say with some authority that they are not.

George Clooney deserves her respect, and ours.

19 thoughts on “Professional Chauvinism At “Above The Law”

  1. The description of Amal Alamuddin Clooney’s accomplishments comes from Tina Fey’s introduction at the Golden Globes. It was obviously intended as a joke. The “Where’s her award” cover to the e-mail may or may not have originated with Zaretzki.

    • Her post isn’t a joke, though. I saw Tina’s gag—I got it. It’s a little like African_Americans making jokes denigrating African Americans. I presume Fey knows that show business isn’t trivial. “Above the Law’s” spin, however, is both offensive and dumb, however. The Where’s her Award? overview is the only justification for covering Fey’s remarks at all.

  2. Jack, A few months back you posted an article that had reference to Terri Schiavo. Is there a way to search *Ethics Alarms *archives – or can you point that post to me?

    If you can help me, *Thanks! *If not, that’s OK. Keep up your interesting commentary.

    *The power to choose is all we really possess. We must use it wisely. *

  3. “Zaretski is one of those uncultured people who dash for the parking lot after one of my theater’s performances,” or leave to review the movie for the culture section without bothering to finish watching it…

    On a different note: I have seen exactly none of those movies you listed. I’m willing to cop to being not particularly interested in the arts, but I still think Zaretzki is an idiot. The last thing I saw with Clooney in it was “The Monuments Men” which I liked.

  4. On a brighter note, most of the responses to the insightful blog post ridiculed her for being less than, . . . erm . . . um.. . . insightful. I liked that post asking how many non-actors received Life Time Achievement awards from the Golden Globes. Precisely, Stacy.


    • Did she really assume that Fey’s teasing of Clooney was anything but a gag? That Fey and the rest of Hollywood don’t regard him as their modern day Cary Grant, a god? Even Fey’s joke made little sense in context, but jokes don’t have to stand intense scrutiny.

  5. I think most people are aware that George Clooney’s political views are left of center, but that doesn’t restrain him from raising questions that make all sides squirm.

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