Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Why Do People Watch AMERICAN IDOL?

Here’sa very pompous article by someone who’s thought way too much about that question. My simple answer: People enjoy competition, can readily identify with (and wish they were) ordinary folks who can do one thing exceedingly well, like to see excellence rewarded, and are fascinated by the combination of wisdom and consent that comes when THEY get to vote after being instructed by Simon’s tough but fair judgments. It’s sort of like the jury system as described by Tocqueville, and a telling reminder that the jury system doesn’t always work.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Peter, you said more in those few words than anyone (including the windbag to whom you linked, and everyone--including myself--on this thread)has ever said on the subject. That’s it. The irony is that it took an Englishman like Simon to spark a popular taste for American deliberation and the two Americans on the panel are more sheepish in their judgments--or at least used to be. But I’m bordering on the pompous here. What you said is better.

I haven’t read much Tocqueville -- did he describe a jury that was one third cruel but fair, one third having an annoying habit of calling people "dog" and one third crazy alcoholic? And did he weigh in on Dunkleman?

I’ve never really given it much thought but that is the best account I’ve ever heard. Thanks, Peter.

I think people like American Idol because it’s a terrific participation event for the audience. Only some of the appeal is watching the competition; most of the appeal comes the next day as we gather to discuss and debate the performances. Still more fun: discussing the going-forward strategy for each contestant.

For example ... Melinda Doolittle is often cited as a shoe-in for the finals. But I’m picking up an undercurrent about her that may do her in: some are growing annoyed by her humility. I’ve now read several accounts about how that humility may be contrived. Imagine you’re Doolittle’s strategist. Play up or play down the humility?

Last season Chris Daughtry got knocked out not because of a problem with talent or a particular performance, but because he acted as if he expected to win. Again, it was never a deliberation about his specific performance but rather one about his attitude.

Low-brow? You bet. Compelling television? Yes, often it is.

Speaking of television, did the Lost fans (Prof. Moser) see Sawyer reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in last night’s episode? Normally, the show throws in names or shows the covers of books from pretty compelling thinkers. But what in God’s name would Rand have to do as a cast-away? Besides, I think it was in Atlas Shrugged where the "great indviduals" created a utopian village? Thoughts?

Yeah, I noticed that. Could the castaways be engaged in the construction of a tropical "Galt’s Gulch"? Probably not, but that may be what brought the Others to the island....

My "boycott" of Idol lasted only a few weeks--until they got the pool narrowed down to the finalists. One thing that struck me when I started watching again is that the talent-pool is clearly inferior to that of previous years. My sense is that only about half of the finalists really deserve to be there, and a couple had no business even getting past the first couple of rounds.

And, like, Don in AZ, I’ve picked up on the growing sense of annoyance with Melinda’s "you really like me!" modesty.

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