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.

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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.

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