By Erin Beazley
If you place social media in a position of unquestioned integrity, Morgan Freeman has been a very busy man of late - or perhaps not. According to said media, just a few months after his death, he authored a Facebook essay that condemned mainstream media for inadvertently glorifying the exploits of mass murderers, citing the recent horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings as a prime example.
The essay, a poignant plea for the mass media to focus on the names, faces and back stories of the victims rather than those of the gunman, struck a chord with social media subscribers and went viral within hours of first appearing online.
Academy Award winner, activist, humanitarian and one of the most distinguished voices of our generation, Morgan Freeman is in fact alive and well and at the risk of disappointing those who have shared the “Turn Off The News” essay attributed to him, that, too, was a hoax.
Consistent with what good-hearted and grieving citizens would have him stand up and champion, it nonetheless appears he did not author this essay.
While Freeman was quick to dispel and subsequently poke fun at the rumours of his passing, no statement has yet emerged from him or his handlers on the subject of the facebook posting that has been credited to him. Yet his lack of confirmation or denial of the penning of this missive is somehow fitting.
Why is that?
Freeman was born into modest means in 1937; his father a barber, his mother a teacher. Like many children of that era, he bounced around as his parents frequently relocated to seek work. At the age of 12 he got himself into a spot of trouble with his elementary school teacher and as a form of discipline was made to try out for the school’s drama contest – which he won.
Despite showing a natural talent for acting, he dreamed of being a fighter pilot. He joined the United States Air Force upon graduating from high school, but soon became disillusioned with the barriers that were thrown in his path, to say nothing of the epiphany he had in realizing he wanted to “help people up, not shoot them down.”
Eventually relegated to a post as a radar technician, he retired from active duty and headed to Los Angeles in the early ’60s to pursue a career as an actor.
The road to success was a long one. He studied acting and dancing while working odd jobs to pay bills. Roles in children’s television and soap operas followed, but the widespread acclaim he sought came only after his Oscar-nominated role in Driving Miss Daisy - some 20 years after he moved to L.A.
With his personal life largely out of the limelight, he converted his stardom into an opportunity to give back. One of the founders of PLANIT NOW, an initiative that seeks to provide preparedness resources to areas commonly stricken by hurricanes, he lends his voice to organizations such as One Earth, which works to raise awareness of environmental issues.
Mississippi remains home for the icon, and the now privately licensed pilot owns and operates a restaurant and a blues bar in Clarksdale.
While we labored under the misapprehension that a celebrity gave us insight at a time when we needed it, we must give full credit to the author because it actually does sound like something that Freeman would take a stand on.
The sentiment behind the missive is both provocative and evocative, causing hundreds of thousands of people to give credence to the argument that we not reward violence with celebrity.
It made people think rather than simply react in the immediate aftermath of an overwhelming tragedy. Although not inked by a celebrity activist and humanitarian, one can’t help but wonder if this essay would have ripped through social media as it did without the celebrity tag.
The phenomena that surrounds this story is a rare occurrence, one whereby the celebrity circus and the mammoth power of social media collide head on but actually form a cohesive bond, one that benefits humanity, and for that, I have nothing but praise.
An Air Force brat, Erin Beazley arrived in Toronto (via four provinces and two countries) at 17 to attend Ryerson University and now calls The Big Smoke home. A marketer and freelance writer, in her spare time she rows to offset caloric vices, plays hockey – poorly – and cycles with little speed or style. Torture yourself by reading Erin’s blog at http://looseleafmanifesto.blogspot.com or following her on twitter @beesknees67