Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Can American Idol Teach Us About (Conservative) Human Nature?

Can the singers auditioning for Fox's American Idol teach us about (conservative) human nature?

Watch the auditions, and undoubtedly you will see earnest twentysomethings who really, truly believe that they can be the show's next big star. And they really, truly cannot sing. Notes flat as a pancake or sharp as an elbow to the eye. No rhthym.

They plead with judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson: I know I can sing!

Their proof? They've been told by biased sources. Their mother says so. Their friends say so. The drunks at the local bar's karaoke contest say so. They've seen today's popular singers, and they know that they have just as good a voice, are just as attractive, can dance just as well, have just as much stage presence.

Except they're wrong.

What can this teach us about (conservative) human nature?

Listen to conservative talk radio, or read most of the conservative blogosphere, and you'll find political opinion built not on objective facts, but on more opinion.

On conservative talk radio, you are rarely presented with a basic set of objective facts, on which to build an opinion. Maybe the hosts don't trust their listeners?

What do you hear? Rants. Misinformation. Opinion based on opinion. Callers are echo chambers, saying how much they love the host and agree with everything they say. Callers who don't agree are shut out, or hung up on in mid-thought and then lambasted.

For example, on Monday's edition of Mark Levin's radio show, a liberal caller tried to ask a question about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, President Bush's circumvension of it, and Levin's defense of Bush's action.

"Don't give me your talking points!" Levin yelled, then started a rant about how liberals don't "get it." How sad that Levin's argument is so weak that it can't withstand testing from a caller's question. Facts? Who needs facts when you have opinion?

It reminds me of the Billy Joel song, Everybody Loves You Now.

Close your eyes when you don't want to see
Stay at home when you don't want to go
Only speak to those who will agree
Yeah, and close your mind when you don't want to know

Maybe someone should sing that on American Idol!

Similarly, you find unattributed opinion on most conservative blogs -- comments such as "We all know how (fill in the name of a hated liberal) thinks." Sweeping false statements about how liberals are "un-American," "anti-troop," or "hate Bush." When there is attribution, it most often is to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or other conservative talk radio hosts, Charles Krauthammer, Byron York or Bill Kristol editorials, something written in a conservative magazine, the Washington Times or New York Post, or transcripts of what President Bush, Vice President Cheney or their spokesmen say.

Conservatives no doubt will respond: Isn't that what JABBS does? But it's not.

Yes, JABBS posts are opinionated, but they are based on what should be accepted as objective facts. JABBS posts --- to use a phrase coined by a commenter -- are "link happy," meaning that they provide access to original newspaper articles, television transcripts, congressional testimony, government reports and other sources of objective information.

You don't see JABBS repeating comments from Air America Radio or The Nation ad nauseum. It would just be JABBS' opinion of their opinion. In fact, look at JABBS' archives, and you'll find negative comments directed at Air America's Randi Rhodes and Janeane Garofalo, liberal columnist Tina Brown and Wonkette, to name a few.

In other words, you may not agree with JABBS, but accept that you have been given a chance to study the objective information leading to JABBS' opinion.

JABBS trusts its readers to decide whether to agree. The conservative "media"? Not so much. They'd rather be like those dreadful American Idol rejects -- in a bubble of agreement, free of objective fact.


Anonymous MsUnderstood said...

It can certainly teach us that hate speech is acceptable

Making fun of someone by demasculing them is hate speech--it equates being gay with being bad yet when the idol judges make these degrading comments to contestants (who I'll bet defend themselves by saying "My best friend is a fagg. . .I mean homosexual") Americans respond with those Civil rights groups are so over the top--it was just harmless fun. /

So yea, we can learn a lot about American Idol and how they reflect the views of society.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous rman said...

I suppose that means liberals don't apply for American Idol, or perhaps are not accepted by FOX? Not that it would surprise me.
Either way, you make an interesting point.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Yollam said...

I Think Idol helps disprove another false GOP notion.
Idol makes it clear that we are not all equal in talent or looks. And noe of us should begrudge the beautiful and talented folks who "make it" via Idol - bully for them. But in a way, this show is a microcosm for our society. In much the same way as in America, no matter hard some of these people work at their dream, they JUST DON'T HAVE 'it', and they WILL NOT MAKE IT.

And despite the insistence of conservatives to the contrary, there are NOT enough jobs for everyone in this country, and there sure as hell are not enough jobs with decent living wages. But just because a person is not the best of the best does not mean they should be consigned to a life of debt slavery, food insecurity, poverty, substandard housing. As far as I'm concerned, ANYONE who is willing to work a 40-hr week and put in a decent effort, ought to have a decent place to stay (like a one BR apartment), enough food to eat, and health care. PERIOD. If we are the richest country in the world, our zillionaires can afford to make it happen, but they won't.

America should NOT be like an "Idol" audition, but in far too many ways, it is.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous freedomangel82 said...

Good comparison

I love watching on "American Idol" when the bad singers come up and they think they're all that and then get a serious hit of reality. Some of the singers who are bad are graceful and nice about it but that's very rare.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David R. Mark said...
"Listen to conservative talk radio, or read most of the conservative blogosphere, and you'll find political opinion built not on objective facts, but on more opinion.", with a good dose of projection thrown in for good measure. :) Nice little essay though!

Congrats on JABBS nomination for the Koufax Award.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Yollam said...

The bad singers who think they are about to be stars are EXACTLY like the dittoheads who think they will be millionaires because 'anyone can make it in America', and they make Dave Del Dotto & other "cash flow seminar" scammers rich beyond the dreams of avarice. By the time they realize that it's never going to happen for them, it's too late, and they are stuck in a house and a lifestyle they can't afford, clinging Rush's words, no matter how hollow they ring. Rush is exactly like the folks at karaoke telling their friends they can sing. He puffs up these people's egos and tells them the world is their oyster, and anyone not making 6 figures in this country must be "lazy".

2:01 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Trinity, saying it's the pot calling the kettle black is a throwaway line. You clearly read JABBS posts -- you have to acknowledge that JABBS attributes his articles. He's not trying to trick anyone.

Good post, JABBS.

2:03 PM  
Blogger timnayar said...

I am sure you can make another analogy with the "behind the scenes" story found at:

Sorry, I don't know how to do hyperlinks. Oh, and I got that link from

3:01 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...
"Trinity, saying it's the pot calling the kettle black is a throwaway line. You clearly read JABBS posts -- you have to acknowledge that JABBS attributes his articles. He's not trying to trick anyone."

Actually, what I was trying to do, cutiepie, was to demonstrate to David what it might feel like to have someone make a baseless claim against them.

You're precisely right, cutiepie. I do read JABBS posts, and I agree that he does his share of attribution. But I also listen to several conservative talk radio hosts on a regular basis, viz: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Roger Hedgecock et. al., and for David to assert that they do not source their facts is just an out and, and I can't allow that untruth to stand without challenging it.

Perhaps, David should be careful not to generalize so. Even the example he gave of Mark Levin has nothing at all to do with whether or not Levin gives sources for the facts he presents. It was just an example of his exasperation with liberals and their inability to understand this issue. Mark is always providing his listeners with references for the material he discusses.

I'm beginning to see a common thread with the liberals here on this website. They like to hold conservatives to a higher standard than they hold themselves. I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you! :rolleyes:

Also, I haven't yet had a chance to re-listen to Mark's Monday night radio show, but I will try to find the time to do so, to hear that liberal caller for myself. I didn't hear the entire show, so I might have missed that call. I wonder if it came before or after Levin spent almost fifteen minutes carefully explaining the ins and outs of this issue?

Anyone who would care to listen to that segment for themselves, you can find it at the following URL. It's the one with the title that reads: "More On Terrorist Surveillance". Just click on the speaker icon.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...


Levin makes vague references to the "New York Slimes" and the "Washington Compost." But you don't hear him laying out basic facts. He lays out his basic opinion, and then he allows callers to say how wonderful and smart he is.

And I think JABBS' point should be considered regarding the quality of the source of attribution. Referencing original documents, government testimony, etc., is a lot different than referencing conservative columnists or conservative websites.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...
"Levin makes vague references to the "New York Slimes" and the "Washington Compost." "

Yes, cutiepie, Mark uses immaginative language and schtick along with the reams of knowledge that he imparts to his listeners, so may I ask what is your point?

He needs to hold an audience for two hours, so he has a little fun at the same time he teaches. What can I say? You, and everyone else I have seen here greatly underestimate this man's intellect. He's brilliant, and can debate the Constitution and case law with the best of them.

Let's be honest, neither you nor anyone else here spends much time listening to Mark's show, so it's not like you really have any idea who the man is. David might tune in for a segment now and again, but that's about it. I do, however, so I can assure you that Mark is not afraid of bringing opposing views to our attention, nor of directing us to original sources.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

Okay, I gave Monday night's show another listen, and it's as I thought it might be. Mark opened the show with a 13+ minute fairly comprehensive summation of the foreign surveillance issue, and I guess his patience wore thin when "Joe in Connecticut" called in and asked whether or not there was any oversight to what the President does.

Mark did try to, as he put it, restrain himself, and took the time to explain yet again, that, as I wrote elsewhere, Congress has the power to de-fund the NSA surveillance program if they believe it's illegal.

Next, Levin explained to the guy that when it came to making wartime decisions, battlefield decisions, such as intercepting intelligence, the President has the first and final word.

Then Joe asked about the FISA courts, and Levin asked Joe why he thought that it was up to the courts to have the final word, and that, to the extent that the FISA court interfered with the President's ability to make these types of decisions, it was unconstitutional.

When Joe kept asking Mark about FISA, and about 15 days, and 72 hours, etc., that's when Mark lost his patience with him. So actually, Levin did hang in there for a bit, but he definitely gets short with some callers, especially when they keep talking, but show no signs of listening.

In any case, even if Joe did hear the first segment of the show, he probably wouldn't accept anything that Mark said as true anyhow, since you guys will continue to go on believing what you want to believe. You desperately want what Bush is doing to be illegal.

Like McCain. He's going around saying that he doesn't think what Bush is doing is legal. Then, when pressed, he admits, well, he doesn't really know if it's illegal.

Same with Hillary. First she says, "Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way."

Then, when the reporters ask her if she thinks the administration broke any laws, she immediately backtracks and says she doesn't know, and that, "Their argument that it's rooted in the authority to go after al-Qaida is far-fetched,"

Far-fetched? As though the President does NOT have authority to go after al Qaeda. Give me a break.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Snoop said...

Ok I had to read twice to make sure I did not all of a sudden turn dyslexic.
Are you serious, c’mon you were drinking when you wrote this right?
Are you liberals that desperate that you will pull out this nonsense?
The Alito hearings have really scared the brains of liberals.
First Diane Feinstein, asserts that HALF the country would not be qualified for the supreme court because they do not agree with abortions, Leahy makes a stupid comment about Bush wanting to “STACK THE COURTS”, Hillary makes racists statements talking about congress is run like a plantation and Howard Dean this morning STILL making the claim that Democrats did not take on DIME from Abramhoff. Now you are trying to work in Conservatives and AMERICAN IDOL?
Jesus H. Christ!
I love you liberals, a world without you guys would be a boring one.

Oh I gotta make a plug for my new home I still have you guys linked.

Peace Snoop

4:54 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

It's a freakin' metaphor, Snoop. It's not like David is accusing Rick Santorum of having a bad singing voice (although John Ashcroft is another story ...)

It goes with the entire theme of the blog. The conservative noise machine, as David calls it, is seriously fact-challenged.

Your mileage may vary.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous R said...

Mr. Mark,

I linked onto this site via Buzzflash and was impressed by your prolific posts, dedication and interesting ideas.

So I decided to dig in and read more. I started with this intriguing premise of yours. But I have to say I'm horrified by this offhand remark you tossed in:

"...look at JABBS' archives, and you'll find negative comments directed at Air America's Randi Rhodes and Janeane Garofalo, liberal columnist Tina Brown and Wonkette, to name a few."

And my response is to pass on reading any JABBS archives. I don't think it takes any leap to conclude that you obviously have a problem with outspoken and dynamic women, if the "few" negative reactions that spring to your mind just happen to be all women, each of whom is admirable for her accomplishments and convictions.

Looks like a little soul-searching is in order before you continue on to your next crusade. Me, I'll not hold my breath...I'm well acquainted with other narcissistic men Janeane rubbed the wrong way...narcissistics are sexist to the bone, no matter how clothed in liberal garb they are.

Meanwhile, there are too many other blogs to explore.

1:09 AM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

R, you make a sweeping statement, which led me to search the archives.

Did you actually see what David criticized?

-- Randi Rhodes for making fun of the Bush twins.

-- Tina Brown for being soft on the White House press corps

-- The Wonkette post he criticized was written by a man.

10:40 AM  

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