Friday, September 21, 2007

It's a sad, sad situation ....

This won't be a very popular blog with some Clayfans, however it is the one of the few places I can use my voice. It is a blog that will probably be of no interest to anyone other THAN fans (or perhaps a stray hater or two). It's not even a blog that will interest ALL the fans. If you're left scratching your head, consider yourself lucky. But here it is anyway.

I have not blogged in months.

I had said what I needed to for awhile, and saw no advantage at that point in time to continue to poke the hornet's nest. This is not to say that the usual demented few weren't doing their thing as usual, but they were doing a good enough job of making themselves appear hateful, ridiculous, and just plain crazy without any interference from me. In fact both of the major hate blogs seemed to be on the decline -- no one was much interested in their inane ramblings, negative Google alerts were down, and therefore I decided to keep my eyes open but let "sleeping dogs lie," so to speak. I took Clay's advice to "ignore."

Through all of this, one of the biggest dangers I could see for Clay was in the attempt of these haters, and others, to fracture Clay's fanbase. How ironic, then, as I came back to the boards after a bit of a hiatus, and while looking around this week to see the fans were doing a pretty good job of that all by themselves.

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with a good description of my impressions, and nothing quite works. The phrases "McCarthyism," "lynch mob," "vigilante," and "witch-hunt" have all been used, but none are quite right (even though, from my perception, the tenor of the actions they convey is pretty accurate). Perhaps saying something about the "fan police" might be another way of getting at what I want to express ... but that's not quite right either. Maybe I could say something about the "red scares" in American history wherein dire voices warned a frightened public about a "cancer" growing in their schools, their workplaces, maybe even next-door .. further frightening people and causing them to look upon their neighbors with fear and suspicion.

Perhaps I could talk about Communist China, and a socio-political obligation to inform on each other, which could then lead to accusations, public shaming, and re-education. Or maybe I could use, as an example, a radical, fundamentalist church (of any religion) in which failure to follow the accepted dogma leads to shunning, ostracizing, and excommunicating. The human impulses behind each of these kinds of coercive group thoughts and actions are what I am trying to describe. Abuse of power; promotion of fear and suspicion; intimidation; single mindedness; peer pressure; guilt-tripping; self-righteousness; arrogance of point of view; determination to act without full knowledge.

But here's the thing. We are talking about a fan community for a singer! We are not talking about the government, or religion, or real life-and-death matters ... yet for some it's being treated as such. Not only that, but we see a few fans who have set themselves up as the "leaders" in an attempt to "out" people that they feel have violated one of the fandom's "ten commandments": Clay would never talk to a fan, and thou shalt not believe any who say otherwise.. Yes, that's the big sin -- believing one has talked to him or believing someone who said they had. Yes, an eye-roll moment. First of all, I have to wonder if whoever "wrote" that commandment ever discussed it with Clay, or if it's only based on an assumption.

Second, every celebrity in the world probably has impostors, and they are no doubt out there, but it is not the end of the world. Also, while it is no doubt stupid and perhaps pathological to actually impersonate said celebrity or an acquaintance of said celebrity, and sad if someone falls for it, rather than cause havoc in a fandom already having some difficulties, it is definitely an issue that could be rectified without blaring trumpets, posturing, and chest beating. Do we put those (many) fans who claim to have befriended Clay's mother or one of his family members under the same microscope, or do they get a pass because everyone wants to believe their "insider info" ... which is often wrong.

Rather than handle this quietly, informing people who need to know that they may have been "duped," it has been blown out of proportion, placed on the Internet, and taken on a proportion that far exceeds its danger ... possibly hurting innocent people in the process.

So, anyway, here's how it works, as far as I can see. Fans are directed to "confess" their involvement to an individual who has placed herself on a pedestal as the chief crusader and inquisitor (I will not be naming any names). She will then get it to the "proper authorities." If they do not confess they are interrogated, shunned and shamed ... at least if anyone assumes they were "part of," or an "unconfessed" victim of, this "evil scheme" to delude the gullible with "fake Clays." (I know -- it sounds insane.)

Anyone who dares to question the wisdom of this inquisitor or her minions is humiliated and harassed, while peer pressure puts on the thumbscrews to force that desired confession. They do not see the crazy in what they are doing, in fact they are very sure of the righteousness of their position. Which makes it so sad. Because I do believe they feel they are acting in Clay's best interest, or in the best interests of the fandom. But in my opinion they are not. They are causing fractures and grief. Not to mention the fact that if these fan investigations expose even one minor truthful contact, then they have butted into Clay's personal life.

Furthermore, do they not even bother to question hidden agendas and possible motives of those doing the "accusing?" Using the Salem witch trials as a model, and looking at it from a distance in time, we can see that it was those who supported a certain minister that did the accusing-- those who supported a different minister were the accused; the East half of the town stood in opposition to the West, one accusing the other; accusations were made against unpopular women; long standing jealousies were given a voice; people lied. Yet at the time the courts thought they were acting in the community's best interest, and didn't fully question the testimony they heard. It tore the community apart and resulted in several unnecessary deaths. Ironically, the only way to escape death one's self was to confess and name others in the process. Granted, we are talking about issues vastly different in scale and effect, but the underlying human behaviors are the same, in my opinion.

To be clear, I have no objections to letting people know about "impostors," if and when they exist. I have no problem with clearing up misconceptions about Clay that a "fake Clay" may have helped to spread. I do object to the methodology, to one small group of fans setting themselves up as the judges and juries of the fandom, for acting unilaterally without the "authority" of either the fandom at large, or of the person they claim to be defending. (Didn't he say IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE?) I also object to making it a public spectacle, especially with the intent to injure others, without respect to what the reality of those other lives may be, and upon "knowledge" that is not complete.

Wrong pictures of fans have already been publicly posted and wrong identifications and accusations made, and yet it's glossed over or not discussed. There are so many uncertainties. What if there are multiple "fake Clays?" And what if one or more fans actually do know or talk to Clay? Do any of you know Clay personally, to make that determination? If you do, then .. oops .. catch 22, huh?. Maybe it's not an either/or situation. Does anybody really know? Or are they basing so much of their outrage on assumptions, gossip, and partial truths? When a mob mentality exists, many believe and act without truly thinking. What is at the root of this obsession? How is this good for the fandom? How is this fun? Is this crusade worth abandoning reason, compassion, and objectivity for? Many questions, I know, but I have them.

In a final irony, I believe these vendettas play right into the haters' hands and wishes. They provide the obssessive fan stereotype for the for the obsessive haters to mock and the fans to defend, and the beat goes on ... the audience grows, the potential damage to Clay worsens.

To conclude, there is one verse I know that keeps coming to mind. First, this core group of individuals exposed the real-life identities of some of the "haters." Some objected, but many cheered. I confess to being one. They then exposed the real-life identities of people they determined were "bad fans." More people began to object, but still many cheered. Now they are exposing identities of people they claim have said they talked to, or know, Clay. Now only a few are cheering. Who's next .. anyone who doesn't subscribe to their image of what a fan should be? A fan who doesn't observe Clay Aiken with proper reverence (his real-life humanity be damned)? Any fan who disagrees with their dogma? Yes, more questions, but I believe they need to be considered.

And so I'll leave with this verse, written about something far more serious, but it seems apropos somehow:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I feel the need to speak out.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Clay or Ruben, Justin or Kelly? American Idol, Fanwars, and a Legacy of Obsession

What is it about American Idol that generates a level of obsession, of fanaticism, so intense that four years later, some of the fans (fanatics) are still obsessively loving or hating particular "idols?" Why is it that the spirit of competition generated is so intense that it even extends across seasons to include those never actually in competition with one another? Why is it that the first two seasons of the show seemed to generate the most passionate devotion or antipathy? How is it that some individuals -- "haters" or anti-fans -- feel justified in abandoning human compassion, decency, and honesty all for the the goal of crushing a person they don't know to elevate another person they don't know? How are the "fanwars" generated by the show exacerbated by the internet? How are these fanwars similar to or different from those that have preceded and followed them? To what extent did American Idol and the record label, RCA, manipulate and stimulate these fanwars and create a continuing competitive milieu? Normally, it's really OK and in fact normal to like more than one artist, and if you don't like an artist, you simply turn the station and don't listen, rather than try to destroy their life, so what's different here?

While I can't claim to have the definitive answers to any of the above questions, they are certainly worth exploring and the next 2-3 blogs will do just that.

First, though, let's look at some of the ways in which these fanwars manifested themselves amost from the very beginning.

It has now been four years since Clay Aiken's "wildcard night" performance on American Idol, yet the passionate involvement of supporters and fans, as well as detractors and anti-fans, still runs high. The interest of the media in virtually anything Aiken does is still tangible -- he continues to capture the "buzz" with very little effort. Putting his hand over Kelly Ripa's mouth was good for a week's worth of entertainment "news."

His innate talent is certainly part of it. His "geek to idol" transformation is another (though really, all that was was some new clothes, a good haircut and a set of contacts ... yet the media in particular is still fixated on that). His advocacy of charitable causes, coupled with an openly professed faith, also taps into deep emotions from both the fans who admire his efforts and values, and the anti-fans who either use those causes close to his heart as yet another avenue of attack, or who erroneously associate any kind of profession of Christianity to mean that one falls on a specific point in the political spectrum -- one quite a bit to the right of center.

A large and committed fanbase is also part of the buzz.

His American Idol fans loved him intensely. It was a fandom which was organized, internet savvy, vocal, and hungry for information. Although the vast majority of the fans displayed their love in fun, enthusiastic, and appropriate ways, a very few went over the top, elevating Aiken to a level of adulation which was probably not only uncomfortable for Aiken, but also to fellow members of the "fandom." They also gloried in his success in a way which other AI fanbases, rightly or wrongly, construed as either dismissive of their own "idol" or of "rubbing salt in the wound." It was that very small segment of Clay's fans which became the focus of the anti-fans and also of some in the media. It became, and still is, used as an excuse for the continuing anti-fan generated smear campaign directed against Aiken which has existed for nearly four years.

Add to all of that the competitive nature of the show itself, AI's further manipulation, the fact that some individuals simply didn't care for Aiken's voice or material, the fact that a larger than normal percentage of the active fans were women 30 and over (see Sexism, Ageism, andMiscogeny), fan support for other "idols," and the hot button issues generated by his faith and by questions about his sexual orientation (see Sexuality and Semantics) and you have the recipe for polarization, intensity, and a continuing hate campaign against both Aiken and his fans.

Competition between the "idols" (a loaded term to refer to the participants of the talent show) was exacerbated and manipulated from the very start when Clay and Ruben's singles and Justin Guarini's first CD were all scheduled to drop on the same day in June. The sales figure comparisons were inevitable and, as everyone knows, Aiken won that competition. This didn't sit so well with the fans of the other two, particularly when the Clayfans were so exultant at the triumph (which, as fans, was arguably normal and to be expected). It helped to breed resentment.

One of the first groups to take action was a small group within the Justin Guarini fandom... a group that seems to have been forgotten by many Clayfans. There had already been some conflict between this fan group and Kelly Clarkson fans. Now it was Aiken's turn. Clay Aiken at one point in time made a comment about Guarini's "smoothness" that could have been interpreted negatively. What followed was a near melt-down of the "That's the Clay" messageboard, due to the fact that the moderators of that board, like Sunny and AnnMarie, were die-hard Justin fans who perceived Aiken's statement as an insult. Compounding that was Clay's overwhelming success on the day that his single was released the same day as Justin's CD, and Clay's upcoming CD release parties that were being discussed (along with their association with Todd Venice--a whole other story). Leaving TTC and forming a new Justin board, they focused their anger and resentment on Clay and his fans, scapegoating them for Justin's failure to achieve the success they felt he was due. The hatred flew.

Even that far back in time, the lies began. As one poster noted at the Clackhouse messageboard:

Wed Oct 15, 2003 4:52 pm, ToffeeBrowne wrote:
Hey guys I just wanted to ask a quick question. I was just lurking on a Justin board and it seems like they are all up in arms about some radio interview that Clay supposedly did with some station in New Jersey. In this interview Clay supposedly said that Justin Guarini has only been getting by on his looks and that he looks like the 6th member of NSync. I know we don't want to bring other boards over here, but 1)I just can't believe Clay would say something like this and 2)how is it possiable that Clay did anything and there hasn't been any kind of report about it amongst the Claynation. Interestingly enough Annmarie of former TTC fame is the one who's cousin herad it and sent her a transcript of the interview. Now I know that the Justinites are sad, but to make shit up? That is just soooo tacky.

So the lying began early...making up something inflammatory and posting it on the boards as truth. Prompting such reponses as:

Clay's a third-rate, ugly, scumbag ass, who's gotten cocky enough to say something like this. He thinks he's God's gift to the music industry, and fuck anyone else.

Although no one was ever able to find the evidence that such an interview existed, and several of Justin's fans pointed that out, there were a few who used the fictitious statement as a pretext to continue their hate.

Even earlier, some of Justin's fans, along with some of Ruben's fans, had begun the practice of emailing others (media, blogs, etc.) while pretending to be over the top Clayfans.

At the Clackhouse, freethinker posted:

Tue Sep 23, 2003 9:18 am
Yesterday my guy received a forward of the full message from the Hunk of the Month woman along with a message with the forward saying Clay fans were threatening the owner of a website. Asked me for my view or explanation of it. Explained what I knew and that I suspected it was disgruntled Justin or Ruben fans. So - YES - these types of messages are getting to RCA. PATHETIC!

Which is not to say that all, or even most, of Justin's fans agreed with the competition, hatemongering, or the false emails. For example, as one fan posted at Justin's House,

cat4cj Sent: 10/17/2003 3:10 PM
Hi All,
I stated 6 months ago (on this board) that I was upset, because it seemed (to me) that a "war" of sorts was starting and fans were being forced to "choose" between Justin or Clay.
I honestly made an attempt to stay here and ignore it, but everytime something nasty would go down, I was hurt more and more by the viciousness I was witnessing. Since I liked both singers, it was easier to walk away, then to feel forced to choose.

So a small, negative, contingent of the Guarini fandom was making it uncomfortable for other Justin fans or people who were fans of both Justin and Clay.

There was a also small subset of Ruben Studdard's fanbase that became proactive in a negative way. Fresh from the heat of the competition, some of these fans appear to have been threatened by both Aiken's obvious popularity and by the fact that Aiken's first single outsold Ruben's in that previously mentioned competion manipulated by RCA/19. So they decided to do something about it.

They, too, found one of their favorite techniques to be pretending to be crazy Clayfans and then contacting DJs (who might have been inclined to play the newly released MOAM), shows like The View, or anyone else who would listen. Quite often these emails would be laden with derogatory, obscene, inflammatory, and/or racist remarks. What follows is a story that is familiar to many in Clay Aiken's online fandom, but may be unfamiliar to others.

Here is an excerpt from one Ruben messageboard conversation:

Dear Friends:
I understand that we all have a common goal in coming to this board and that is to Help Ruben by exposing Clay and his fans. We are extremely fierce in our quest, but WE CAN'T LOSE PERSPECTIVE HERE!!!!!
We are proceeding with caution and not putting ALL our eggs in one basket. We want you to write your letters, but don't waste ALL the evidence on someone less significant (DJ's).
We need to target Critics, in particular, because they are the ones who evaluate the sales of a CD. We need to emphasize the multiple CD purchases and provide them with proof.
Please, PLease, be polite and NEVER mention Ruben or being a Ruben fan. We are taking the dissapointed Clay fan angle or any other angle as long as it doesn't smell like "disgruntled, bitter Ruben fans".
I know we want to rip the elfin to pieces, but we have come too far to mess up. Good things happen to those who wait, we are patient. Continue the letter campaign, but use your discretion in writing to these people. Any indication that it is a mailing campaign and we will be doomed. So let's not get too impulsive. Okay?
You are doing an excellent job with the letters and we have accomplished a lot. Keep up the good work!!!!!
"Never underestimate the power of a Ruben Wackadoodle"
Edited by: emach1313 at: 10/17/03 12:15 am

One member of this small group of Ruben fans finally came clean, exposing the others who also congregated on a certain small board. This board used as its banner Clay Aiken's face superimposed on a sniper's target. Among the statements this whistleblower made were these:

What I am about to post here may shock some people. However, I don't think it will be any Clay Aiken fans that have ever dealt with the diehard Ruben Studdard group. I think the only fans to be shocked will be those in the Ruben Studdard camp. And they'll only be shocked because someone finally turned their back and called them out.

I won't be talking about all of his fans, just a small, select few that seem to be operating under the delusion that "nothing", and I mean nothing, can ever touch them. The few who spend all of their days on Bolt and the JRecords website, not to mention the Clay boards they frequent under various guises. The few who spend all of their time marching to the beat of Emach1300's and AngelicIsis' drums, including those two, themselves.

The point of this website? To let you know that AngelicIsis really is Jaysen Miller, and I can back that up.

Do you remember Jaysen Miller? Jaysen Miller wrote two very eloquent stories for Beavers On Idol about Clay Aiken. Two stories where he claimed to be a fan but was so turned off by the energy and devotion of the Clay fans that he felt the need to write. Each and every one of those stories were fabricated.

What followed were a series of quotes copied and pasted from that board to prove her point.

Author Comment
Giggle OP

Posts: 1285
(10/31/03 8:35 pm)

Here is my response from James Sheperd from Beavers Online. I even forgive him for his typo on my fake name. LOL

Hi Jason:

Thank you for your submission. I have reviewed it just once, but I think it is
quite suitable for publication. I enjoy seeing counter viewpoints, and your
article, plus the one you are refuting, help to support something I'm currently

I will let you know when your article is published.

Thanks again,
James Shepherd

I am sooooooooo tickled!!!!
Giggle OP

Posts: 1286
(10/31/03 8:57 pm)

Thank you friends!!!

What raleighlady needs to recognize is that she is not dealing with amateurs when she deals with Ruben fans. She'd better have her s--t TIGHT, or she'll have an emach, bone, dallasivy, black panther, mymanisclay, or an angel on her azzz!!!

High FIVE mah sistahs!!!!
Giggle OP

Posts: 1289
(10/31/03 9:27 pm)

hmmm...perhaps one of her 'detractors' should send my article to 20/20 with my permission....

Posts: 1031
(10/31/03 11:52 pm)

I'm On it, but it will add credibility if we ALL did as well!!!!! will get you the address!!!!!
Posts: 298
(10/31/03 10:10 pm)

Way to go angel. Can't wait until those stupid Claymutts read the article. What a joy it will be to read bolt.

Here's to you girl.....

But they were eventually discovered in that little charade:

Author Comment
Giggle OP

Posts: 1305
(11/3/03 8:42 am)


I need one of our regular super militants to take the blame. I prefer Bone, because of her eloquent writing style. They can't go after Johnnie because she is never on Bolt my idea is this:

Bone goes and posts on the Clay board, 'confessing' who she really is. She'll just say that she 'borrowed' my name not knowing that I (angel) had posted something in Ruben's guestbook. She'll say that she wrote the rebuttal because she has an opinion, and she'd do it again regardless of what they think. Etc. etc.

She tells them to not attack me (Angel) because it was her, and she'll say that she will post it on every board, and then she'll publicly apologize to me. Also Johnnie, you can say that you picked my name because it sounded like a 'guys' name, and you can say that you are a GUY - priceless!!!!

This will work because I have been moving ALL last week, and really didn't have time to do this, did I?

In fact, I won't go back to Bolt for a few more days....just to make it super real.

Further posts revealed more plotting with respect to how they were going to carry that out, infiltrate the Clay fanboards, and so forth.

What is unbelievable is that some of them are still involved in this kind of activity FOUR YEARS later, contacting media outlets, DJs, posting on blogsites, etc. It puts the so-called obsession of the Clay FANS to shame, since these anti-fans, or haters, clearly devote so much time and energy to their endeavors.

One has to wonder to what extent the perceptions of DJs and newspaper critics were influenced both at the onset and on into the present by these manipulating, lying, and over the top fans of other former AI contestants.

And then there are the fans of Kelly Clarkson. Just like the Clay fans or the Ruben fans or Justin's fans, most of Kelly Clarkson's fans are just normal, nice individuals. There are a few, however, who are obsessed not just with supporting their "chosen one," but also with eliminating any possible competition (even if that person is not actually "in competition" at all with Kelly). If the Pulse Music Board is any indication, then Carrie Underwood is perceived as being one of the more recent "foes," largely because of her Grammy success and because she will soon be outselling Kelly Clarkson, but Clay has also long been a target.

Unfortunately, a couple of the individuals who run one of the largest Kelly Clarkson fanboards, Kelly Clarkson Express, are among this group of obsessed fans, so they have had an influence disproportionate to their numbers.

It is at KCE that the hatred of Clay Aiken and his fans was nurtured over the years. It is at KCE that some of her fans organized themselves to go into retail stores and crack the cases on Aiken's CDs so that they would not be able to be sold. It was on KCE that hatred of Clay was promoted to the extent that one was not even allowed to type out his name on the board, asterisks being substituted for the letters as if it were a profanity. There were many impressionable teens on that board that were immersed into a board culture that promoted hatred.

This false competitiveness was enhanced when Kelly and Clay (who, incidentally, are friends) toured together and it became obvious that Clay elicited the more intense crowd response and numbers. Groucho (who was eventually banned for being too crazy even for KCE), Un4Gitible, Shully, Director Sandy -- these individuals and several more developed and spread their hatred at KCE, and continue it to this day. Groucho, blending hatred and misogyny and using any one of his many aliases, spread his own particular brand of hate on every message board and blog site and media outlet he possibly could. For four years. Others have acted similarly, but not necessarily with the single-mindedness of Groucho.

Now not everyone on the board was guilty of these actions by any means, in fact some tried to point out that the board was deteriorating in terms of its reputation and its focus on negativity. For example,

deedee 3/8/2004 5:23:00 AM
I have decided to risk the wrath of KCE because I seriously think we all need to stop the Clay fan hating or at a minimum the verbalizing of said hating.

This board has gone downhill in the last six months. I used to love coming here, but not any more. Yeah, I I will get all the comments like....well don't come or we have a right to our opinions.

You're right....I don't have to come. But guess what. I love Kelly and I come here to keep track of her and it seems like this board is just swamped with negativity and hatred lately. Way too much energy being wasted on hating. You're all have a right to your opinions.....but so do I and for once I'm gonna give it loud and clear.

I don't care if you all scream at me........this board is making a very BAD name for itself. Every hateful spiteful thing said about Clay and/or his fans is copied and repeated and we are making Kelly and this board look bad. I promise you this. I was lurking on a Clay board tonight in the hopes of seeing some good reviews about Kelly along with Clay and they were coming in....until.....someone who had been lurking here went back and reported how we were slamming Clay and Clay fans. I have to tell you, this particular Clay board is taking the high road. There are people on there that are refusing to slam us or Kelly. It won't last though if we don't get our acts together.

But of course, the louder and more prominent voices drowned her out, at least at that time.

And this was just the beginning.

To be continued in the next blog.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Liars Anonymous ...

Sometimes enough is enough. Enough of the lies. Enough of the fabrications. Enough of the character assassination.

A couple of weeks ago, Clay Aiken finally spoke up and put the liars, professional and otherwise, on alert that he was no longer going to turn the other cheek; he was no longer going to sit idly by while individuals with hollow hearts and no morals dragged his name through the mud that they themselves created. It has been quite entertaining to watch their posturing, denials, and weak attempts at counter attacks as he put them on notice that their same old crap was no longer going to fly. Regardless of whether or not the create-your-own scandal 2007 “contest” he announced to his fan club was “real” or not, his blog was successful in its real purpose of calling the liars out on their idiocy and letting them know in no uncertain terms how he felt about them and tactics. It was like turning over a rock to expose the nasty creepy-crawlies underneath. So let’s take a look at some of those nasties.


We really have three categories of liars to speak about. First, there are the professional liars…those who get paid for their “tall tales,” to use Aiken’s terminology. In this category would fall those bastions of truth and integrity, the tabloids, and those even one-step below them in the integrity scale … bloggers (i.e., anyone with a computer, some spare time, and an agenda) such as Perez Hilton, who get paid for their self-indulgent ramblings through ads and hits to their sites. These entities will frequently use each other as “sources” for their fabrications...which gives you a pretty good idea of their credibility. How frightening is it that some of the so-called “mainstream” news sources actually rely on these very unreliable sources to present the "news?” Journalists have a social responsibility which it appears they are abdicating in favor of a news informed more by tabloids and press releases than by real events and real issues.


Then there are the liars who do it for free. They lie just for the fun of it, or in response to some kind of inner need or particular psychological issue.

For some of these individuals that inner need is driven by their internalization of the competitive aspects of a television show, American Idol (the fact that they would take something like a silly TV show seriously enough to attempt to ruin the REAL life of a perceived “competitor” to their chosen one ... neither of whom they even really know.. says much about their own mental instability.)

As an example let me highlight some excerpts from a posting on the American Idol, Season 2 site that someone posted to my last blog (and I'll repost the entire article in the comments section of this blog since it's so relevant):

Anti-fan and hate blogs in the US have been with us for years, but are a relatively new phenomenon which has reached a new height with the advent of computer message board sites and blogs. American Idol added to the stream of Anti-fans with the most popular contestants having the most anti-fans.
Their goal is to get others to hate the popular celebrity as much as they do and some are considered not just crazy by the general populace but can be dangerous. They don’t just spend hours or weeks of their time on a celebrity – but possibly years depicting every flaw, every mistake no matter how minor or irrelevant it is to a career - picking apart and exaggerating everything they read, see or hear about the victim of their hatred.
Most want to end careers, or for the object of their hatred to disappear and will stop at nothing to make it happen! In some cases anti-fans will spread their hatred to the fans of a star as well (especially in the case of fan wars). Fans are always a positive thing for any celebrity, and are considered the norm, but some anti fans can border on a type of obsession in their unhealthy goals and their pursuit to demean the victim of their hatred in the eyes of others no matter how much time or how long it takes.

And then there are those liars who are former fans. For some reason, Aiken didn’t meet whatever expectation of him they had created in their minds. They call him a "fraud" for not meeting those expectations, whereas the reality is that those expectations are their construction, not his. He is not responsible for the fictive image of him they created based only on the snippets of his life that made it into the media. They will never forgive him for not being the person they want him to be, nor forgive themselves for “falling” for that self-created image. Again, given that they don’t even really know him, another sign of mental instability.

In some cases he didn’t respond to these intense fans as warmly as they convinced themselves he would. Perhaps they were “stalkers” of one kind or another; perhaps they simply expected the “connection” they felt with him to be reciprocal. They therefore have to demonize him in order to “get even,” or make it seem as though they don’t care that he didn’t respond to him...whereas in reality they care very much and can't seem to move past it.

And of course, there are also a group of liars who are simply nasty people – they find it easy to jump on the bandwagon of hate and don’t care who they hurt in the process.


Finally, there are the deluded liars – those who either genuinely are convinced, or have allowed themselves to become convinced, of the hater’s propaganda. They view every word that comes out of Aiken’s mouth through the veil of the falsehoods that have been said about him. Included in this group are the individuals who are emotionally invested in making Clay gay (see Sexuality and Semantics). Even though he has said he is not … they will not accept that, and so concoct fantasies which they eventually convince themselves are real by taking any incident of Clay being friends with, knowing, sitting next to, or looking at a man who is gay (or any man, for that matter) and then creating a fiction that they subsequently convince themselves is true. And in some cases they then plant those fictional realities as “tips” on blogsites and to tabloids. In their own mind, the line between fiction and reality ceases to exist. They refuse to rationally evaluate any lie that comes down the tubes that has as its motive a confirmation of Clay’s “gayness.” Yet again, not exactly a testament to mental/emotional health.


All of these liars repeat as "fact" statements which are patently false. They say Aiken has never denied the tabloid stories -- but he has-- or denied the "webcams" -- but he has -- or has denied being gay -- which he has. They deny their culpability for writing campaigns that affect things such as potential appearances -- but they are, in fact, responsible for some. In reference to these campaigns, they say "prove it," forgetting that they themselves have posted items such as the email one of them received in response to their campaign of getting Aiken shut out of performing at the "Pure Fashion" show this last summer.

At other times, such as in this most recent example, they rattle on for a week about how they have inside “information” that Aiken is in LA hooking up at gay bars, drunk, trolling the internet, all the while asserting their writings are the “truth” … only to be confronted by a picture of Aiken arriving at LAX a week after all of this has supposedly been happening. The subject is then conveniently dropped, and they are on to something else.

They also seem to forget all the times they've goaded each other on to contact various bloggers and tabloids, like those mentioned above, with the salacious tidbits they've created about Aiken. But they forget all of their actions have been documented. Their "truth" is nothing but a web of lies and deceit. Additionally, so lacking are they in basic critical thinking skills, that they place faith in any anonymous person who comes to them “spilling” anything bad about Aiken. They bluster and bluff and posture, but quickly show themselves to be the fools that they are.

The disturbing part is how all of these liars can work together to get their untruths into a wider venue via the unreliable and inaccurate media. The unpaid liars often work hand in hand with the paid. For example, recently, at one of the hater blogs, an anonymous poster surfaced claiming to have just had an IM conversation with Aiken about “hooking up.” The claims were accompanied by "photographic evidence." Within just a couple of hours, that story and those pictures, were posted at the Perez Hilton site, only Perez changed up the timeline. Well, it turns out that the so-called anonymous source was a fraud, most likely a misguided fan trying to prove how gullible they were and how easy it was to get them to swallow any untruth.

In another recent example, as the haters were responding with outrage at Aiken’s blog, which called them out as the liars they are, someone slyly suggested that he was corrupting youth by encouraging them to tell tawdry stories. Well, rather quickly the conversation evolved and centered on this and soon a “distraught father” of an “11 year old” member of the OFC was writing on the Fox8 blog (Greensboro) that he objected to this attempted corruption of his daughter’s morals. It was a complete fabrication…an hysterical response. (Of course, the minimum age for OFC membership is 13, and only then with parental guidance until age 16.) It was clearly a lie created on the hate blog, and then carried through to a media source they thought might be receptive, based on how easily they had been able to manipulate this reporter back in December (see
Constructing a Diva).

For the “haters” their world is upside down. It is a world on the other side of the looking glass. They brazenly proclaim lies as the “truth” with every expectation of convincing people … and maybe even themselves.

Clay Aiken’s latest blog .. addressing their tall tales (ALL the tall tales – including those of last year and beyond) and ridiculing them for their pathetic attempts at the destruction of his honor and good name was an important step in the right direction. Its very effectiveness can be seen in the ferocity with which the guilty parties have responded in opposition to it.

technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Sexism, Ageism, Misogyny: Alive and Well in America

I was told that whistling wasn't ladylike, but I knew even then that women were simply not supposed to be that happy. ~Anonymous, quoted in Kindling the Spirit by Lois P. Frankel

Women are not forgiven for aging. ~ Jane Fonda

Is your remarkably sexist drivel intentional, or just some horrible mistake? ~ Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith)

One of the fascinating things about Clay Aiken is the way that he generates so much interest. Love him or hate him, he has captured the attention of the public eye. Not only that, but the fact is that a variety of hotpoint social and cultural issues seem to be played out both in people's responses to him and to each other. It's one reason why there is such a wealth of material for this blog. Previous blogs have looked at issues of journalistic integrity, cyberbullying, and sexuality. Today I want to talk a little bit about sexism/misogyny and ageism.

If there is one thing the typical Clay Aiken "hater" hates more than Aiken himself, it is his fans. On any given day, the vitriolic language flows from the blogs and messageboards they frequent. Their words are couched in bullying and insults based on gender, age, and weight (feminist issues all) ...painting the fandom with a broad and convenient (though often innacurate) brush. It is true that there are many women over 30 in his fanbase -- he attracts all ages of fans from the child to the grandmother. But it is the older fans who are attacked and cruelly ridiculed. The irony, of course, is that so many of these self-professed haters belong to that exact same demographic which they so freely disparage. Self-loathing perhaps? A refusal to admit that they are what they have become--or in some cases have inevitably yet to be? The "obsessed with hatred" mocking the "obsessed with love?"

Those fans are referred to by these anti-fans as (and I quote): "fat old hags," "a bunch of middle-aged, wannabe teenagers, " dried up old twats," " like cockroaches that can't bear to have the light shined in their direction," " bitter older women," " crazy old lady fans ," ClayMate twats," "old fatfroglookingmate ," and so forth. The litany of similar expressions drone on through much of their writing. As some of the posters on one of the hate blogs put it,

If I see some fat sloppy looking middle aged or old woman I think to myself "could she be a mat?""
all those senior citizens so in love with him is hilarious.

So it is hilarious and mockable that women over 30-40 years old are engaged by a singer and his music? What does this say about the box in which we place middle age and older women? What does it say about the skewed and sexist belief systems that those putting them in that box internalize?

And then there is this kind of blanket misconception:

I think they fit the same profile as the middle aged ignorant women who fell for Jim Bakkers fraud in the 80s and tune in TV preachers like Benny Hinn every night and send them their money like sheep. I think lonely old women are who most Claymates are and that part of society should be exposed for it. Maybe it will help them recognize their own faults and find a better way for them to spend their time and energy

And what better way for them to spend their time and energy would there be? I wouldn't be surprised that the answer would be staying home, "taking care of their families," i.e., fulfilling the sexist and stereotypical domestic role society has created for women in this age group.

Of course the reality is that these women DO take care of their families (assuming they are married, and not all are, or have children), but they also like to enjoy themselves. One does not supplant the other, though that concept is apparently difficult for some to realize. Are middle aged women ONLY allowed to function within the parameters of domesticity? How DARE they feel joy and laughter and pleasure and companionship with other women with whom they share their affection? Don't they know they're supposed to be chained to the kitchen? If they feel sexually attracted to, or feel affection for, or admire a popular figure, is that a violation of what is permissable for women past their 30s in our society? Is that not a double standard, for certainly one would not have to go far to find men the same age who find a younger female attractive. Or is it unacceptable only if these women enjoy someone that doesn't meet the approval of those who deem themselves to be the arbiters of what is "cool" and acceptable?

As also indicated in the last quote, there is a misconception of who a middle aged and older woman is. Their assumption is that she must be right wing, fundamentalist Christian, and homophobic, as well as miserable, fat, and lonely, to have become a fan of Aiken. These assumptions are, of course, wrong, and are nothing more than cheap shots, attempted intimidation, and cyberbullying (see previous blogs).

All of the bullying and hurtful, ugly language and attack directed towards the women who call themselves fans of Aiken have the intended effect of dehumanizing, hurting, and devaluing these women and their lives. They also serve to negate the reputation, credibility, and worth of that fanbase. The fans are thus easily ridiculed, easily dismissed, and easily used as an excuse for mocking Aiken. (Clever scheme if one had a goal of lessening the impact of a sizable fandom.)
The public's (or media's) perception of the fans is further worsened by the "haters" who have gotten used to impersonating the fans online and in emails with their over the top characterizations.

Unfortunately, pejorative stereotypes are not used only by the obsessed hater but are also given free rein in such public forms of expression as jounalism (presumably responsible and undoubtedly powerful), both written and online. Virtually every concert review, for example is less about the concert and more about the fans who attend it...the amazement that there are women there in their 40s and 50s and beyond having a good time. That these women aren't being quiet and subservient and confined to the domestic hearth, acting like their own bias dictates they should.
Their focus tends to be on middle aged women and teens -- two female demographics who happen to be those that society tends to disempower. Even music reviews have to include the subtle (or not so subtle) dig at the women who enjoy the music. They think it is somehow OK to marginalize and make fun of them.

Online blog sites reduce the fans to


a "Clay Mate" (aka post-menopausal fag hag from the 'burbs)"


a delusional cult of lonely, middle-aged hausfraus.

It is hard not to mistake the underlying current of hostility and misogyny, as well as ageism, in words such as these. And this is socially acceptable in our society?

Is it that once an individual reaches the 30s they are no longer expected to go out and have a good time? That once they become mothers or, God forbid, grandmothers, they are no longer to feel any joy and comradery beyond the family or have a hobby that takes them outside the home? Is it all about superficial appearance...if you don't "look" like our artifical image of an "attractive" woman, your feelings are null and void? Is it just women of a certain age and weight who are not expected to feel such things as passion, humor, and joy? How shallow (and unrealistic).

How many concert reviewers, for example, comment on the large numbers of middle aged and gray haired men at a Stones concert and ridicule them? At McCartney? How about the men who paint themselves and dress outlandishly for sporting events? But when women do the same thing (well, not even as extreme as the men at those sporting events .. the Superbowl should show us a few of those ..) they are ridiculed, mocked, and given the very strong social message to stay in their place. Men can follow their favorite teams and travel to out of town games and that's fine. Women who travel out of town for something they enjoy, like a concert or a fan gathering, are mocked. They are further ridiculed for any expressions of support -- for their creativity and expressions of spirit. Again, if those self-appointed arbiters of "cool" don't agree, there is nothing to do but belittle and trash.

The fact is that society as a whole tends to devalue women as they approach their middle years. This is nothing new. There is a sizable cultural force that pushes these women to assume a subordinate place in our society. Of course women have always defied these stereotypes. In the 1690s they called some of them witches and hung them.

But exacerbating this public ageist misogyny is the context of a culture that, at least recently, has become more masculinized...a hawkish, militaristic, "macho" culture that values the Rambo ideal of true manhood. The feminine is not to be embraced, but is to be rejected. It is not surprising that in such a culture a man who self-admittedly has some feminine qualities would be mocked, stereotyped and dismissed. Women who attest to the appeal of such a man are derided as wrong, delusional, or crazy. To make things even worse, take a group of women who are supposed to be quiet, in the home, beyond the age of physical pleasure or the capacity to experience joy, and use them as a vehicle to express that social force that attempts to keep women (and men) within a narrow parameter of acceptable behavior, while reinforcing the male dominant culture.

Our society likes to think of itself as somehow more enlightened in terms of gender related issues than those in the past but is it really? For example, in addition to the above, it is not "politically correct" (a term which I hate) to express public heterosexism and homophobia directed towards individuals who are openly gay (see previous blogs). Take a man, however, that says he is not gay. If others, based on their own heterosexist stereotypes, have decided he is.... it is assumed he is in the closet and the public -- comics, gossip columnists, bloggers, journalists -- can feel free to express their homophobia and antipathy towards the gay population without repercussion (and this includes self-directed antipathy by those who actually self-identify as gay).

Finally, there are some stereotypes out there of what appeals to this population of women terms of culture and music ... stereotypes based on models nearly 50 years old. Well, news flash. This generation of women 40 and beyond were at the vanguard of rock and roll, women's liberation, the sexual revolution, student protest, and movements for self awareness. This is a population who not only can rock out with the best of them but who also knows how to use its voice to stand up for itself. This is not the generation of Andy Williams, Pat Boone, and easy listening, but a generation born in the music of the Stones and Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix, Blondie and Kiss, Sex Pistols and Talking Heads, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa. Despite the attempts to categorize these women and stuff them into a stereotypical box, they burst free and in some cases give a collective finger to those who would marginalize them according to the fallacious images of a past generation.

So when you read the pathetic attempts at "reviews" that focus solely on the fans' demographic, when you read the bullying insults of the haters that are so grounded in misogyny and ageism, remember that those reviews and insults say more about the bigotry, cruelty, and narrow-mindedness of those doing the writing than it does those they target. It speaks to the fact that they themselves are trapped into an oppressive and outdated cultural stereotype and belief system.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 29, 2007

Reality Check -- The TRUTH about Clay Aiken

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”- Winston Churchill

“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”- Albert Einstein

Much has been said lately about Clay Aiken .. what he's all about..."who" he really is ....what is true about him. I therefore thought I'd interrupt your regularly scheduled blog to bring you a quick portrait and an update...the TRUTH about Clay Aiken.

The so-called anti-fans, or haters, have created an image of who he is in their minds and in their conversations. They have helped to push this image into the public consciousness. Their "sources" are a few fans who had a bad meet and greet experience, a few individuals who tried to use Aiken's foundation to get close to him ... only he saw the hypocrisy and didn't respond to them the way they wanted, and a few fans of fellow "American Idol" contestants Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard, fans who were outraged when Aiken sold more copies of his first CD than either. What unites these three groups is the sense of vengeance and retribution that underlies their hatred. And then there is the group that will not accept any answer but that Aiken is gay, and not just simply gay but recklessly amoral. (See previous blog.)

Among the various qualities attributed to Aiken in the past week by these varied individuals:

Diva, fraud, hypocritical, internet-trolling-gay-sex-addict, pill popping, drug addicted, dying of AIDS, bloated, overweight, on the verge of a breakdown, losing his voice, crushing the dreams of dying children, not caring about his foundation, child hating, on the brink of financial ruin, comparisons to Michael Jackson and all that that implies, losing his fanbase, slovenly, irresponsible, hates his fans, asshole, talentless hack ... and more. I've probably left out a couple of things.

Yes it is totally ridiculous, over-the-top and laughable, yet that, they insist, is the TRUTH about Clay Aiken. They say they "do what they do" so the "Claymates" and the rest of the world will know the TRUTH about that screwed up, devious, evil, threat to humanity known as Clay Aiken. (You can stop laughing now.) Currently, they are encouraging people on their sites to go spam Clay's UNICEF page on Yahoo with nasty, hate-filled questions.

Then there are a few crazy and opportunistic internet glory seekers, tabloid "journalists," and gossip bloggers who, since they can't find anything legitimately bad to say about Aiken, either make something up ... or rely on "information" and "tips" passed down by those very same people I mentioned above.

What all of these people have in common is ... well, is that they don't actually KNOW Clay Aiken! They just like to think they do. Yet they still want everyone to
think like they do, and hate Aiken... even if it means fabricating their "evidence" to give to the willing bloggers and tabloid journalists who are just waiting to spread the bogus information far and wide.

So .... time for a reality check. Time to hear from people who actually KNOW Aiken.. people with whom he has worked and grown up... people with whom he is associated in his charity work...fellow musicians, former teachers, representatives from UNICEF. Who will you choose to believe? Whose information rings the most true? Those who actually know him--some for years-- or those who don't? People with upstanding reputations, or faceless posters and hatemongers on the internet? Legitimate journalists or rags like the tabloids or Perez Hilton?

The TRUTH about Clay Aiken:

UNICEF representative, November 2006:

Clay is "passionate, dedicated, with an unwavering belief that all children deserve a childhood." .... "Clay is the nicest and most genuine guy...he is exactly the way you see him, very involved with UNICEF....very humble.....very highly respected...his celebrity page on UNICEF site is the most viewed of any celebrity.

Continuing on, aside from the comments of fellow musicians and entertainers (like Andy Abad who says that Aiken is one of the most musically talented people he's ever worked with, and David Foster, who deeply respects him and who chose Clay to write lyrics to a beautiful new melody , and Michael Orland, who stated he's never seen another performer so generous at sharing the stage with his fellow performers, and all the myriad others who praise his talent and musicality) here are just a few quotes about the man, his values, and his commitment to charity:

The Herald-Sun (Durham) May 18, 2003
Though Aiken's appearance has changed during his "American Idol" run, those close to him say the inner-Clay -- the humble young man who would help anyone -- has remained.

Nancy Cooke, one of Aiken's professors of special education at UNC-Charlotte, where he attended before landing on "Idol," describes the person she sees on the television as the same student she has known for the past two years.

"The same qualities that I saw in him when I knew him prior [to "American Idol"] I see on 'American Idol,'" she said in a phone interview from her office. "He is a very caring and genuine person. And he's quick. He can think of things to say on the spot."

Humble is a word those around him often bring up. Cooke said he is so humble about his singing that she had no idea of his talent until he decided to go to the "Idol" auditions in Atlanta late last year.
Suzanne Lyczkowsi, 23, knows Aiken as a fellow counselor at A.E. Finley YMCA in Raleigh who would do anything for the kids he worked with.

"He was definitely one of the favorite counselors," she said in a phone interview. "If he asked them to do anything, they would do it because they just loved him."

Aiken could even get the kids do something almost unheard of -- be nice to each other.

"Every summer, with his kids he would do a gender competition with his kids," she said. "Who could be nicer to each other. ... At the end of the week he would let the kindest group duct tape him to the wall."

From a former schoolmate, Alisha Puckett, as published in The Herald
(May 20, 2003)

Clay's appearance and image have undergone an extreme makeover, but his genuine convictions to music, his faith and to helping children haven't changed since I met him in 1992.
He would tell me his singing might not take him anywhere in life, but he still enjoyed doing it for children at hospitals and for the elderly at Christmas.
The last time I talked with Clay was a couple of months before he auditioned for his big break on "American Idol 2" in Atlanta. I was the editor-in-chief of UNCC's campus newspaper, and Clay called me, begging to have a reporter cover a charity dance he was organizing; it would benefit disabled senior citizens.

Friday, May 2, 2003 4:24PM EDT
News Observer
By DANNY HOOLEY, Staff Writer

His fans know him as Clay, the budding "American Idol." Around here, he's just good ol' Clayton.

Friends and family of North Raleigh native Clay (OK, Clayton) Aiken attest that to know him is to love him. And as they watch him being transformed into a national celebrity, they're finding, to their delight, that America loves him, too.

"He's a role model for a lot of kids," said Patsy Stone, who taught senior English to Aiken at Leesville Road High School in the 1996-97 school year. "He always had a positive attitude about things."
AP - May 10, 2003 -
Clay Aiken Enjoys Success but Remembers Kids
Associated Press Writer

"From what I've seen, his attitude is any way he can help children will make him that much happier," said Jeff Flake, a supervisor of after-school programs at the Finley Y who has known Aiken for seven years.

"I see him on stage, that's awesome," Flake said. "But when can we duct-tape you to the wall again? That was more fun that seeing you on American Idol."

Aiken said his affection for helping kids may stem from his own Peter Pan-like qualities.

"It's just the way I think. It's just the way I act," he said. "I relate to them better because I probably think more like a kid than I do like an adult. I probably act more like a kid than I do an adult."

Suzanne Lyczkowski, who runs the YMCA's after-school program, said she doesn't see Aiken losing his desire for working with kids despite his emerging fame.

"As much as he loves singing, he really loves his kids. I've seen him get so proud of them for doing things."
Among those at last week's gathering was one of Aiken's former campers, Robert Nelson, a 9-year-old third-grader who's temporarily confined to a wheelchair. He fell from playground equipment at his school last month and suffered a gash in his right leg that went down to the bone.

Some of Aiken's friends at the Y called to let him know of Robert's injury.

"I was expecting maybe a signed get-well wish from him or something," said Robert's mother, Robin.

Several days after Robert was hurt, Aiken called from California.

"My husband took the phone call and was floored himself," Nelson said. "I was thrilled. It was great for Robert. He was grinning from ear-to-ear."

Aiken, who was special education major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before his appearances on "American Idol," has a special desire to help autistic children. "I think that's where my heart is, really," Aiken said.

During his visit Thursday with Gov. Mike Easley, one of his autistic campers asked for an autograph for an "American Idol" CD featuring Aiken and other contestants. Aiken signed it, and got a high-five from the boy.

"I have witnessed him take a child with autism who couldn't communicate, and by the end of the school year, with Clayton just talking to her and working with her with cue cards and picture cards, that child could say a handful of words," Flake said.

"When the parents of those types of kids would come in and see the progress that they were making, they would just be in tears and hugging him so much because of his dedication to those kids."

By mentioning the YMCA during his performances, Lyczkowski said, Aiken has helped raise $2,000 for a campaign designed to provide camp scholarships to underprivileged children or families with financial difficulties. The money has come from around the nation, thanks to a Web site that she's designed.

"There have been so many people who have supported the Y simply because they've heard my name associated with it, and that's humbling," Aiken said.

Charlotte Observer - Apr. 3, 2003
Idol' finalist from N.C. was boy's aide
Staff Writer

he Shinn family has firsthand experience with one of the qualities
that Aiken's many fans have found so endearing about him: His
commitment to working with disabled youth. He put off his final
semester's requirement for a special-education degree at UNC
Charlotte when he made the finals of the competition, which will
award a record contract to the winner in May.

In 2000-'01, Aiken spent nearly a year working as an aide to Mimi
Shinn's teenage son, Nicolas, who is autistic and suffers from a
disability known as Fragile X syndrome. In her mind, nobody but Aiken
should wear the show's "American Idol" crown. "I just cannot think of
a more deserving person," Shinn said Tuesday as she and her
daughters, Maya, 22, and Rhiannon, 14, readied to watch the show's
disco-themed broadcast.
he Shinns remember him as the bespectacled redhead he was before a
makeover on the show gave him tinted hair and contact lenses. His
charm showed through from the first time he knocked on their door,
they said. "There is something about Clayton -- he just walks into a
room and fills up the room," Shinn said.
Aiken has worked with other families as a student -- on the Fox Web
site, he cites a 13-year-old he worked with before he left to pursue
the show. "I'm sure all of them love him. That's the way he is,"
Shinn said.

Added Maya Shinn: "He was like another family member ... He's
definitely the kind of person you can always count on, no matter

Charlotte Observer - Apr. 8, 2003
The Dirt on Clay
We dig for any sticky matter in 'American Idol' finalist's past
By MATT EHLERS, Staff Writer

....we checked with the folks at news Web site www.*****************. The site has routinely broken sordid and criminal stories about "American Idol" and other reality-show contestants.......

Were they holding back, unwilling to share any tidbits? We couldn't be sure. So we scooted over to the A.E. Finley YMCA in North Raleigh, where Clay has worked with summer and after-school programs.

But instead of dishing the goods, Clay's co-workers flashed disbelieving looks and then smiles at any mention that he might have a skeleton tucked away somewhere.

"What you see is what you get with Clay Aiken," said youth administrator Becky England. "When Clay sings, his heart, his religion, the total package of who Clay is, comes through. His belief in God is really a big part of who he is."

We had to admit the guy just doesn't sound like a criminal -- he works with kids at the Y.

But is that all there really is?

Then friend and co-worker Suzanne Lyczkowski told us a story.

Clay once told a Y group that they were going out to tour a prison. They ended up at the roller rink instead. "That's the worst dirt I've got on him."

Ah-ha! Clay can be a prankster.
OK. It was time to get tough. We asked straight out: Mrs. Parker, has your son ever been in trouble with the law?

"He may have had a speeding ticket once," she said with a chuckle, "but that's it."

Sure enough, a North Carolina criminal background check reveals nothing. But there's a blemish a little farther down in his driving history.

A nice lady at the Johnston County courthouse spilled some particulars: Clay got nabbed for speeding there in 1998. She couldn't say how fast he was going, but she did know this: He dutifully paid a $25 penalty and $80 in court costs.

Case closed. It looks as if, although some "Idols" have records, Clay only wants to make one.

Biblical Recorder - Apr. 18, 2003 -
Raleigh church cheers for 'Idol' contestant
By Steve DeVane
BR Managing Editor

(Roger Shuford, the church's pastor) said Aiken was singing at the church since he was a little boy. He was singing every few months before he became a contestant on American Idol. Aiken is a student at UNC-Charlotte.

"He just amazes us all," Shuford said.
"It's amazing to watch him," Shuford said. "When he feels a song you can see it all
over his face.

"He's an awesome young man."

People Magazine
March 6, 2003
'American Idol' Displays Feat of Clay


Back at UNCC, his professors had no idea that their student had a singing ambition. Now they're solidly behind him, ready to cheer his performances each week -- and stuff the ballot box with phoned-in votes.

"We've been so excited for him -- he's such a nice young man, so genuine," said Wendy Wood, Aiken's faculty adviser.

Charlotte Observer - Mar. 20, 2003 -
Even snide Simon calls Aiken the one to beat

If he ends up pursuing a musical career, Parker said her son still plans to devote efforts to special education children -- perhaps by forming a foundation. If the record contract doesn't pan out, his professors at UNCC say they eagerly await his return.

"We see in Clay's wonderful performances some of the qualities we associate with great teachers: a strong sense of self, the ability to connect with other people, and the capacity to tell a powerful story well," said Mary Lynne Calhoun, the dean of the college of education.
The Charlotte Observer
March 23, 2003

"Clay's creativity and ability to motivate others was evident as a student, and these traits shine through on stage," said Aiken's professor Cheryl Young.

It seems to me that these testimonials from people who actually KNOW the man that Clay Aiken is carry far more weight than the delusions, falsehoods, hatred, and fabrications of those who do not, but still choose,
for some unfathomable reason, to make him the scapegoat of their negative emotions.

There are many, many more statements that reflect the same sentiments I've illustrated above, but it would take far more time to copy them, and space to include them, than I have available...for Aiken has
many friends and many who respect him....because they DO know him.

The real Clay Aiken is a man of honor and substance, a philanthropic man who gives time and energy to causes benefitting those less fortunate than he. He is a true friend to those who know him. ABOVE ALL, he is a man of faith, trusting God to reveal his path and accepting His plan for him. Right now that path includes being targeted by a few people with hollow souls. Truth .. the real truth... WILL eventually prevail, however. Of that I have no doubt.

Picture by Butterflyshine

Be sure to tune in to GMA on Thursday morning, February 1, to find out more about the REAL Clay Aiken.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cyberbullying and "Maturity"

While in the process of doing the research for the blog I'm currently working on ("Cruelty in an Internet World") I came across a few articles and links that I wanted to share with you in the interim. These articles deal with internet bullying and cruelty.

One thing struck me as I read them. It seems as though there is an assumption that cyberbullying is an activity endemic to just teens and children. There is little acknowledgement of the fact that such bullying is also being conducted by adults in the internet world. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the assumed maturity level of those who engage in that bullying. One would think (or hope) that once one reached adulthood, one would be past the stage of taunting, threats, lies, mockery, and other actions practiced by these online purveyors of nastiness. Of course, that is a false assumption, as clearly shown by those who daily bully Clay Aiken and his fans "like it's their job."

Regardless of the fact that the following excerpts are from sites and articles that are specific to children and teens, much of what is identified within also holds true for the adult bully. Society has clearly defined the sorts of activities in which they participate to be unacceptable. It is difficult to believe that some of the things I've been reading in preparation for the next blog were written by adults. I've seen higher moral and ethical standards (not to mention intelligence and maturity) in a Middle School.

So...on to the articles I discovered:

Here are some relevant selected excerpts from a site called "Cyberbully"
(comments in brackets [ ] are mine):

Types of cyberbullying
  • Flaming -- angry, rude arguments
  • Harassment -- repeatedly sending offensive messages
  • Denigration -- "dissing" someone online by spreading rumors or posting false information
  • Impersonation -- pretending to be someone else and posting...
  • Cyberstalking -- creating fear by sending offensive messages and other harmful online activities
How, Who, Why

  • Cyberbullying may occur via personal web sites, blogs, email, discussion groups, message boards, chat, instant messaging, or text/image cell phones.
  • A cyberbully may be a person whom the target knows or an online stranger. A cyberbully may be anonymous and may enlist the help of others, including online "friends."
  • Teens [or in this case adults] may not be concerned about the consequences of harmful online behavior because: They think they are invisible or can take steps to become invisible, so they think they can't be punished.

The Harm

  • Cyberbullying can cause great emotional harm to the target
  • Online communications can be very cruel and vicious
  • Cyberbullying can be happening 24/7. Damaging text and images can be widely disseminated and impossible to fully remove.
More excerpts from another site that deals with teens and online cruelty:

Define cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is harassing, humiliating, intimidating others on the internet. Some teens [and adults] are using the internet to deliver cruel and harmful messages. Sometimes cyberbullying involves racial, religious, or cultural slurs. Sometimes it is sexual in nature. It can involve someone you know or a complete stranger.
One of the questions in the children's activity section in the article:

8. What positive values are missing when someone bullies online? (Respect, responsibilities, fairness, etc.) What about kids who watch as another kid is bullied online? What does that say about them? Their values?
Excerpts from the section that deals with sharing information about cyberbullying:

2. ...cyberbullying is different from face-to-face bullying because:

  • It frequently gives the bully anonymity.
  • The cyberbully doesn't see the hurt he or she has inflicted. There is no visual or auditory feedback. Cyberbullies may not feel any compassion or empathy.
  • Cyberbullies can be dangerous people.
  • Online bullying is a punishable offense.
Finally, The Washington Post published an article that dealt with the "hidden culture of agression" in our society, and how that was applicable to children and internet bullying. Again, this article uses children as its reference point. Amazing that the activities it addresses are also being conducted by (supposed) adults.

As you can see, even though the above sites and snippets are directed towards children and teens, concerning bullies who also happen to be children and teens, much of what is said within them can also be applied to the adult online bullies witnessed every day on several of the "hater" sites, and on the message boards and comment areas where they swarm anytime a mention is made of Clay Aiken. Again, the maturity and emotional level of those who engage in this form of activity is highly suspect.

Consider this blog a preface to the one I'm in the process of writing.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Semantics and Other Word Games - Part I

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” - Winston Churchill

The art of lying is not a new one. Lies can be harmless or lies can have a wider impact and be hurtful. They can be used to achieve certain goals. They can also be deliberate and methodical. Joseph Goebbels, for example, had a propaganda technique for which he became famous, known as "argumentum ad nauseam". Basically what this means is to repeat a lie so often that it is eventually believed to be true. It’s used in politics (see Rove, Karl) and this same technique can be seen in the world of the anti-fan--those obsessed with hating a celebrity such as Clay Aiken.

It is absolutely amazing to look at all the untruths this group pushes -- on themselves as well as on others. It is a deliberate, obstinate, skewed version of reality. Even if there is an article, an interview, a statistic that proves them to be wrong, they put on blinders, refuse to acknowledge it, and proceed as if there were no evidence to counter that which they wish to believe. One of the ways they achieve this is through word games - selective quoting, editing, and spinning.

And then there is the psychological aspect of delusion. These anti-fans not only take statements and twist them to their own ends on a regular basis, but they sometimes actually convince themselves of their own veracity. Most significantly, some also try to push these self-reinforced myths into the public arenas available to them: comment pages on news articles; message boards; email campaigns; “tips” to gossip columnists, reporters, bloggers, etc. In addition, strange as it seems, some of these “haters” almost seem to feel they have a sense of “mission” to enlighten the world about the evils of Clay Aiken (don’t laugh) and his fans as illustrated in one recent quote (Note: “mats” is a pejorative nickname derived from “Claymate,” a term which incidentally is only embraced by some in the fandom.):

Being able to have a blog or a board that exposes him and the multitude of dirty things a group of his fans do is very important to me. It is important because I know there are mats out there that read here and other places looking for the TRUTH. It might not help them for awhile, but it will help them eventually.

And besides that, I would love to the see the lying bitch of a FAKE and his dirty conivving mats go down hard.
karma | 01.16.07 - 6:59 pm |

So, it’s personal. And it’s also puzzling. Tough love, delusion, or hatred rationalized?

It’s the assertion that what they say is the TRUTH, and the means by which they convince themselves and others, that will be the subject of this blog and Part II.

Unfortunately much of what they consider to be “the truth” consists of distorting reality and giving it a spin. I’m not trying to say that Aiken is a saint, or has never been abrupt with anyone, or has never made a mistake, but then he is a human being after all--a young guy thrust into the limelight while learning how to live his life--and unlike most of the obsessive haters, the fans are willing to cut him some slack in that respect. But the haters spend inordinate amounts of time and energy finding and exaggerating every human flaw, and if they fail to find something worth amplifying, well then they make something up, supported with half-truths, innuendo, and outright lies.

Here is one relatively harmless example. Recently, there was a post made on a blog entitled “Clay Aiken? Good Call by Our President.” It discussed why Aiken was a good choice for the President's Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities and went on to point out how many people on that committee were relative unknowns, yet strong and important members. One of the “unknown” members responded to the blog with this quote:

I am one of the named unknowns' you mentioned (Steve Rhatigan) and when we as a group heard that Clay would become our new "celeb" member, our hope was that he had the bones to be there. He was replacing Coach Gene Stallings (TX A&M, Alabama) who's contributions like the Rise Schools and his own advocacy for his son with Down Syndrome were a known quantity. We also came to the conclusion that he was a great addition and filled a void (educator). I have been an advocate now going on 27 years and only knew of 8 members before our first confab. They are all strong and I'm confident our time will be productive. Clay will be one reason for that success.

Here is what they chose to emphasize and distort:

quote from blog:
Good observation. I am one of the named unknowns' you mentioned (Steve Rhatigan) and when we as a group heard that Clay would become our new "celeb" member, our hope was that he had the bones to be there.
I saw this too and found it really interesting that other committee members are now publicly referencing his non-attendance.
igor | 01.10.07 - 12:51 pm

So they completely eliminated the positive reference to Aiken in the quote, and twisted it to be a reference to “non-attendance” (which was mentioned nowhere in either the blog or the response). They then proceeded to react as follows:

"now publicly referencing his non-attendance."

So he has never attended a meeting? What an asshole! I can't believe the mats throw this appointment out as if the lazy ass actually does something!
jsaab | 01.10.07 - 12:58 pm | #

If I was a committee member that would tend to piss me off too.
It is one more example of Clay's self absorbed conduct and his using charity only when it benefits him.
igor | 01.10.07 - 1:16 pm | #

Amazing that they could glean that information out of the blog when … well, that’s actually not what was said. What was said was that Mr. Rhatigan wasn’t familiar with Clay or his qualifications before, but it is not uncommon to be unfamiliar with members prior to meeting them, and now he has confidence that Aiken will be a positive addition to the Committee.

This is a fairly typical kind of spin for them … take a positive and twist it into a negative. Some of the posts which followed stated that they will be contacting the committee to let them know just what a horrible person Aiken is (another typical response … distort the truth, apply the mantra that Clay is a despicable person in some way, and then send emails and letters to let people know their version of reality).

The deliberate twisting of the truth, such as illustrated above, indicates that they have an agenda, are wearing blinders that refuse to allow them to see anything positive about Aiken, or are seriously deluded, and possibly have some deep psychological issues. The incessant need to mock anything and everything Clay and then take it public borders on pathological.

It seems like those who are former fans really need to move on. The word “intense” applies to THEM. Those who are fans of someone else, why not just support that person? Those who were never fans must just enjoy the bullying. ( Actually all participate in the bullying and deliberate cruelty to an extent, but that will be the subject of another blog.)

Of course it is not expected that everyone like Aiken . We all have different tastes after all, but what singles out the obsessive hater is the lengths to which she or he will go to destroy Aiken’s reputation, career, and even his life and the lies they will tell to achieve it. A board that chooses to focus their attention on ranting and obsessing and hating an individual most of them have never met, and none of them really know, is sick, to be sure, but it’s a free country. However taking their distortions public in an effort to destroy a life is simply horrific. The fact that some feel it their mission in life to warn the world about that dastardly horrible Aiken would almost be comical if it didn’t have some real repercussions on his life.

The kind of distortion of the truth that I illustrated above is a daily, even hourly, occurrence on the places they post. The Clay Aiken they have defined from their selective use of reality is a twisted caricature of who Aiken really is. Their Aiken is a lying, cheating, hypocritical, dishonest, weak, bullying, ugly, talent less, in the closet, internet-trolling, vicious, ungrateful, guilt ridden, pill popping, diva freak. It is utterly over the top and laughable. It also goes against what most people who really know him and work with him think (well except for that kid that didn't like him when he was 15, which must prove it’s all true).

The concern is that they have taken this Clay Aiken that they’ve created and have been repeating the lies about him to anyone who’ll listen. They refuse to look at a different reality. They, in turn, are gullible and believe the lies that any charlatan or famewhore passes off to them, as long as those lies are in keeping with their own preconceived ideas. It is truly the epitome of ignorance, delusion, and obsession.

The next three blogs (not sure in which order):

Semantics and Other Word Games, Part II

Misogyny and Ageism: Alive and Well in America

Cruelty in an Internet World

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,