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.

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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.

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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

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Constructing a Diva ...

In this blog, I’m going to look at a few things: one is to follow the progression of a local non-story into a national one; another is to look at the methods by which a false image can be (and is) generated; and finally, I will attempt to shed some light on the “haters’ " role in the construction of that image for Clay Aiken.

I was in the middle of writing up a blog that dealt with "the basics" ... a detailed, documented, look at how the negatively obsessed spread their untruths, when a perfect and recent example appeared: I came across the Billboard review for Clay Aiken's new single, A Thousand Days. It provides an example of the kind of success the "haters' " twisted versions of reality can have when they are allowed into the media......

A Thousand Days


Label: RCA

It's "Idol" release week, eh? The previous single from Clay Aiken's "A Thousand Different Ways," an inexplicable cover of Mariah Carey/Harry Nilsson's "Without You," barely connected at AC radio. Follow-up "A Thousand Days" is an original song that delivers upon the potent interpreter's signature: hand-flinging vocals, a soaring melody and a simple, singable chorus. Aiken's challenge at this point is more a public relations issue. As press reports continue to spread repeated tales of his lack of humility and haughty, diva-like disposition, how much longer before fans retreat and any semblance of radio support fades like a Christmas wreath? —Chuck Taylor

For now I'm not even going to get into why a review for a single would talk about Aiken's disposition, but this has been one line of attack from the haters for quite a while now.... "Clay is a hypocritical, selfish, opportunistic, diva, jerk." They have taken advantage of every opportunity to spread that perception into blogs, messageboards, and, eventually, the media. Even if there is some truth in the fact that he might occasionally have a bad day, that is news because…? Join the human race.

Apparently, though, Aiken must be held to a higher standard than the rest of the humanity because he is a popular singer that came into public awareness through American Idol. I think some people take the "idol" part a bit too seriously and it's not the fans. It is, ironically, the obsessed anti-fan that expects perfection and is quick to point out, distort, and amplify any suggestion of being subject to the same moods and feelings as any ordinary person. Due to their own agendas and/or unrealistic expectations and/or mental health issues, these people have helped to push a perception of Aiken into the public consciousness through the use of lies and distortion, along with email and posting campaigns to various media outlets and blogs, especially those that are already predisposed to believe this line of attack.

Here is the recipe: Take a small event. Toss in an individual or two who may have thought (select one) a) he or she was more important than the event/job Aiken was hired to do at that particular venue, b) Aiken should have dropped everything he was doing at that moment to spend time getting to know them because they are so special, c) Aiken should have taken one look at them and realized true love when he saw it, d) he should be eternally licking the boots of anyone who ever voted for him, e) he owes it to every hopeful singer in America to share the stage with them, f) he was a different person than that fantasy persona they had constructed in their mind, g) a sense of entitilement, or h)any combination of the preceding. Mix well with misquotes, innuendo, exaggeration, and bias, and above all never let the truth or the whole story stand in the way. Shake and serve to any and all who will listen. Repeatedly. Over and over. Swarm any blogs and comment areas on the internet and take on as many fake identities as necessary to get your point across. Don't be afraid of distorting the facts even more over time, because you can rest assured that most blogs, sites, and journalists won't bother to verify the facts.

The recent press coverage of the Greensboro Symphony "incident" (and the subsequent swarming of blogs and comment areas, such as at Fox8 and TMZ) is a good example of this. It's not a big story, nor is it significant, but it spread all over the internet and seeped into mainstream news, and had a detrimental effect on Aiken's image. For the uninitiated, here is a summary: Aiken hired the Greensboro (NC) Symphony to accompany him in his last symphonic concert of his most recent holiday tour. The press which followed painted him as a "diva," asserted that he was only hired by the orchestra, and accused him of booting a 15 year old boy from the program so that he could sing a longer set. Here is the reality:

According to an email sent to a patron by Lisa Crawford, the symphony CEO:

"1_ Greensboro Symphony was hired by a promoter to be the orchestra for Clay Aiken"

So, first of all, the symphony was playing with Aiken, it was his show, not the other way around. This is an important point.

Other relevant points:

"7_ We received an e-mail from Community Theater asking if the 2 Triad Idol singers could perform on concert. They had performed with us in October at our education concerts. We checked with promoter and were given the green light to invite them to perform WITH the Symphony not WITH Clay Aiken.

8_ Once rehearsal began, Aiken management asked that we not perform any non-Holiday songs. We only had orchestra charts for the Triad Idols for 2 songs and they were non-Holiday.

9_ We told the 2 Triad Idol singers, we would need to cancel their songs. We still wanted to include them in the concert and we asked Aiken management if they could lead the Christmas Song sing-along. Aiken management was very gracious and said this would be fine along with the little girl singing the Hippo song. When we told the Triad idol singers, they seemed very glad to still be part of the show. Throughout the evening, they did not indicate they were unhappy."

First of all, if there is a gap in communication it seems it is between the symphony, promoter, community theater, and the performers, not Clay Aiken. Second, this was a Christmas concert. It is not unreasonable to expect Christmas songs to be sung at a Christmas concert. Once again, remember that it was Aiken that hired the orchestra to accompany him for this Christmas performance. Third, the email notes "Aiken management was very gracious.." In other words, no "diva-ness." No temper tantrums. No booting crying children off the stage. Finally, she states the Triad singers "seemed very glad to be part of the show."

The following is how the media initially reported this. It started off as a local story, but it was already skewed:


Clay Aiken at Center of Concert Controversy

Jeff Varner

FOX8 WGHP -- The post-concert buzz from Clay Aiken’s Christmas concert with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra is not all positive.

15-year-old Joshua Willard of Lexington was supposed to sing during Saturday’s concert. He rehearsed Saturday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum and was looking forward to singing on the same stage with Aiken. Joshua won the 2006 Triad Idol competition.

About half an hour after rehearsal, Willard said he was told his act had been cut from the show. Joshua said Lisa Crawford from the Greensboro Symphony relayed a message from Clay’s team. Crawford reportedly told Joshua he was being cut from the show because he was not singing Christmas tunes.

As a consolation, Joshua was allowed to sing 30 seconds leading a group sing-along. He also got to go backstage to meet and get a picture with Clay.

"Clay's sitting there behind us kind of...barely touching us like he thinks we're diseased or something," said Joshua.

Clay used to be Joshua’s idol, now he has a different opinion. “He is very snotty and I don't want to have anything to do with him," added Joshua.

The Symphony confirms Joshua’s story. Greensboro Coliseum officials say Joshua was bumped because Clay decided to sing the longest set of his tour.

As of Wednesday night, calls to Clay’s manager and promoters have not been returned to FOX8 News."

There are many things wrong with this story. To begin with, Aiken did not sing the longest set of his tour. He sang the same set he performed at every other concert except at one which had a venue time-restriction in place. The reporter could have easily verified this. If the Greensboro Coliseum officials were indeed saying what he alleges they did, without having any idea of the truth .. well, that just says volumes right there.

Second, while it's understandable that the child would be disappointed, as one can see from reading Crawford's email, this incident was not Clay's responsibility. One has to wonder why this very biased perspective of a 15 year old's disappointment, directed toward someone who was not responsible for that disappointment, made the television news. The full story was certainly available with minimal legwork required to verify it. Perhaps none of the individuals that were actually responsible wanted to admit it? It is also my understanding that, according to a post the boy himself made on another site, only a few minutes of the teen's 45-minute interview was actually shown and that his quotes were taken out of context. It doesn’t paint a very flattering picture of this station’s reliability.

Finally, this statement: "Clay's sitting there behind us kind of...barely touching us like he thinks we're diseased or something," What did the young man expect? If he was unhappy that night, from all accounts no one that was there at the time was able to see it and he, Clay, and the young woman look very happy in the photo I've seen.

Additionally, recaps from that night, like this one that was written at least a day prior to the Fox news story, include statements such as this: "The young kids that sang at the beginning of the show sat right behind us before Clay came out on stage, and we got a chance to talk with them. They said they were asked to perform at the last minute, so they were very nervous! But they really had a blast and Clay was so nice and so friendly to them! They also got to go backstage and spend time with Clay after the show! It was cute to see how excited they were to be performing with the Greensboro Symphony and with Clay!!"

Let me repeat that. “But they really had a blast and Clay was so nice and friendly to them!”

If that weren’t enough, even after the long night of performing, and at the end of a three week tour, Aiken went outside after the show to say thank you to his fans, like he does after almost every show, and shake their hands.

It seems like Clay was made the scapegoat for poor planning on the part of other entities involved, none of whom stepped up to the plate to take responsibility for the poor communications. Aiken simply performed his usual set for the fans ... some of whom had traveled across the country to see him.

Well, the "haters" quickly jumped onboard, adopting the false premise that Aiken was hired by the orchestra (not true) and fired the boy in some petty diva moment (not true) and that all of the Clay fans were at the reporter's blog ripping the boy to shreds (not true .. unless you call not buying into that version of events and supporting Aiken as "ripping to shreds"). The following condensed quotes are from the 411 blog, as they coordinated their efforts to exaggerate and spread this non-story to as many outlets as possible (my comments are in the brackets {. }:


Clay was jealous that this young queer kid might steal the show. Typical for Faiken!

mpslc | 12.28.06 - 12:07 am | #



Ro | 12.28.06 - 12:09 am | #


Perhaps Joshua's voice was so good that Miss Aiken didn't want to be upstaged.

GJAC | 12.28.06 - 12:12 am | #


Percocet, I just posted the link to the blog over at that news site. Maybe some hometown folks coming to read about Faiken and the mates? {translation: who wants to go over and pretend to be some hometown folks?} pg=8#comments

mpslc | 12.28.06 - 12:43 am | #


Excellent move, mpslc! I like your style!

Dramamine | 12.28.06 - 12:47 am | #


MPSLC, I could hug you! You crack me up! LOL!

Percocet | 12.28.06 - 12:48 am | #


the guy who wrote this should know Faiken isn't represented by 19 anymore. Does anyone have the phone number for SAM?

anonymoose | 12.28.06 - 11:53 am | #


send all of this to the press, tabloids, perez, tv...time someone stood up for the kids...enough.

anonymoose | 12.28.06 - 11:54 am | #


I say they should hang Aiken by his ball sack in the town square!

Rabid MPSLC | 12.28.06 - 11:59 am | #


Where can we watch the video of Joshua's interview?

Anon | | 12.28.06 - 11:14 am | #

On the previous blog, there was a link to the story. When you go to that link read down a little and on the left there is a box with video.

I think we ALL should send the link to this story around! I'm going to be out for much of the afternoon, but spread the word! LOL!

Percocet | 12.28.06 - 12:06 pm | #


I hope he ruptures his vocal cords and has to resort to singing from his asshole. A stupid moron like you would probably pay double to see that anyway.

LMAO!! Considering what I've heard from Clay on this tour, he may actually sound better singing from his asshole!

Dramamine | 12.28.06 - 12:24 pm | #


Clay is such a pathetic, petty loser. Your star is fading, Aiken. I hope you have to sell your home and move back in with that shrew of a mother. It would serve you right!

Rabid MPSLC | 12.28.06 - 12:24 pm | #


Let's not forget Faded Youth, Gawker and Jossip. They are always interested in Clay and his Claymates behaving like assholes!

Dramamine | 12.28.06 - 12:31 pm | #


I went over to fadedyouth and tried to contact Arasto about posting the story over there. Hopefully, he'll pick up on it.

neverafan | 12.28.06 - 1:03 pm | #


{this is referencing a similarly constructed (by some of the same people) story from 2004}

Percocet...perhaps the writer of the 2004 piece would like a follow up to see how "teacher Clay" has conducted himself since he last reported on his behavior with children...

anonymoose | | 12.28.06 - 1:15 pm | #

I'm going to send it, but I think we ALL should. That's the way to call attention to something.

Percocet | 12.28.06 - 1:18 pm | #


you need to be wishing Faiken luck..because his is fast running out

nice recap of the TRUTH of what just happened on the wait..not a tour..because no one will sponsor one of those for Faiken...

it is is coming...TRUTH will rule the day...

SereneAura | Homepage | 12.28.06 - 1:55 pm | #


Take a hike and keep drinking the koolaid until it starts pouring out of your eyeballs because that it what it's going to take for you unbelievable idiots to continue supporting this shithead prick. Just STFU and die!

Dramamine | 12.28.06 - 2:00 pm | #


Perez Hilton has now picked up the story. I can't access his site so I don't know if he put his own spin on it. Can someone check it out and bring it over.

neverafan | 12.28.06 - 2:15 pm | #


It keeps getting better and better!

mpslc | 12.28.06 - 4:06 pm | #


I dropped a story suggestion to the station that Jeff Varne works for, suggested they do a follow up on the fallout from the story.

prozac | 12.28.06 - 4:13 pm | #

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- you have link to contact the reporter...I am gonna drop him a line too...this can't die out..with more truth coming to the forefront..and this young man is going to need everyone's help...

karma | 12.28.06 - 4:17 pm | #


Neverafan, go out and make another suggestion and add to it. It might help to encourage a followup.

prozac | 12.28.06 - 4:20 pm | #


I'm going to write that dude and pretend to be an over the top Claymate.

Rabid MPSLC | 12.28.06 - 8:52 pm | #



Percocet | 12.28.06 - 8:56 pm | #


That is just a small sampling from one blog, and it is not the only one. What they call the TRUTH .. and perhaps some have even convinced themselves of it a lie, a lie that they deliberately, with forethought and malice, with the intent of defamation, spread throughout the internet and to the media. They pretend to care so much about the boy, but what they are really all about is finding another opportunity to try to hurt Aiken.

While the comments in the initial two or so days to the blog at Fox8 were from concert attendees and were largely well reasoned and supportive of Clay, and while a couple did call in fact challenge the boy on his version of the events as they were related to the media (which was possibly grounded in his ignorance of what really went on behind the scenes), the real action started happening once the blog was swarmed by the haters, both those pretending to be "Claymates,” and those who professed their hate. The attacks were over the top -- towards Joshua, towards Aiken, towards the fans. Yet another reprehensible example .. among many ... of what these haters are capable of and do on a regular basis. Their own words speak the loudest.


Well, to no surprise, the oh-so-trustworthy blog sites and media were quickly on the story. Here are a few snipped examples:

Clay Aiken: American A-Hole?

Posted Dec 28th 2006 11:52AM by TMZ Staff

Filed under: Music, Wacky and Weird, American Idol

Clay Aiken's diva-like behavior has got one former fan pissed off. The former "American Idol" star is being accused of booting a 15-year-old boy off of a concert line-up simply because he wasn't festive enough.

"Joshua Willard won a North Carolina singing competition, which gave him the chance to perform with the Greensboro Symphony during Clay Aiken's Holiday concert on Saturday. Willard told TMZ he rehearsed his song, Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," and had just finished a soundcheck when managers of the Symphony told him the devastating news that Aiken's camp had decided that he would not be allowed to perform because he was not singing a Christmas song. Bah Humbug! ......An hour after the show, Willard got to meet Clay, but says that Miss Thing was "snotty" and acted like he was too good for his little fans. The former Claymates were even told not to take individual pictures with Aiken, only group shots. Willard is devastated and says that due to Aiken's behavior, he now "could care less of Clay." Joshua hopes to tryout for the next season of "American Idol," to show the world what a down to earth Idol is really like.

Calls to Clay's rep were not immediately returned."

See how it's been twisted already?

Here are a couple more examples:

Hollyscoop 12/28

" Is Clay nation turning on this former American Idol star? Seems like Clay Aiken's diva-like behavior is getting out of control and one fan is pretty pissed off about it. Clay is being accused of booting a 15-year-old boy off of a concert line-up simply because he wasn't festive enough. Maybe the kid wasn’t his type?"

Post-Chronicle 12/28

" "Snotty Diva" Clay Aiken Under Fire By Young Boy

By Mike Baron

Dec 28, 2006

Clay Aiken is a mean diva with a poor taste in comedy. According to TMZ, the former 'American Idol' star is is being accused of kicking a 15-year-old boy off a concert line-up - because he wasn't festive enough.

15-year-old Joshua Willard was the winner of a North Carolina singing contest, which opened the door to an opportunity to perform with the Greensboro Symphony during Clay Aiken's Holiday concert on Saturday. Willard told TMZ he practiced his song, 'Superstition', and had just completed a soundcheck when he got the disappointing news. Diva-Aiken decided Willard couldn't perform because he wasn't singing a Christmas song."

Then the story spread to newspapers around the country and was linked to the AOL entertainment page.

Unbelievable isn't it? See how this story progressed from what really happened to what was reported by our reliable media? Keep a few elements of truth, add the diva spin .. and voila! The media was ready to eat it up.

And all the while this is going on, the “haters” are swarming the blogs of sites such as TMZ and Fox8, helping to ensure their spin of the story gets firmly embedded.

So what is the fallout of all of this for Clay Aiken? Take another look at the Billboard review. Once again, Aiken is portrayed as a "diva." Once again, he has been falsely portrayed in the media, and that false portrayal is reflected in the take that this reviewer had. It seems that there are many willing to swill from the recipe the “haters” dish out, and it's truly sad and disturbing that what appears to be a genuinely good and talented man has to continually deal with this kind of crap at least partially because of a few obsessive and disturbed individuals.

Anyway, this is just one example, and a relatively mild one at that, of how the image of a "diva" is constructed through the mutual cooperation of the media and the "haters.". As much of a non-issue as this event was, the cumulative effect of these kinds of contrived stories have their impact.


I know that many of you have archives on your messageboards, and screencaps on your hard drives. I thought it might be interesting to bring over other examples of this kind of manipulated and falsified news story/event into the comments section. Pure Fashion and Sewell, among others, come to mind. The most effective examples will have these "hater's" own words telling the story of their actions…of their malicious intent. I suggest that if you bring something over, briefly summarize the event or story at the beginning of the post, and then copy/paste the relevant quotes and snippets as I've done in this blog. If possible, be sure to indicate where you got your quotes from. It might make a very interesting read.

Once again, comments will be moderated according to the same parameters as last time, plus I won’t put through any posts that type out JP’s full name. Just a matter of principle.

The next blog will focus on semantics, and other assorted word-games: How to take a quote out of context, edit, and spin, spin, spin.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

To be obsessed ....

What does it mean to be obsessed? What does it mean to be a fanatic? In the words of Winston Churchill, " A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

For a variety of reasons, some academically interesting, some mind-boggling, some frightening, Clay Aiken has accumulated not just a following of fans (the benign version of "fanatic") but also a cadre of individuals--fanatics-- who devote significant amounts of time and energy each day -- like 24/7 -- trying to ruin his career and destroy his life. They plant false rumors and stories on blogsites, on various messageboards and websites, and in the tabloids. They have created a fictitious persona of who Clay Aiken really is. They have discovered that due to the decline of journalistic standards in this country -- the fact that sources are rarely checked and "legitimate" mainstream news now relies on the word of bloggers and artificially created stories which deflects interest from those issues which SHOULD be of concern to the ordinary person--that their skewed reality and fiction gets repeated as if it were truth and so enters the popular consciousness.

Not content to simply hate Aiken, these same individuals have targeted his fanbase for ridicule and derision, relying on sexist, misogynistic, and ageist rhetoric to mock, belittle, and attack that fanbase both in hopes of fracturing popular support for the singer, and also for the sheer, simple delight in bullying. It is rather like the internet version of Lord of the Flies.

Some of these "haters" are participants in what are known as "fan wars." They've never gotten over the competitive impulse generated by a show like American Idol. Nuts, I know, but it's true. From 2003 onwards, many of these "haters" have impersonated "Claymates" not only on blog and messageboard posts, but in emails and phone calls to DJs, newspapers, and even TV shows, creating a perception of Clay's fans that is grounded less in reality and more on the over the top, insulting, ridiculous characterizations they created. Nuts, I know, but it's true. Some are former fans who thought to gain Aiken's attention and failed -- they felt like jilted lovers, and you know they say hell hath no fury like a woman (or man) scorned. Nuts, I know, but it's true.

And then there is another group: fans who claim to actually care for Aiken but can't accept any reality other than that he is gay. Some are affecionados of what is known as "slash" fiction -- rather explicit gay sexual fiction. Ironically declaring themselves advocates of gay rights, some of these individuals decided that based on Aiken's bone structure, speaking voice, mannerisms, and physical characteristics he was the perfect leading character for their slash. Before long, it ceased being fiction for them and they became determined to prove that Aiken was as gay as they wanted him to be. This is despite the fact that Aiken repeatedly stated that he was not gay ... up until this year that is, when he finally said, "You know what? No one believes me anyway, so I'm done talking about it." So, claiming to be gay rights advocates, they rely on demeaning stereotypes to try to force him out of a nonexistent closet, while spreading rumors and planting fictitious stories on sites such as Datalounge and Perez Hilton. Nuts I know, but it's true. Taking a cue from the true "haters," mentioned above, they also ridicule the rest of Aiken's fans in many of the same terms. Their conclusion is that anyone who believes Aiken's assertion that he is straight is a deluded, middle-aged, homophobic, right-wing, fundamentalist. Nuts, I know, but it's true.

The "haters" go by a variety of internet monikers that often change daily -- Groucho, Ketchup Monkey, MyPeeSmellsLikeCheerios, Director Sandy, tinfoilhat, Shannonk, Un4gitible, Clayzfan, Naturalwoman21, GoJohn&Clay, Poodle, Percocet, and many more. And then there are those who have bought into the rumors and untruths and have brought the delusions, the hatred, and the skewed representations promulgated by these individuals into a larger world...bloggers like Perez Hilton; tabloids; radio; sites like TMZ, Faded Youth, and even msnbc online.

As they try to belittle Aiken and his "rabid" fans, it becomes clear that it is they who are truly obsessed, only in their case it is an obsession with trying to destroy a whom most of them have never even met. As crazy as all of this sounds, it is actually very well documented.

So. The purpose of this blog is to explore this very interesting topic in more depth. One day we might look at some of these "haters" in greater detail .. bring over some of the posts from one of the blogs they've set up to try to smear Aiken and his fans. The insanity of it becomes pretty clear very quickly. Another day might bring a closer look at the state of journalism in America that allows non-stories and fiction to become repeated as fact. And yet another day might look at the women's issues involved in some of this hatred directed towards the fans, a hatred which can be extremely crude, vicious, misogynistic, and ageist. Interspersed will be glimpses of the individual that Clay Aiken REALLY is, not the twisted caricature the obsessed fanatics try to push into the media.

Comments will be moderated.