Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Belieb it or not, Justin has a point

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber

Not for the first time pop star Justin Bieber has provoked the outrage of Twitter, this time over a guestbook message left following his visit to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam.

"Truly inspiring to be able to come here," he wrote. "Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber."

Crass, tasteless, insensitive and not a little egotistical. It is, of course, all of those things.

In defence of Bieber, he's a 19-year-old celeb, long the centre of his own universe and accustomed to measuring the world in terms of his fan base.

And interestingly, the museum itself has not joined in the clamour of criticism. While noting that the message could perhaps have been better worded, a spokeswoman refrains from calling it outright offensive.

Presumably the museum, quite rightly, reckons the visit of Bieber will bring to a new young audience the story of teenage Anne Frank, murdered by the Nazis along with millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

Anne was an extraordinary girl. But part of the reason why her diary, and her story, still resonate and touch so many hearts is that she was also such an ordinary girl.

Had she lived, this vibrant, outgoing teenager surely would have revelled in the music and youth culture of her day.

So in one respect maybe self-centred Bieber isn't that far off the mark.

Anne Frank was just one among all those other millions of other young people denied the chance to be ordinary, to be young – denied life itself, simply because they were Jewish.

Bieber, at least, has attempted to learn something about the horror of the Nazi death camps and the people who perished there.

He may score maximum points on the scale of self-regard.

But by pointing up Anne's story to his fan base – his so-called Beliebers – he may actually have done a good thing.

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