What does it take to embarrass songstress Mariah Carey? A scheduled performance for murderous and off-center dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Carey and other celebrities like Nelly Furtado, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Usher are backpedaling on performing for dictators like Qaddafi, who has most recently murdered hundreds of protesters in an attempt to maintain power in Libya during the pro-democracy movement sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
Carey is the latest celebrity to be implicated in the scandal where already ridiculously rich and popular singers perform for dictators for copious amounts of cash. Beyoncé recently came under fire for the $2 million she earned performing at an exclusive party on the Caribbean island of St. Barts in 2009 for the Qaddafi clan. She says she donated the money to the Haitian relief effort, but does that make it OK? Carey performed the previous year for $1 million, and even Lionel Richie performed at Qaddafi's 2005 "Peace Concert" to celebrate 20 years of Libya's resistance against the United States.
In a statement, Carey says she was naive about the booking of the performance and feels "horrible and embarrassed." She also adds that performers must bear responsibility and be aware of for whom they are performing. To make good, the singer is donating the proceeds of a new song she wrote for her upcoming album to organizations to raise awareness for human rights. Furtado has also said that she will donate her $1 million to a worthy cause.
Donating the money is a step in the right direction, but Carey is on point with being embarrassed. She should be embarrassed as well as the others, because Qaddafi didn't just get treacherous. His history and the relationship of Libya to the United States has always been complicated. Even Ronald Reagan called him the "Mad Dog of the Middle East," so Qaddafi's tendencies are not even remotely new.
When multimillionaires many times over feel the need to perform for a dictator, it is more a result of sheer greed than naiveté, as Carey's camp suggests. Is it the fact that Libya pays in U.S. dollars, their form of currency, that makes it super easy to get paid?
Performing for dictators is not cool. We won't paint all celebrities with a broad brush — remember the "Sun City" protest project of the 1980s, led by Steven Van Zandt, that included Miles Davis, Melle Mel, Run-DMC and George Clinton? Celebrities pledged not to perform in South Africa until apartheid ended. There is a history of rejecting countries that do not honor or support human rights. Not performing for dictators should be common sense, not just a public relations issue.
Read more at MSNBC.