"...[American Idol] appears on Fox, and Fox is itself a repository of democratic contradictions. The network has offered some of television's best shows (The Simpsons, The X-Files, Arrested Development) along with some of its worst. (Hell holds an eternity of flesh-cutting and bone-breaking for Nely Galán, creator of that sick surgical spectacle The Swan.) Fox's entertainment arm truly is what its cable news channel claims to be: fair and balanced. That is, despite being flagship to the media empire of Rupert Murdoch, a well-known conservative, it gives air to exactly those voices its owner would deem most objectionable: gay voices, ethnic voices, liberal, peace-mongering, anti-Bush voices.
"For subversive content, no mainstream outlet comes close to Fox. The once-mighty Big Three networks are neutered and timid in comparison. This is really something, when you think about it: Imagine a network run by liberals that gave such extensive prime-time exposure to the satiric mouthings-off of conservative cartoonists, sitcom writers, and auteurs of the hour drama. (Okay, there probably aren't any of those, but I did say 'imagine.')
"You'll retort that it's all about money and ratings. That Fox isn't truly interested in robust debate – it's interested in profiting from the very dissent and kinked-out entertainment its owner's ideology opposes. No argument here. But that's the point. That's the occasional cracked magic of the marketplace, wherein robust debate occurs as the natural result of the profit motive. Capitalism, by servicing desires that are often in direct contradiction of our official ideologies, can expose those ideologies as inadequate, oppressive, merely a ruling-class version of the truth. Our national self-righteousness is complicated by the bizarre evidence of our viewing patterns. The almighty dollar trumps the Almighty. Amen."