The Corner

Newsweek vs. the Meanies

Ramin Setoodeh, who provides cultural commentary for Newsweek, believes that Simon Cowell has ruined our culture.

None of his nasty critiques seem so shocking now, of course. We are a culture that thrives on meanness—mean blogs, mean political campaigns, mean girls. We are so accustomed to mean outbursts, we barely blink when a congressman yells “You lie!” at the president during a speech. Cowell helped take us there. Before him, we lived in a time of propriety and Miss Manners.

Um, really? The start of the decade was “a time of propriety and Miss Manners”? (There is no indication that Setoodeh is making a joke.)

Cowell changed all that, maybe because his technique was so easy: blurt out what you really think, and turn up the volume. It’ll get attention, and it’s also a form of self-protection. Nobody can hurt you if you throw the first punch.

A scientific study of bar fights has determined that this is not in fact true.

I have never watched an episode of American Idol, and for all I know Cowell is just as obnoxious as Setoodeh says he is. I hold no brief for meanness. But I gather that one thing Cowell does is to tell people not to pursue careers for which they have no talent, in a way that makes his meaning unmistakably clear; and in the long run that message is surely better for its proper recipients than a pat on the head.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


The Latest