Now I’m a belieber

15 Apr

It started as a joke. A joke about a silly story.

I was struck by the angry reactions in the media following Justin Bieber’s visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Bieber had put on a show in The Netherlands the day before and he’d also gone to Amsterdam to get a guided tour of the house where the 13-year-old Jewish girl Anne Frank had lived until she and her family were betrayed, taken away by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camps. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen, and 19-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber had just finished learning all about her story, wandering through the attic where she’d hidden away for years, when he penned in her guestbook the following words.

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

A belieber. One of the million screaming teenage girls who pray for a chance to see Justin Bieber in concert. Immediately the world media poured scorn over him. Huffington Post -normally not the most politically correct of websites- had as its headline:

Justin, no. Just No.

But I was struck more by the outrage people were expressing than by Bieber’s words. So I went on the internet myself and started tweeting about it. Why? That’s a good question. At some point I asked it myself and couldn’t find a good answer. I’m 47 years old and I couldn’t find one good reason why I would spend an evening writing about ‘Biebergate’ as the New York Times was by now calling the event. Swept up, however, in amazement by the all the emotion this was unleashing, I kept on tweeting. I congratulated Justin for going to the Anne Frank House and prompting millions of teenage girls to ask themselves who the hell Anne Frank was (and where, precisely, Amsterdam is).

I got some angry reactions, and that fuelled my fire. Jews for Justin, I said. That’s the name of my new fanclub. OK, I was kidding… But yeah, I’m Jewish. And no, I’m not insulted by the Bieb. I promptly got a call from the other Beeb. The BBC. Would I like to comment on the air about the latest Frankoversy? Sure, why not. So I did, and I repeated on air, twice, that I agreed with the Bieb. I believe Anne Frank would’ve been a belieber, I said. No doubt I pissed more people off. But I still didn’t realize why I was doing it. After hours of social media madness, perversely proud that I had managed to drag dozens of rational adults into a conversation about Justin Bieber, I went to bed.

In the morning, I knew why I had said it.

It was because of the reverence with which the masses now insist we speak of Anne Frank. Justin Bieber treaded upon a sacred name. And that’s what’s wrong with this picture. Anne Frank, and I know this because I read her diary, was a normal teenage girl who wanted to lead a normal teenage life. Justin saw the fading pictures of movie stars on her wall in the attic, and rightly perceived the spirit of that young girl. She longed to be like other kids her age. To go to movies, see the stars. Stars like…Justin.

But there’s a body of opinion out there – god knows how this works – that clicks into action when someone has said something entirely human about someone who’s supposed to be more than human. It’s not allowed. People start to forbid, to shame, to shun the messenger. No, Anne Frank was not a teenager, they seem to suggest. She was a saint. We must keep her on her pedestal. A martyr. A victim who in her suffering spoke out, and did so in the name of freedom, justice, the human spirit, et cetera.

But Anne Frank was just a girl. A girl with a plain face. A flesh and blood teenage girl who had sexual feelings and a crush on the boy living in the secret annex with her family. She was not a saint. And her power lies in the fact that she was just a girl. Like all victims of crime, big or small, they have far more impact on us if we see them for what they are. People. With faults and freckles. Let’s neither isolate Anne Frank as if she lived to be a museum attraction, nor elevate her into a religious icon.

Justin unwittingly did a great thing. Thank god the reverence had not gotten to him. Yet. He is now being flogged in the media and forced to repeat a thousand times I do worship Anne Frank, I do worship Anne Frank. Don’t do it!

Stay a belieber, Justin. You’ve got at least one Jew on your side.


16 Reacties to “Now I’m a belieber”

  1. Stijn april 15, 2013 bij 9:14 am #

    The “problem” or controversy isn’t in my opinion because the wish of someone that Anne Frank would have been a girl liking popstars, or even a particular popstar.

    But Justin Bieber HIMSELF tought about Anne Frank being a fan OF HIM right after he visited the Anne Frank House. Maybe (let’s pray for this) I’m wrong and Justin meant this on a total different level, but your world is pretty small if you think about Anne Frank being a fan of you right after you heard her story. I can’t think of any bigger examples of narcissism that happened lately.

    • Jo april 16, 2013 bij 1:11 pm #

      I completely agree with Stijn.
      This is not about all the things people like to see into it.
      It is ‘just’ about being annoyed that someone who just learned and read about Anne Frank could come up with a comment that was all about him.
      He is 19, he is an adult, he is the age when other men all over the world risk and often give their lives for their ideals.
      The age when young people in the Netherlands joined the resistance.
      An age when not everyone is narcissistic, but he was.
      It is just tacky, bad manners.
      I would have been just as annoyed as he had written that comment when visiting any kind of museum about the war or another disastrous event.
      A museum visit should make you stop thinking about yourself for a moment, put things into perspective and realise what life was like for others.
      Not about if someone would have liked you.

      • Amanda april 16, 2013 bij 3:05 pm #

        I totally agree, it’s just not appropriate to say something like that.

        “Justin saw the fading pictures of movie stars on her wall in the attic, and rightly perceived the spirit of that young girl.” The problem is, uh… no, he didn’t. He was being Justin, a teenage boy with too much fame going through a LOT of growing up and who honestly just doesn’t know better. This 19 year old kid is going through a lot of things lately that I’m wondering if the OP knows about at all; Leaving a baby monkey in Germany that is too young for him to have in the first place, sucking down sizzurp, the marijuana, refusing cars because they’re the wrong shade of white, the thing in the UK where he showed up 2 hours late and his young school age fans were left all night out in the cold because the concert overshot the times of the trains? I’m very sorry, but this speaks volumes. This is a kid who is as self centered as most children his age. He did NOT write what he did because he understood Anne Frank, he wrote what he did because he’s Justin Bieber.

        It’s good that little girls are going ‘Wait, who’s that?’ but there are better ways to introduce Anne Frank’s story to the youth. In the United States, Anne Frank’s book is required reading in high school for a reason, I read it myself. Some may think she’s over-glorified? Well then YOU just try and go through what she did. Then maybe you’ll have a little respect for someone else.

  2. harrie april 15, 2013 bij 9:26 am #

    wowww, good story

    • Jurriaan Schreuder april 15, 2013 bij 9:58 am #

      Common man, the guy is 19 years old, at that age being narcissistic is perfectly normal. If you’re going to be upset about people being narcissistic, go complain about rap music, I qoute: “I am the boss, everybody is my bitch” (or something like that). He is just saying: I hope she would have liked me and my music and the things I do. He is not saying: Anne Frank should cut herself for Bieber and tweet about it. You are all blowing this way out of proportion. I also think you hurt his feelings and are way worst than him, saying he is such an indecent human being and that he lives in a small world. I think he has been to more countries than you. I hope the whole world loves me and not just Anne Frank, here you go, a biggier example of narcissism that happened lately. Just hasn’t been in the news as often. Now you can complain to me if you have more complains about people being to narcissistic for your precious opinion.

  3. Frank de Vries april 15, 2013 bij 9:40 am #

    I still think that Bieber guy is an annoying a-hole!

  4. Jonathan Groubert april 15, 2013 bij 9:45 am #

    You, sir, have hit the nail on his moronic, perfectly coiffed head. That’s 2 Jews for Justin.

  5. Circle of Conversation april 15, 2013 bij 10:27 am #

    It is true Anne Frank’s story was a tragic one. Fast forward – Anne Frank was a teenage girl and Justin Bieber is a young guy. He had an honest reaction and possibly a spontaneous reaction, we have all been there. So what? Great that he went to the Anne Frank house! Now more people on this planet know a little more about Anne Frank. What are we busy with? As if there were not bigger issues for these major publications to focus on. Tomorrow there will be someone new to complain about…What was that song by Michael Jackson? Was it ‘Leave Me Alone?’

  6. Wolfling april 15, 2013 bij 11:08 am #

    Let’s go to a memorial for the shootings in Sandy Hook, Newton, or for the shootings in Columbine, or the attacks on the twin towers in New York, and write “hopefully they were all Bieber fans”.

    If this kind of thing doesn’t seem inappropriate to you, you have a very strange world view, in my opinion. This has nothing to do with the sanctification of Anne Frank. It has to do with young Mr. Bieber lacking any sort of empathy for the victims of such horrors and only thinking about his celebrity status.

    Shame on the people that created “The Bieb” for keeping him this far removed from reality.

    Also, you being “a Jew” has very little relevance in this case I think.



    • Wolfling april 15, 2013 bij 11:21 am #

      That said, I agree that the whole issue has been blown out of all proportion. We all know what self centered little gits kids become when they are recruited for the entertainment industry at such a young age.
      It’s nothing new. Unfortunately.

    • RChesal april 15, 2013 bij 12:10 pm #

      We don’t need to go back to Sandy Hook to know that those kids were just kids who died because of some maniac’s sick fantasies. But the passage of time and Anne Frank’s elevation into a symbol of the Holocaust has, indeed, led to her sanctification (thanks for the word!). So we have great difficulty looking at her in the same way we look at those kids from Sandy Hook. Anne has become larger than life. Bieber, in his own clumsy way, maybe even by failing to see her great significance, brought her back to the proportions where we can see her for what she was. A kid.

  7. Ricardo Wijngaarde april 15, 2013 bij 12:27 pm #

    Great article period.

  8. Drias april 15, 2013 bij 6:29 pm #

    I agree with you Robert. Anne is not a saint. If some Dutch don’t bother what Wilders said, or some Dutch find okay to mock Jesus, why they now bother if some Bieber say stupid things..

  9. Toby april 15, 2013 bij 9:34 pm #

    Ah, now I understand your Tweets. Yes, I was thinking exactly along these lines last night.

  10. San april 19, 2013 bij 9:13 pm #

    You nailed it, Robert! You made beliebe again!

  11. Merle Naylor januari 9, 2015 bij 10:07 am #

    What a beautifully expressed, heartwarming and honest piece of writing.

    I totally disagree with the sentiment that the writer’s Jewishness is irrelevant. Such a view cannot avoid paradoxical ground, therefore if Mr Chesal feels it is relevant, then it is!

    As ever Mr Chesal writes like a top chef cooks, with the perfect combination of elements, leaving one with a wonderful taste in the mouth and a sensation of perfect satiety.

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