Ordinarily I wouldn't let people know my opinion on something like this, much less put it on my blog, but it's been gnawing away at me for a few days.
On Saturday the Anne Frank House put up the following status on their Facebook page:
"Yesterday night Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House, together with his friends and guards. Fans were waiting outside to see a glimpse of him. He stayed more than an hour in the museum. In our guestbook he wrote: 'Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.' Tonight Bieber will give a concert in Arnhem in the Netherlands."
This seems to have prompted an avalanche of critisicm aimed at Justin Bieber, which all seems to be pretty much along the lines of "Who the hell does he think he is", followed by a similarly large counter-avalanche of "Leave him alone" responses from the beliebers.
Now, I'm not a belieber. Also I'm not an anti-belieber (if that's the term). If anything, I'm a meh-ber.
But of course it's pretty much guaranteed that I would be. I'm 41 years old, so his music and image aren't aimed at me, in any way. My teenage self is still wandering around in 1987.
If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know the impact that Anne Franks Diary had on me. I wrote a post about it (here) and since I read it, I've read many more books about Anne Frank, her family, and the people who helped her while she was in hiding.
I actually have even more books on order, it sparked a seemingly insatiable interest. If you haven't read the book, please please do. It's not just for girls, it's an incredibly interesting historical commentary.
So, you'd think I'd be on the side of the people who are criticising Justin Bieber for his comment in the guestbook. Well, not so. I think it's more complicated than that.
Firstly there are some factors that are relevant, that are not stated in the original Facebook post.
We don't know if Justin Bieber requested to go to the Anne Frank House, or if he was told to go by his management company. Similarly we don't know if he was told what to write or not. He could have been told what to write and forgotten, or chosen to write something else. Maybe he wrote exactly what he was supposed to. He could have just written what came into his head in that exact moment. Alot of don't knows.
Does it make a difference why he was there? Yes I think it does. If he has a genuine interest, and really wanted to go, then one level of cynicism can be kind of counteracted. Although it is probably more likely that it was arranged by his management company as a profile enhancer, it's still another 'don't know'.
Also you have to bear in mind who he is. There is a staggering amount of money to be made from him, and everyone around him is up for a slice of Beiber pie. With his protectors, his pet monkey, and isolation, does he remind you of anyone? It makes me slightly sad that history could quite easily repeat itself, and once again everyone's too busy getting rich quick.
The line from the Anne Frank House regarding him turning up with guards feels like it's been written with a slightly negative twist, but later on in the status it's mentioned that there were indeed fans there, and teenage fans don't stand on circumstance. I should know, I've been one. They'd rip his clothes off in a heartbeat if they thought they could. Just for the clothes, not anything weird. But that wouldn't be much consolation to him while he's trying to keep hold of his undies.
I actually don't have a problem with what he wrote. He's written about Anne in a way that is fitting for who she was. A teenage girl. Yes, she was brave, and she stands as a beacon of remembrance for all the people who were brutally and senselessly murdered in the Holocaust, but she was also a fan of movie stars, and she had their pictures up on her bedroom wall.
The pictures are still there, and he would have seen them probably less than half an hour before. It makes his comment slightly more understandable.
I think the Anne Frank House Facebook status, in the light of all this, seems a bit harsh. I'm pretty sure they realised that later, as they put up another status on their Facebook page:
"The Anne Frank House was pleased to welcome Justin Bieber to the Anne Frank House last Friday. We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire he fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary."
As far as I'm concerned, this is the press release that should have been made in the first place. It's less petulant, and more about persuading his fans to read the diary.
I guess another relevant 'don't know', is who wrote the original Anne Frank House status. It may have been someone quite young, or someone who was offended by him during the visit for some reason. Or maybe it was just very badly worded.
I've seen some incredibly vitriolic comments on my Twitter feed against Justin Bieber regarding this, and it actually makes me kind of sad.
If there's only one lesson we take away from Anne Franks story, it should be that there's nowhere near enough tolerance in the world.
And we start that by practising it ourselves.
Until next time...