Artists Seen as Politically Influential if Backed by Constituencies

The Bled Strategic Forum panel (Soft) Power of Creativity: The Entertainment Industry in International Relations concluded that artists and performers do have the power to influence politics as ambassadors and that politicians and government are in fact afraid of them if they have large constituencies behind them. 

Discussing the recent example of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini arguing with US actor Richard Gere on Twitter, the Slovenian actor Sebastian Cavazza said that this was an example of artists having “smart power and soft power”.

A majority of artists are generous and altruistic in presenting their attitudes about relevant topics concerning society, and they reconnect people and do something helpful, he said of Gere distributing aid among migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Prof Zlatko Šabič, Professor of International Relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, said that artists as individuals had a lot of power, as young people were very much aware that they do make a difference and get recognized.

While it was more up to states to use artists for diplomatic purposes, this is more down to artists today, but they need to have constituencies behind them who would transform this energy into a political change, he added.

Slovenian actress Katarina Čas could not tell how much artists should be involved in politics, and she personally is trying to stay out of politics as much as possible, otherwise she would have become a politician.

 “There is a very thin line of how much an artist should be involved in politics,” she said, adding that they should perhaps find a middle ground because it could really backfire. But she agrees that “as an artist you still have influence”.

Prof Bill Elliott, Professor of Contemporary Writing and Production at the Berklee College of Music in the United States, stressed that the role of entertainers was to influence young people. “It is useful for an artist to be connected with politicians and influence young people.”

According to him, there is a connection between audiences and votes, and a politician can become interested in an artist because of their audience, as perhaps they can translate large audience numbers into votes.