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.