- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Only in America

“So, we have another Jackson scandal. A week ago, in the hideous half-time show at the Super Bowl, one Justin Timberlake ripped off the front of Janet Jackson’s Mad-Max outfit. … There was a brief flurry of attempts to deny that this was a deliberate attempt to ‘shock’ the tens of millions of American families already halfway through several bowls of nachos, salsa and beer. It was, according to Timberlake, a ‘wardrobe malfunction.’ Yeah, right. … Justin needed to prove he’s no longer a boy-band teen idol. Janet had to prove that her extremely tired music was somehow cutting edge. …

“America … values and rewards celebrity above all things, and yet also condemns ‘misbehaving’ celebrities as a curse on the nation’s virtue. It favors miscreants with huge publicity, fame and therefore money. And yet it harbors genuine and lasting horror at the debasement of the culture all of this represents. …

“Take the other notorious Jackson, Michael. … If true, the charges that he molested children obviously deserve the full punishment of the law. But how exactly did Jackson’s extraordinarily bizarre lifestyle … come to be? Only, perhaps, in America. His ascent and descent are inextricable from the culture in which he lives and thrives.”

Andrew Sullivan, writing on “America’s Children,” in the Sunday Times of London

Pop clones

” ‘American Idol,’ now in its third season, kicked off a concept — a combination of ‘Star Search,’ ‘Amateur Hour’ and ‘The Gong Show’ — that has proven to be enormously popular not only in the United States but throughout the world, in every nation that has staged its own version of the show. …

“The main problem is that, unlike the old talent shows, everyone on ‘American Idol’ has the same talent. They are all pop singers. And they are all singing in the same pop style, with the same grandiose projection and R&B note bending. …

“But what about instrumentalists? What about singer-songwriters who have their own unique voice? Apparently, other kinds of musicians with more subtle and artistic styles are less likely to be turned into idols.”

Gene Edward Veith, writing on “Pop singers: Idol; Songwriters: Idle,” this coming Saturday in World

Driving force

“Of all the explanations offered for the conservative dominance of talk radio, the most persuasive can be summed up in two words: Rush Limbaugh.

“In 1988, former ABC Radio President Ed McLaughlin was looking for a talent around whom to build a nationally syndicated show, when a friend pointed him toward Limbaugh, then a 37-year-old relative unknown working at a news/talk station in Sacramento. …

“McLaughlin traveled from New York to Sacramento and listened to Limbaugh’s show in his hotel room. He wasn’t impressed, thinking that Limbaugh was too pompous and too loud. But, on a subsequent trip out West, McLaughlin put Limbaugh on as he cruised around in a rented car. It was then that he realized that what had annoyed him in the hotel room — Limbaugh’s arrogance and his volume — captivated him as he drove. Limbaugh made all the distractions of the road fade away. ‘Limbaugh being a conservative was almost beside the point,’ says Jon Sinton, a radio executive now working for Progress Media. ‘He was just a phenomenal radio talent.’ ”

Jason Zengerle, writing on “Talking Back,” this coming Monday in the New Republic

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