Fairness and the Bristol Stomp

Almost all children hear a set of conflicting statements from their parents, relatives, and friends. They’re told if they study hard, if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they want. It’s the “American Dream.” But they’re also told that life isn’t always fair.

Looking for internships or jobs, America’s children learn that no matter how much they studied or worked, it was the boss’s niece or a boss’s friend’s son who was hired. Sometimes, the reason for rejection could be as simple as the boss thought the best candidate was intellectually superior or that the applicant had curly black hair and he liked only blondes.

Later, on another job, while the boss bought yet another vacation home, the worker was one of dozens laid off, their jobs going to Mexico, China, or Pakistan.

It’s not fair that reality TV “stars” and pro athletes make 10 to more than 100 times the salaries of social workers and firefighters. But Americans seldom protest.

The owner of a mid-sized carpentry shop loses a contract to a large corporation, not because of a lack of quality work but because the corporation cut deals with suppliers. It’s not fair; it’s just reality.

One person driving 65 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone is stopped by police; another, doing 80, speeds along. It’s not fair. But it happens.

It probably wasn’t fair that Bristol Palin, 20-year-old unwed mother with no discernible job skills, was selected over thousands of other celebrities for ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.” It had nothing to do with fairness or her ability; it had everything to do with a reality that Palin’s presence on DWTS would bring in ratings, and ratings bring in advertising income. The first show brought in 21 million viewers who watched 30-second commercials from companies that paid almost $190,000 each, among the highest on all television—broadcast or cable.

To assure that Palin had  a chance to stay on the show for at least a couple of weeks, the producers gave her a special advantage — her professional dance partner was Mark Ballas, DWTS champion twice in the previous 10 seasons.

Even with one of the best professional ballroom dancers as her partner and coach, Palin was still at the bottom of the judges’ ranking four times, and near the bottom most of the other times. According to the scoring system, each of three judges give each contestant pair— a celebrity and a professional — a score of 1 to 10. A perfect score is 30. But, viewers can vote by phone, website, or by texting. Their vote is worth half the total score. Neither Sarah nor Bristol Palin made any special requests of the viewers that we know about. They didn’t have to. Hundreds of conservative blogs and talk show hosts did it for them, urging their flocks to vote. Many may have even scammed the system. At least one viewer told the Washington Post he not only had used fake emails to vote hundreds of times, he also told others how to do it.

Willing accomplices and accessories, of course, were the producers who made sure that Mama Palin was seen on several shows—sometimes with speaking roles, sometimes with as many as nine cutaway shots. The audience did as they were told. For nine weeks, Bristol Palin, one of the weakest dancers in the show’s 11-season history, defeated celebrity teams who had near-perfect and perfect scores.

The week before the finals, it finally seemed destined that Bristol Palin would be off the show, having again placed at the bottom of the judges’ scores. But it was Brandy and professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who had done near-perfect routines, who were voted off. Shocked, the audience began booing. It didn’t matter. Palin was now one of three celebrity finalists.

The first of a two-part final the following week drew an audience of 23.7 million, highest for any entertainment program this season. However, this time, it was Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, who had finished at the top of the judges’ lists several times, who finally won. Second were actor Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer; Palin and Ballas finished third.

It makes little difference if numerous celebrities weren’t selected for Dancing With the Stars because the producers gave the slot to the less talented Bristol Palin. It doesn’t even matter that more talented celebrities were eliminated from the show because a cult of the home audience voted for Bristol Palin. In the American election system, the best candidate, for any of a thousand reasons, including blatant lies and distortion by the opposition, often doesn’t win an election.

It doesn’t seem fair. It’s just the way it is.

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, and his latest Fracking Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at: walterbrasch@gmail.com. Read other articles by Walter, or visit Walter's website.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on November 26th, 2010 at 10:37am #

    max,
    i said i’d point out to u blaming the victims. here’s one
    “It’s not fair that reality TV “stars” and pro athletes make 10 to more than 100 times the salaries of social workers and firefighters. But Americans seldom protest.”
    this almost defies an explanation. but let’s try?
    the statement implies that the evaluative skill of people is quite adequate-accurate.
    but smhow, nevertheless, misevaluate.
    or that all of them are moonstruck! or that people are in body and mind sound. while in fact struck by obesity, depression, cancer, debts, anger, fears, u.s ‘education’; in short, educated to react as pavlov’s dog had been.
    just show them the flag and at mere sight of it they become proud, teary, etc., just like dog salivating at the sound of bell. tnx

  2. bozh said on November 26th, 2010 at 10:45am #

    yes, walter, it may be called show and don’t tell or be fair. but isn’t that americanism, greatness of america, american dream, sacrosancy of u.s laws that command rich and famous get a bigger share than unworthy people.
    i suggest u stop blaming individuals [there's that blame game] and try to change u.s laws which command and not only demand injustice be done if there is profit to be made. tnx

  3. Max Shields said on November 26th, 2010 at 4:22pm #

    bozh who do you think is going to change US laws? (assuming all of our inequalities can be addressed through the legal system – I’m doubtful.)

    There is a phenomenon of “blaming the victim”. For instance if one blames the poor for being poor. Assuming poverty is systemic, and though exceptions always exist regarding a poor person moving “out of poverty”, the systemic cycle demands an aggregate poverty level which has dramatically shot up over the last decade. So to kick someone when they are down is both immoral and unfair. Got it.

    However in a systemic cycle of who’s in charge – who is the government? Do we blame the members of Congress for passing this bill or not passing that? Do we “blame” president for not doing or doing something? Are the systemic constraints that says: if you play this game you must yield to the rules. Those ruled may be owned by a political system which is both weak (in its democratic muscularity) and badly corrupted (by corporate money). Is it the greed of the individual politicians? Are they victims of their avarice; or their upbringing that makes money the predominate means of demonstrating self-worth?

    In the case of the article here Mr. Brasch talks about a celebrity TV dance show. Victims? Let’s talk about victims.

    First, where do you draw the proverbial line, bozh, with this notion of “victim”?

    My answer is simple: stop pronouncing everyone as a victim. Nothing ever comes of it. The only way laws and political and economic systems are changed is by people. I cannot see the moral equivilency demanded by calling the people in this social commentary article by Mr. Brasch a clarion call for “blaming victims”.

    The Palestinians are victims of savage raids and human degradation by Israeli storm-troopers. The colonized Africans were beaten into servitude (read Franz Fanon); and the Afghan and Pakistinian child is crushed by US drones.

    Please bozh show some discretion, some intellectual integrity, some humanitiarn discretion between these victims and the ones you refer to in this article! Don’t make a mockery out of the innocent child whose flesh was pulled from muscle and bone by US made napalm by using the above article as an example of “blaming the victim”.

  4. bozh said on November 26th, 2010 at 4:35pm #

    max,
    u’r getting personal and u’r condemning a person. it make no difference whether a person is wrong or right– and especially in ur supremacistic mind– that isn’t the right thing to do.
    as fas i understand u, u’r addicted to wealth and supremacism. and u’ never give that up.
    a person like me cannot talk to such people and i won’t!

  5. Max Shields said on November 26th, 2010 at 4:45pm #

    bozh I’m not getting personal, i.e., regarding you. I am arguing against your generalization. If you take it as a “personal” attack so be it.

    Your thinking what I said in ANY WAY could be remotely interpreted as being “addicted to wealth and supremacism” would indicate that you have not understood one word I have post (certainly not on this topic).

    Playing the victim, may be the issue at hand, bozh. It’s unbecoming.

  6. bozh said on November 26th, 2010 at 5:07pm #

    max,
    one more time. u’ve heard of pavlov’s ‘indoctrination’. it applies to all humans; includes also obama. even keyes in email to me agrees to this.
    we all are have been rendered less human by just such a process; we all have been victimized by such a methodology.
    however, victim 1, sleeping under a bridge, is not a victim 2, gates, sleeping in a mansion. and victim 3, a houseperson, is not victim 4, lieberman; and latter wielding all the power and houseperson about zero.
    if u cannot comprehend this simple fact, then, what can anybody do to help u? tnx

  7. Deadbeat said on November 26th, 2010 at 5:49pm #

    This is a rather silly article. Rather than look at Capitalist exploitation he chooses to pit workers against each other. I agree with bozh that the author here is engaging in “blaming the victim” because it direct the focus toward “workers” who face exploitation rather than the Capitalists.

  8. Hue Longer said on November 26th, 2010 at 5:54pm #

    Who cares? Stop watching TV…..what can one possibly expect? I get that there is an example being made but doubt that confronting people on this level does anything greater than legitimizing the ruse

  9. Don Hawkins said on November 26th, 2010 at 6:16pm #

    Heck let’s all sell all that we own start tomorrow and find a tent a big one that can hold 500 people and give them hell. Topics Socialism, climate change, war and on and on. Make a sign for the front of the tent, KNOWLEDGE, give them hell. Kind of an alternative to the bullshit. It was how warm in the Arctic in October, the bank’s do what and get away with it maybe twenty people to start and we have a meeting kind of a high council and then vote then give them hell. Ruff draft.

  10. Max Shields said on November 26th, 2010 at 6:30pm #

    I guess I fell for bozh bait. He thought this was a lesson of some sort and I challenged him, not the veracity or importance of the article.

    Whether it’s this article or another, there is something grotesque about seeing everyone as a victim. If we’re all victims than how is change ever going to happen…or maybe the point is we’re not.

    Ok, if that’s the argument.

  11. Don Hawkins said on November 26th, 2010 at 6:37pm #

    Hello people why are you here today? Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

    I’m trying to free your mind. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.

    Free your mind.
    Why do my eyes hurt?
    You’ve never used them before.

    I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.

    : What is the system? Control. The system is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this.
    [holds up a Duracell battery]

    RUFF DRAFT!

  12. Don Hawkins said on November 27th, 2010 at 5:19am #

    Do you want to know what it is? : Yes. : The system is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. : What truth? : That you are a slave. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

    That of course was from the movie the Matrix and such silly ness. A prison for your mind whoever heard of such a thing the stuff people come up with now day’s and the effect it can have on kid’s minds. Am going to write my Senator about this maybe we could get some new law’s. And people pay to see this stuff amazing.

  13. Don Hawkins said on November 27th, 2010 at 5:29am #

    “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” now there’s a movie as ever since my grandson saw it he want’s to work in a chocolate factory. Am serious he told me the other day he has better things to do than learn math like work in a chocolate factory. I get it.

  14. Don Hawkins said on November 27th, 2010 at 5:42am #

    It seems sometimes the new’s here in the States people are not allowed to tell the truth I wonder why that is just on the off chance it’s true.

  15. Don Hawkins said on November 27th, 2010 at 7:23am #

    Ok here’s a good one just now on Fox New’s they were talking about Obama and his cut lip. Then they showed Bush when he got a scrape on his face. Then they showed Clinton when he tripped going down some stares. Raise the bar people raise the bar. It’s almost like these people are a tourist attraction.

  16. bozh said on November 27th, 2010 at 8:38am #

    don,
    yes, we can deem all one hears-sees on t.v or movies as show-don’t tell or be fair.
    like, there is u sucker born every minute; so, if i fool her/him, it’s herhis fault.
    what else does a sucker deserve? but to be fleeced! tnx