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Idol Chatter

Did Simon Cowell contribute to the massacre at Virginia Tech?,” asked yesterday’s Scoop column on MSNBC.com. It seems that Barbara Coloroso, author of “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander,” thinks so. “I think we are experiencing something amiss culturally where the TV shows, if you turn them on, [show] people are laughing at one another’s pain,” the parenting expert told Alberta’s Daily Herald Tribune, referring to contestants being “voted off the island” on “Survivor” and “enjoying seeing someone go down in flames on ‘American Idol.'”

Poor Simon. First there was the misunderstood eye roll during “Idol” contestant Chris Richardson’s shout-out to the friends and families of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting and now blame for the tragedy is being placed squarely on his Emporio Armani-clad shoulders?

“Whether it be cyber-bullying over the Internet or being pushed around and locked in a school locker,” states the article, “Coloroso places the lion’s share of the blame with television and movies.”

Sure, some studies have proposed that “bullies recognise that aggressive behaviour is reinforced through the media,” but they also point out that legitimate forms of authority within the community, say the police, can serve as examples of violence as well. (Most research points lack of maternal affection, chaotic family life, inconsistent and forceful discipline as root causations of bullying.)

So, let’s say we accept that the media and the “culture of mean” is behind the seeming uptick of school shootings and bullying. How then to account for the insulting treatment of contestants on “The Gong Show” in the ’70s and the brutal reception of many acts on “Showtime at the Apollo,” that’s been airing since 1987, not resulting in the same?

And, even though I very much dislike the crash-and-burn cheerleading during the “Idol” audition process and covered the 1 year anniversary of Columbine for Beliefnet, I find it hard to blame Simon Cowell for recent violence, instead of say, easy access to guns. In fact, in a way, I think Simon is one of the lone voices of reason–with his harsh, yet honest appraisals–for the generation dubbed “Generation Me.”

As The Associated Press reports: “Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.”

Between 1982 and 2006, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and her colleagues evaluated 16,475 college students nationwide using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

The results? The children of “the self-esteem movement” of the 1980s, with its constant “you’re special” mantra, are uber-narcissists.

“We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back,” said Twenge. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”

Study co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia suggested that narcissism could have some advantages, including auditioning for “American Idol.”

But, the bad outweighs the good. “The study asserts that narcissists ‘are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors.'”

Over-controlling and violent behaviors? Kinda sounds like bullying, doesn’t it?

Perhaps Campbell had the solution for both problems when he told the AP that, “Permissiveness seems to be a component. A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for.”

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