Sonn: A 'View' to kill

BY BARRETT SONN | JULY 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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An opinion leader, as the name suggests, is a community leader whose judgment people trust.

Usually their opinions are trusted because they have demonstrated they are knowledgeable about a particular area. For example, some people view me as an opinion leader in the fields of pop culture and basketball (I just did the Jordan shrug). Unfortunately, we sometimes put the title of “opinion leader” on an individual based on merits that have nothing to do with that given “opinion.”

And in the worst cases, people will designate themselves as opinion leaders in areas they have no business being in. The best examples are famous people. We want their opinions on everything, from 9/11 to that one big trial that ended a few days ago. But really, who cares what they think?

Even when their opinions are for the advancement of society, such as NFL player Chris Kluwe’s same-sex activism, I find myself asking why we choose to focus on what famous people think. Do their views warrant more weight than us common people?

Say hello to the newest host of ABC’s “The View,” Jenny McCarthy. She is known for a couple of things, such as being a 1993 Playboy model and also for being an opinion leader on the topic of vaccines. She fervently believes son Evan developed autism because of vaccines, and she has just as fervently advocated against the use of vaccines. But she’s just one person, you say. How much of an influence could she have?

Well, according to a 2008 USA Today/Gallup poll, one out of four adults said they were aware of her views on vaccines, and 40 percent of those adults also said they were now more likely to be skeptical about the safety of vaccines thanks to McCarthy. Her effect is also being seen in the world of medicine. Some scientists credit the uprising of measles and whooping cough to her and her influence on mothers specifically.

This phenomenon is extra unsettling because she’s not even that big of a celebrity. Imagine if somebody with real star power, such as Beyoncé or Oprah, were staunch opponents of vaccines. The implications are frightening and even potentially devastating. Of course, McCarthy now has a national TV audience (an audience chock full of mothers) to spew her skewed beliefs.

ABC now faces a critical storm rivaling anything found on “Deadliest Catch,” and network officials have said they are set on their decision. Another host of “The View,” Barbara Walters, has also voiced her support for McCarthy in a statement. She says McCarthy brings intelligence, which might be true, but in all the wrong ways. She says McCarthy is a great addition, which is like saying stinging jellyfish are a welcome addition on crab pots when you’re fishing on a tight deadline with one man down with a broken ankle and a greenhorn who got himself into more than he can handle.  

All I’m saying is that I hope desperately that McCarthy has a very short run on “The View.” A national TV audience is the last thing this woman needs in the palm of her hands. I think of the big Pan Am blimp from Scarface, and imagine her in that scenario, just looking up at the sky and reading the words “The World is Yours.” And by God, I shudder.

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