Justin Bieber: Just a kid in the spotlight or the worst role model?

By: Mahnaz Angury

Justin Bieber has received negativity since the beginning of his career however this has increased incredibly since he has become a young adult. Numerous incidents have contributed to this including his drug use, physical fights with paparazzi, his public urination scandal, his disputes with neighbours and even his disputes with fan at his concerts. These and many more caused an uproar amongst numerous individuals who label him a ‘spoilt’ teenager. The negative reactions come from people of various ages including teenagers who disagree with his music, adults who believe he is a bad role model and others who believe his fame has caused him to act inappropriately. Due to his popularity and relevance in our society, many are concerned about the way a star like Justin Bieber could affect young kids today. All of the negative occurrences that he is involved in are widely broadcasted in the media raising awareness about his situation and possibly encouraging other kids to act similarly. This would be especially relevant to his supporters who admire him and would defend his actions regardless of how serious they may be. A particular article that outlines the amount of trouble Bieber has been causing and expresses negative views towards the subject of the matter is titled “Justin Bieber: Time To Shut Up”, written by Dean Obeidallah and published on CNN.

Although there are a number of people who have negative views towards the young star, he still has supporters and other adults who believe that his actions are ones of a normal teenager. Ricky Dunlop’s “Is Justin Bieber the Worst Role Model for Your Kids?” published on The Blot Magazine explores this side of the argument by empathising with Bieber and reminding parents that it is in the norm for teenagers to go through this particular stage. He also argues that ultimately, Justin Bieber is a human being that has made mistakes others would however unlike everyone else, his name and fame results in his mistakes to be broadcasted and thus judged by the public. Studies supporting this claim outline that it could be these inappropriate behaviours that result in kids avoiding similar situations in an attempt to escape the consequences Bieber could be facing.

From the title of Obeidallah’s article, his angle is made clear. Through the strong emotive words such as “shut up”, it is obvious that Obeidallah’s piece will be persuading the readers to agree with the negative perspective of Bieber. One of the main claims the author states is “just when you think teen superstar Justin Bieber couldn’t possibly do anything dumber, he does something that makes you do a double face palm. Bieber is truly achieving the impossible: He’s making Lindsay Lohan look good” (Obeidallah, 2013). This opinionated statement address the numerous incidences Justin has been involved in including speeding, drag racing, his arrests and various disputes. Through the appeal to comparison where the author compares Bieber to Lindsay Lohan, he attempts to persuade the audience that this teenager’s actions resemble or even outdo those of Lindsay Lohan, another star known for her controversies. Lohan was also in the media usually for her arrests involving drugs and other occurrences where it was made clear that she wasn’t a good role model. Similar to Lohan, Bieber also grew up in front of the spotlight since he became famous at a young age. By emphasising the fact that Bieber “makes Lohan look good”, Obeidallah raises similarities between the pair both of whom he would clearly consider bad influences.


The effects Bieber’s actions could have on other teenagers is outlined in other articles which stress that his behaviours can in fact influence other kids. “Researchers at the University of Ottawa, used mathematical models to conclude that Biebermania behaves like a real disease – one that is capable of turning into an “apocalyptic infection.” The symptoms include high-octane screaming, hysterics, and mimicking the star’s poor life decisions (like his haircut)” (Kang, 2014). Bieber has been caught up in numerous drug scandals where he’s been pictured smoking cigarettes and marijuana amongst other illegal substances. The media coverage of such instances allow teenagers to witness this and develop an idea about the usage of drugs and its “normality’. “Celebrities have glamorized smoking in the media and are setting an example for supporters everywhere that it is acceptable to smoke” (Anonymous, n.d.).

Obeidallah’s negative view on Bieber is further emphasised when he states “He may have just redefined the word “narcissistic”” (Obeidallah, 2013). This statement is related to the incident where Bieber visited Anne frank’s house and stated he hoped she would’ve been a belieber. The author’s reaction to this clearly emphasises the fact that he believes the statement is inappropriate since it was directed to such an important historical figure. The author outlines who Anne Frank is when labelling Bieber a “narcissist” to inform readers who may not know. By emphasising the details of the subject and the hardships Anne Frank and her family went through, Obeidallah attempts to persuade his readers to agree with his view being that Bieber is a self-absorbed kid and his behaviour is something that parents should not want their kids to be influenced by.

Since the majority of the claims made in this particular article present Bieber negatively, the author attempts to convince his readers he isn’t biased through his follow-up statement. The follow-up claim reads “And I don’t say that as someone who harbors an inappropriate amount of dislike for the teen singer. In fact, last May I wrote a piece for CNN.com defending and actually sympathizing with Bieber when he had an altercation with the paparazzi. But that was almost a year ago. Since then, Bieber has become unbearable” (Obeidallah, 2013). This adds to the persuasive technique the author is attempting to make use of. By highlighting the fact that he had previously written an article about the same individual in a more empathetic angle and actually linking it, the author becomes increasingly persuasive especially to the audiences who were reluctant to accept his negative point of view. By outlining his previous work where he spoke of Bieber positively, the audience would be more open to listen to his arguments since they now know that he doesn’t have fixed negative views towards Bieber. Instead, he has explored his more positive side but the fact remains that he still disagrees with his behaviour regardless of previously being empathetic towards Bieber and his situation.

In a further attempt to convince readers that he understands the reasons behind Bieber’s actions he states “I get it. Bieber wants the world to know he isn’t a kid anymore. So he has decided to go the “bad ass” route. Bieber is clearly heading down the path of many child stars desperate to make the transformation into grown-up star. But his actions are not getting him there” (Obeidallah, 2013). Through this evaluative statement, the audience is able to see that the author has tried to understand the reasoning behind Bieber’s behaviour however fails to agree with the outcome. This contributes to the persuasive aspect of the piece because it presents the author as an informative and understanding judge. Therefore, the readers are able to agree with his point of view because his technique has displayed him as a somewhat reliable judge since he acknowledges where the actions are coming from but still argues that the affect it will cause isn’t right.


Earlier in the article, Obeidallah appealed to comparison by comparing Bieber to Lohan in an attempt to highlight that this teenager has become an even worse role model than the actress who was known to be the worst influencer. In an attempt to highlight the fact that not all child stars evolve into such poor examples of role models, he again appeals to comparison and compares Bieber to Timberlake. He states “He, too, was a young star. First on “The Mickey Mouse Club” and then in the much better known boy band ‘N Sync. Timberlake didn’t try to be something he’s not. He continued to make music and then made a successful transition into acting” (Obeidallah, 2013). The aim of this was to convince the readers that not all kid stars evolve into such poor examples of role models. By displaying the first appeal to comparison, the author might have suspected that some readers may believe that Bieber isn’t at fault here but the fame and constant lack of privacy is. By emphasising Timberlake’s success from a child star into a great influencer of young teenagers, Obeidallah argues Bieber has the ability to become a good role model however chooses to follow Lohan’s footsteps instead. “A young man who had everything going for him—who could have been a terrific role model for other teens—seems to instead have chosen a path to self-destruction” (Krause, 2014). This could decreases the empathy the audience may have towards Bieber and significantly increases the persuasive aspect of the article.

Dunlop’s “Is Justin Bieber the Worst Role Model for Your Kids?” takes a completely different angle to that of Obeidallah. Obeidallah holds Bieber himself responsible for his actions and attempts to persuade his readers by emphasising examples of his bad behaviour. Dunlop however tries to convince his readers that Bieber is a human being and claims numerous other factors need to be taken into consideration when analysing his actions.

When Bieber was arrested for DUI, resisting arrest and driving with an expired license, he was let off with very minimal consequence. The fact that his status allowed him to escape jail time highlights the issue present here when deciding who is to blame. The author outlines the incident and acknowledges that Bieber’s behaviour was poor however he dramatically emphasises the fact that the police allowed him to avoid jail time because he is a huge celebrity figure. He claims “So, who’s actually the bad guy in this situation? The kid that may have had a drink or two earlier in the day or the police officers that completely fabricated the events that took place that night? Who is JB supposed to look up to?” (Dunlop, 2015). This statement contributes significantly to the persuasive aspect of the author’s argument. Through the use of rhetoric questions, the author leaves the readers to think about the questions being asked and revaluate their perspective on Bieber. The claim outlines that the author understands that Bieber’s actions were bad however the police were the ones to blame in this situation because letting him off results in the star not realising his mistake. By allowing him to do whatever he pleases due to his stardom, Bieber won’t understand the idea of consequences and will instead continue his illegal and inappropriate actions. Therefore, the author is ultimately stating that the police’s action effect Bieber significantly and if he can’t trust the actions of the police, then who can he look up to?


There are many other individuals Dunlop hold accountable for Bieber’s actions rather than Bieber himself which results in the inclusion of an informal fallacy throughout his article. Dunlop argues that Justin Bieber is a kid who grew up in the spotlight and it’s the people around him that have shaped his behaviour which portrays the use of ad hominem argument. His parents’ actions are outlined in the article to persuade the audience that the reason Bieber has been acting the way he has is because of the people that surround him. When discussing Bieber’s parents, Dunlop claims “These are the same parents who never got married. This is the same mother who was apparently abused growing up and the same mother who Justin says gives him drugs. This is the same father who at one point abandoned his son and the same father who was spotted with Justin moments before his arrest” (Dunlop, 2015). Some of illegal events Bieber has been caught up in involve drugs and his numerous arrests. In this one evaluative statement, Dunlop shifts the blame for these events from Bieber to his parents by mentioning that they were involved in both these incidents. There is no direct proof to this particular claim but these stories have been previously mentioned in other articles. Therefore this claim would be increasingly persuasive towards individuals who have read the other articles that mention these occurrences.

The follow up claim reads “Now, Bieber’s core group of friends includes a bunch of young, rich recording artists, models and actors. His “mentors” are manager Scooter Braun and Usher (aka the people that make tons of money off of him). Usher can’t even take care of his own kids” (Dunlop, 2015). He continues to outline the people that Bieber associates with one of which is his mentor Usher. By outlining that usher “can’t even take care of his own kids”, Dunlop tries to convince the audience that Usher isn’t a good carer which can be classified as a distraction argument. He is shifting our attention from Beiber’s behaviour to Ushers. The author is essentially stating that how someone who can’t even take care of his own child, won’t be able to help his mentee. The readers are even linked to a story in this claim which presents an incident when Usher’s child nearly drowned. This provides a backup for his argument and is highly persuasive since the linked article even includes the 911 call of the event. Thus, by analysing the behaviours of the adult’s in Bieber’s life, Dunlop persuades his readers that Bieber’s parents and mentors are to blame for their action since they are such poor examples of role models. Thus, since Bieber’s actions cause negative influence towards young kids, this author argues that the blame for this shouldn’t be place on Bieber but his adult influencers.


In a further attempt to persuade his readers to empathise with Bieber rather than judge him, Dunlop compares Bieber’s youth to that of the readers. He states “Unless you were an extremely sheltered child, you can’t tell me you didn’t go to school with kids that did many of these things. I know I did. The difference here is that he is a lot more famous than those kids and the way the media is sensationalizing his behaviour is only encouraging him to continue down that path” (Dunlop, 2015). Through this appeal to comparison, readers are able to reflect on the fact that they weren’t perfect as kids themselves either. He follows it up with the fact that the only difference between the adolescence of Bieber and the adolescence of the readers is that Bieber’s every move is broadcasted to the world. His behaviours is even dramatized for entertainment purposes resulting in him to continue them rather than learn from them. “Instead of regimented piano lessons, soccer practice and SAT classes, the entertainer has committed himself to the steady, if largely self-directed, cultivation of singing, dancing and interview skills since he was 12” (Evans, 2014). Rather than be able to lead a normal life, Bieber is faced with much bigger responsibilities and in addition to that, his every mistake is presented to the public allowing the world to judge him for actions many others do at his age.

The effect Bieber’s behaviour, like any other huge celebrities’ actions, could have on young kids is clear and evident. The popularity of social media has made it easy for the public to access the stories that outline the actions these public figures undertake. Teenagers who look up to these stars may always defend these actions and classify them as the norm. This could lead to them acting similarly and being negatively influence by celebrities such as Bieber’s behaviour.  “Their actions have more of an effect on us then many people believe they have” (Anonymous, n.d.). However, a study conducted shows that these negative behaviours amongst stars could in fact cause positive behaviours amongst teenagers. “This 18-month study was carried out on 24 groups of British children, aged 14 and 17, by experts at Manchester and Brunel universities, which  found that today’s celebrities serve a vital ‘social function’ that was previously delivered by religious or mythical figures, such as Jesus Christ, Judas and Zeus” (Evans, 2014).  Seeing individuals like Justin Bieber act this way and watching their lives unfold in such a negative way as a result of it could encourage teenagers to avoid the decisions they are making. “They learn lessons of greed, excess and insincerity from ‘bad celebrities’, whose public demise actually discourages them from bad behaviour and substances such as drink and drugs” (Evans, 2014). Thus it is clear that these stars do have significant impact upon teenagers however these effects could be negative or positive. Kids could mimic their mistakes or learn from them.


Wayne, T, 2013, Justin Bieber and Youth’s New Wilderness, The New York Times, accessed 29 November 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/fashion/justin-bieber-and-todays-youth.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Kang, S, 2014, Justin Bieber’s Influence On Your Kids, Psychology Today, accessed 28 November 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-dolphin-way/201407/justin-biebers-influence-your-kids

Evans, SJ, 2014, Justin Bieber’s bad behaviour could actually influence children for GOOD, claims new study which says celebrities’ public demise works well to put teens off drugs and drink, Daily Mail, accessed 28 November, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2631726/Justin-Biebers-bad-behaviour-actually-influence-children-GOOD-claims-new-study.html

Krause, C, 2014, Justin Bieber: A Warning To All Teens, NDA For Teens, accessed 30 November 2016, https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/justin-bieber-warning-all-teens

Obeidallah, D, 2013, Justin Bieber, Time to Shut Up, CNN, accessed 27 November 2016, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/16/opinion/obeidallah-bieber-shut-up/

Dunlop, R, 2015, Is Justin Bieber The Worst Role Model For Your Kids?, The Blot Magazine, accessed 31 November 2016, https://www.theblot.com/justin-bieber-worst-role-model-kids-7714367

Anonymous, n.d., Celebrities and Their Influence, Teen Ink, accessed 31 November 2016, http://www.teenink.com/opinion/entertainment_celebrities/article/82342/Celebrities-and-Their-Influence/





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