Wednesday brought another kooky column from Times TV-beat reporter and critic Alessandra Stanley, "Voting Rights Drive 'Idol,' Not the Abuse or the Hair," explained America's eagerness to vote on "American Idol" in terms of blowback from Al Gore's loss in the 2000 presidential election.
"The high viewer turnout for 'Idol,' which is on tonight, cannot solely be explained by technological advances or a regression in human nature. It cannot be a coincidence that television voting rights arose so soon after the 2000 election left slightly more than half the voting population feeling cheated. Those who didn't go to the polls and fear that their abstention inadvertently made possible the invasion of Iraq may feel even worse. 'Idol' could be a displacement ritual: a psychological release that allows people to vote - and even vote often - in a contest that has no dangerous or even lasting consequences. (Even losers win out in the end: both Mr. Gore and Jennifer Hudson ended up on the Oscar stage.)
"Maybe the reason that more people didn't turn out for the 2004 presidential race, despite the closeness of the tally four years earlier, is that they were still in denial and distracted by 'American Idol.'"
It's Stanley's silliest mash-up of pop culture and politics since she found anti-Bush discontent in NBC's science-fiction hit "Heroes." It's factually unsteady to boot - over 122 million people voted in the 2004 election (the 61% turnout marking the highest percentage since 1968), compared to around 106 million people in 2000 (with a 54% turnout)
Matthew Sheffield of NewsBusters has his own take on Stanley's latest puzzler.