Simon Cowell, American Idol, and Bracing Honesty


The tenth season of the monster hit American Idol is set to begin Wednesday. Gone is the caustic Simon Cowell, who anchored the prior seasons with serious performance critique (Cowell supports my theory that when white males say mean things, the English accent softens the blow). In his place as the sole white male judge is Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, a band some call “the poor man`s Rolling Stones” (though I doubt Tyler himself is poor). Reportedly, the producers are hinting at a “nicer” American Idol.

I have a few theories about the popularity of American idol. One of them is that people took pleasure in Cowell`s brutal honesty. For all the complaints about the shrillness of our political discourse, we actually live in pretty dishonest times. We can`t tell the truth about race. We can`t say why we really don`t like massive Third-World immigration. Our foreign wars are in a big measure reflective of Jewish interests, but few dare say so.

Cowell was refreshing. He sliced through the glop with a laser tongue. He was in another universe from the ditzy, cheerleading Paula Abdul. He didn`t sugarcoat his comments with the “hey dogs” of Randy Jackson, who rarely gave targeted, intelligent criticisms (“I don`t know, dog, it was just ah-aight for me.”)

I think deep down, people get tired of the “everybody`s a winner, everyone is special” pablum of the PC Age. Raw, biting truth has become a kind of spectacle — a preserve of freaks.

American politics could use a Simon Cowell, but would he ever get elected to anything? It`s one thing to slice up an obviously bad singer, but it`s quite another to tell a whole country it`s going to get its clock cleaned by China if it doesn`t stop importing Latin America, spending money it doesn`t have and outsourcing the manufacture of things like manhole covers to India.