Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Say uncle, anti-Americanism!

So I just bought Maclean's at the newstand again... (I'm a sucker for a cover story about allergies.)

This is like the fourth time I've succumbed, which means that my Maclean's purchases in the Ken Whyte era now outnumber my Maclean's purchases in the pre-Whyte era.

Anyway, on page 12, I came across a bit of snark about American Idol that I read over and over everywhere even though it doesn't have a whit of truth to it: "The hoopla was tinged with sadness: as host Ryan Seacrest noted, more Americans voted in the American Idol finale than for any president in history..."

First of all, what Seacrest actually said was that 63.4 million votes were cast and "That's more than any President in the history of our country has ever received." That is true. George W. Bush received the most votes ever for President in 2004 -- and he got just over 62 million of them.

While Seacrest's comment is true, it's completely meaningless. The American Idol vote total is for BOTH finalists, not just the winning one. And while you can only cast one vote for American President, you can cast as many as you like for Taylor Hicks or any other American Idol contestant. (Which is why the way Maclean's phrased it is wrong.)

So, how many people actually voted for their American Idol? It's hard to tell since American Idol hasn't released any sort of breakdown of the votes -- we don't even know how many votes Hicks beat Katharine McPhee by.

According to Nielsen, 36.4 million Americans watched the American Idol finale. While it is entirely possible that someone might have watched the finale without voting, it seems unlikely that anyone voted but didn't tune in. So I'd guess that, at most, 36.4 million people voted in the finale. The real number is probably less.

In the 2004 election, 122.3 million Americans went out and cast a vote for President -- almost four times as many as might have voted in this American Idol. And voting in an election requires a lot more effort than sitting in your living room and text messaging.

This may seem trivial, but, really, the United States gets beat up on a lot and ya gotta come to their defence once in a while.

I went to hear New Yorker editor David Remnick speak at U of T on Tuesday evening and was surprised that there were all these hostile questions aimed at him. One fellow stated point blank that Americans are hopelessly ignorant about Canada (fair enough, I suppose) and then asked why The New Yorker didn't have articles about Canada very often; unsatisfied with Remnick's response (he's busy publishing articles about, you know, Iraq and Sudan), the audience member shouted out what he belived to be the real answer to his own question, "Marketing!"

Then, another fellow went on a rant about how Americans cared and knew so little about any country not their own.

Anyway, I just don't get why these anti-American rants were aimed at the editor of the New Yorker, the magazine that broke the Abu Ghraib story and is reasonably curious about the world outside of the U.S. How about we Canadians create and sustain a magazine half as excellent or important as the New Yorker before lashing out at its editor about how dumb and uninformed Americans are?

UPDATE: I see now that Philip Cowley has already written everything I did about the American Idol statistic on the Guardian site.

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