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 man...one 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.
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