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Tim Myers: Two different ways of attracting attention

Myers' Musings

Posted: April 18, 2009 10:43 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2009 4:30 a.m.


Humans crave attention. Humans will undertake many methods to obtain the attention they crave — from the toddler screaming at the top of the playground slide, “Look at me!” to the stellar amateur athlete or musician; to those who write a weekly newspaper opinion piece.

Now most attention-seeking, thankfully, elevates the race. But negative things occur, ranging on the low end from the adolescent acting out to the shocking end of “aggrieved” people going on shooting sprees.

This week saw two very different methods of garnering attention from the public. In the first instance, somewhere between 250,000 to 300,000 people (counts vary widely from law enforcement, media and organizers) took the opportunity to stand at the top of the slide and scream “Look at me!” to the American public with a polyglot message ranging from anti-government to anti-tax to anti-Democrat.

Now many of my current political mindset reacted to these “tea party” protests viscerally, either stating the protests brought dangerous ultra-right-wing whacko wingnut nutjobs out from under their rocks on a spring day or, alternatively, the protests exposed simple-minded folks who can’t form a coherent sentence but feel wrong about the way things are going right now.

I disagree with both sets of opinions.

I can only evaluate what happens in my own backyard, since in other cities the spin depends upon the media source covering the event. Some actually unashamedly promoted the event.

From all reports from trusted sources, our own SCV tea-partiers constituted a respectful and fairly coherent lot who — agree or disagree — stuck to a message of fiscal conservatism and smaller government.

I do understand and sympathize with their wish to protest. The president’s continued high approval ratings probably make them feel somewhat isolated, since they likely find a large number of presidential supporters even within the ranks of their own family and co-workers.

What better way to feel good about one’s views than finding an entire group of like-minded people and standing on a public street corner and waving hand-made signs?

Contrast that with the other major event this week involving attention-grabbing: The story of Ms. Susan Boyle of Scotland. The plain, dumpy, overweight unemployed charity worker strode onto the stage of “Britain’s Got Talent,” a program that seems incredibly familiar due to the presence on its judges’ panel of Simon Cowell from “American Idol.”

The crowd sniggered and the three-judge panel smirked when Ms. Boyle asserted that she hoped to achieve the fame of Elaine Page, the stunningly beautiful queen of British musical theater.

Those schooled on American Idol and its British antecedent “Popstar” sensed a coming humiliation — a person completely without self-awareness finally receiving her comeuppance in front of an audience that included about one-fifth of the nation. Shots of the audience showed people biting their sleeves to forestall their laughter until the appropriate moment.

All things changed with the first four notes out of Ms. Boyle’s mouth, with the judges’ eyes widening in delighted surprise and immediate and spontaneous applause erupting from the audience. (This reaction is universal: I showed the YouTube video to our 4-year-old grandson and he immediately smiled and clapped his hands after the first four notes.)

Ms. Boyle went from singing strength to singing strength, hitting voluble high notes, creating more raucous applause and a continuous standing ovation from the audience.

After completing her performance, she graciously acknowledged the audience’s applause and the judge’s kudos by blowing kisses to a crowd that she could not really see due to bright stage lights.

And did Ms. Boyle receive attention! Twenty million-plus YouTube hits later, the lady from the small village near Aberdeen became an instant international sensation with many, including me, waiting for her next appearance and song.

Now should the teabaggers have grabbed a microphone and started singing with an angelic voice? Probably not, but I would warn those with whom I most closely align myself politically not to dismiss these folks out of hand because they don’t articulate their thoughts in perhaps the clearest way.

The reason many flock to Ms. Boyle is precisely because her talent seemed to come from a source the current culture deems unlikely.
Similarly, just because the teabaggers seem strange and alien to some does not mean they might not possess some valid point.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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