Justin Bieber, the 19-year-old pop singer whose Believe tour has scarcely left the media over the last few weeks, created an international outcry after leaving a message in the guestbook of the Anne Frank Museum. His message read "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."
The comments, though indefensibly self-centered and misdirected at a time when he should have been reflecting on the life of an important historical figure, still do not warrant the level of vitriol that he has received. Here is a 19-year-old teenager, and not just any teenager, a teenager who could be anywhere and doing anything he wants, and he has chosen to take time out to visit the Anne Frank Museum.
Not only this, but it doing so has brought to the attention of his millions of fans who hang, rightly or wrongly, on almost every word he says. In my view, I'd far prefer him to be bringing something as historically significant as the Anne Frank Museum to the attention of his fans rather than, say, the latest youtube craze. Even if in doing so he made some immature and misjudged, but not overtly offensive comments.
Right now, across the twitterverse, his 37million 'Beliebers' are googling, learning about and tweeting about a critical point of world history. It's a shame that it took a situation like this for that to be the case, but this is the modern world. Our key historical and cultural figures, the great lessons from our past, our master artists and our grand thinkers all now compete for the attention of young people in a world where there is so much more to do.
Of course no one wants the crassness of celebrity to dirty something as pure and historical as the Anne Frank Museum, but sometimes in today's celebrity obsessed culture a bit of celebrity attention is needed. I'll be the first to fall in line and bemoan those celebrities who surreptitiously link themselves to charities, worthwhile causes and historical events. As an indecent act of crass inhumanity you it is wrong on many levels. But that's not what I see here, I may well be wrong, but what I see here is a teenager who has been raised in a boiling pot of of PR from an early age, who seems to truly want to do good by his family and fans and who seemingly struggles to express himself in a way that comes across sincere.
When even the museum itself has said that they valued his visit, it's time for people to accept it for it was.
"The Anne Frank House was pleased to welcome Justin Bieber to the Anne Frank House last Friday. We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary."
Silly, yes. Disgusting, no.