Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did AT&T cheat?

I don' t pay much attention to American Idols. The show has long had a tendency to pick second-best when it comes to talent. Certainly this year was no exception. I don't think there was much debate about whether Adam Lambert was better than Kris Allen.

And some social conservatives, like Bill O'Reilly were trying to turn the vote into a "culture war" battle. O'Reilly harped on whether speculation that Adam Lambert might be gay would hurt his chances. The media, with whatever biases they have, loves to fan the flames of such debates because it gets them ratings. So the mass media pushed that story over and over. Certainly some Christian groups and high profile evangelicals, like the discredited Ted Haggard, urged people to vote for Allen. Apparently talent took place to politics. I had tended to avoid the debate because while, I think Lambert was the most talented of the bunch, I saw no way in that debate to make that point without appearing to be turning this into a culture war issue myself.

Since I strongly think the question is one of talent I wanted to avoid the appearance of seeing this as part of the battle to bring libertarian values to our culture.

The real problem with faux contests like Idol is that the system doesn't measure public support but the fanaticism of supporters, or opponents. The contest is rigged since you can vote as many times as you want. The reason is that this is a money maker for AT&T, a company I don't use. In fact, people like myself were excluded from voting since only AT&T users were allowed to vote by text message. And the reason you can vote as much as you like was to increase AT&T revenue. Each vote costs money and 10 votes produce ten times the revenue that one vote does.

Opposition to Lambert, because of his perceived sexuality, was strong among Christians, particularly in the South, the last bastion of bigotry against just about everyone that bigots are bigoted about. It was widely believed that this dislike of Lambert cost him the win. Whether this is true or not I don't know. Nor do I think it matters for Lambert.

I can assume right now that Lambert will have a very successful career while winner Kris Allen will have a mediocre one at best. Lambert will sell out concerts, Allen will sell out church halls. Lambert will have a worldwide following, Allen will play middle America and no where else. My guess is that over their lifetime, Lambert's earning power will outshine Allen's by a 100 to 1. It appears Lambert has already been offered the role of front man for Queen — a worthy successor to Freddie Mercury indeed.

But now it was revealed that AT&T bent the rules to support Allen. Actually it appears they cheated. AT&T representatives went to parties in Arkansas that were created to support Allen only. Only these Allen supporters were given phones to use for free text voting. Not only that but the AT&T representatives showed the Allen supporters how they could send multiple votes each time they voted. So where a Lambert voter could send one vote when they sent their text, Allen supporters at these parties were shown how to send 10 votes each time they texted their message. And the Allen voters got the texting provided for free.

Where Lambert's supporters had to be AT&T customers the Allen supporters were handed the phones by AT&T to use and didn't need to be customers. Lambert's supporters had to pay normal rates for each message they sent. Allen's supporters at the parties were allowed to send in votes for free. Lambert's supporters were restricted to one vote per text message while the Allen voters at the parties could send multiple votes with each text. And AT&T never provided the same service to Lambert voters.

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