By now you probably know what happened to poor Ashlee Simpson on last week's episode of Saturday Night Live. She came, we watched, she lip-synced. Then she danced a hoedown and blamed the fuckup on her band (bad Ashlee!). Depending on how closely you've followed the developments (and if you haven't followed them at all and can somehow prove it, e-mail me and I'll send you some music ... seriously, that kind of feat is worthy of prizes), you may not have heard about some interesting peripheral tidbits. For instance, did you know that the director for that episode of SNL, Beth McCarthy Miller, was also the director of the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl half-time show, i.e., Titty-gate? Strange.
Another disturbing fact is that the producers of SNL edited out the infamous "backing track" when the show was beamed to the West Coast on its standard three-hour delay, which means that if you were watching in San Francisco all you saw was the band start playing, Simpson becoming confused, Simpson doing a hoedown, and Simpson running off stage. You couldn't hear the backing track, so you couldn't tell what was going on. Did the producers suddenly forget about the Internet? Did they think viewers would just think, "Oh, that's strange," and shrug the whole thing off? Not that SNL is a pillar of integrity, but this sure makes it hard to trust the "L" in the name.
What pisses me off most about all of this, though, is the way the spinning of Ashlee-gate bears such a frightening resemblance to the way the Bushies spin the facts in reaction to a scandal or mistake. For example, it's audacious for Simpson's father and manager Jim to claim that his daughter only lip-synced to the second song, "Autobiography," of her two-song SNL set, not to the first, "Pieces of Me." Because there's only one problem with that, Jimbo: Why was the backing track to "Pieces of Me" the one that started playing accidentally? Why did it even exist at all if she wasn't planning on using it? But no, it's too late; that's Jim's story and he's sticking to it, and you can bet that half of Simpson's fans aren't going to put two and two together, and that many who were at one point outraged will calm down and forgive her. It's the same thing with the administration claiming that Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident when, if you look just a little deeper, it becomes increasingly clear that it wasn't. Or with Rudy Giuliani blaming the Al-Qaqaa missing-explosives scandal on our troops, when in fact it's clearly a problem of leadership. It's this way that Bush's people have of saying, "No, no, W.'s total incompetence isn't a big deal. Look over here."
And then we do.
Witness Katie Couric on The Today Show shooting sympathetic looks at Simpson as she explained away the gaff as an isolated incident, that she was sick, that everyone does it, that it's not a big deal, that "My drummer pushed the wrong button." Look, I know a thing or two about samplers, and I'll tell you, they don't have just two buttons. "We love your drummer, too," said Couric, ending the interview. Aaaahhh.
Simpson's fans were delightfully furious at her last week, spewing bile by the gallon on her Web site. As a result, Simpson took it upon herself to respond. You may have heard that the Simpson camp is claiming the singer had a flare-up of acid reflux disease on the night of the taping that made her voice hoarse. And certainly as a longtime sufferer of said ailment, Simpson has spoken, and probably written, the disease's name in the past. Well: "Hey Guys! I'm sure you all have figured out how crazy its [sic] been the last few days, but I just wanted to personally write to y'all -- my true fans -- and thank you for your support and love. ... My acid refux [sic] started acting up and I know my real fans know that music and performing is my true passion ...."
This shit makes me crazy. Almost as crazy as watching Bush pound away at the fact that everything is going great in Iraq, that "freedom is on the march," when it's anything but. Since when have we lived in a society where millions of people can watch, hear, and read the facts, and then be so easily dissuaded by someone simply stating, "Nope, that's not what you saw, that's not what you heard"?
"Most artists on big shows do that [sing to a backing track] and I had never done it once." OK Ashlee, we believe you. OK, George, we trust you.
How, in the face of all of the facts, can anyone vote for Bush? On the one hand, you've got the spin about John Kerry being a flip-flopper, and on the other you've got the indisputable facts of W.'s record: that the world is less safe, the environment less healthy, our troops more dead, our global reputation completely tarnished, the explosives gone missing after the fall of Baghdad.
We've long known that our president is loath to take responsibility and admit mistakes, but did anyone ever think that there are potential side effects to that attitude? That it might spread? That we'd find ourselves in a world of steadily increasing unaccountability, a world where baseball players shoot steroids, pop stars lip sync, and politicians do whatever they want, safe in the knowledge that the public -- and the media -- will gobble up the excuses and the spin?
I know, San Francisco, that I'm preaching to the choir, but I had to get it out of my system. Besides, you're not reading this anyway, right?