For every trash culture format in our post-postmodern, multimedia world, there are at least two ways in which one can choose to view it. One group of over-analytical people, for instance, still insists on seeing Big Brother as a unique and fascinating insight into the fragile human psyche long after the rest of the world has noticed that it's just a 21st-century equivalent of Bethlem in which one can have fun watching stupid people fight over cider. The over-thinkers in the first personality type are now the ones who craft Pulitzer-worthy novellas out of their Facebook status updates when all of their "friends" are merely cataloguing their breakfast choices. (The same ones who still put Facebook "friends" inside quote marks to distinguish them qualitatively from "real" friends.) This group, obviously, looks down on people who see The X Factor as a poptastic talent contest. We know better. We know that it's really a daring experiment in social control.
Some people (the simplistic, cider-fight aficionados) think that there's only one man in UK culture currently using hypnosis as a form of entertainment. What they don't realise is that Simon Cowell taught Derren Brown everything he knows. So Brown can manipulate Richard Madeley into drawing a picture of a lady in a hat under scientifically controlled conditions. So what? Cowell manipulated millions of record-buyers into putting Robson & Jerome at number one. For seven weeks. So, Brown can predict the lottery. Well, Cowell invented Susan Boyle. You think that Brown persuading a nation of viewers that they are physically glued to their sofas is clever? That's nothing. Cowell is persuading a nation of viewers to vote for Jedward. And they don't even know that he's doing it.
There are a number of theories, among X Factor conspiracy theorists, as to the true objective of Cowell's evil genius. Some say that the Cowell publicity machine can only support one world-dominating pop juggernaut every other year. After Leona Lewis, therefore, we needed a duff year, so Cowell used mind control to trick us into voting for Leon Jackson. (You know. The Scottish one.) Then we were allowed to choose Alexandra Burke. So this year we are due another loser. Or two matching losers, if Cowell has his wicked way. This thesis collapses, however, when we consider that 2004's Steve Brookstein came first in a supposedly winning year. So much for conspiracy theories.
What should really worry the over-thinking Saturday night viewer, though, is that Cowell has even the Prime Minister under his spell now. Gordon Brown has no idea what he thinks about matters of national importance such as how to end the recession or what is his favourite kind of biscuit; but he does know what he thinks about the novelty teenage act John and Edward Grimes: they're "not very good". And don't think that David Cameron's going to save us. "You only need to watch a few minutes," he said, "and suddenly, 40 minutes later, you're still nailed to your chair, waiting for the terrible twins to appear." Not since the case of Coronation Street's Deirdre Rashid have political leaders become so heavily involved in a Completely Made-Up Thing – and to be fair to Tony Blair, Deirdre was a lot more convincingly real than the Grimeses.
Try to defy him, and Cowell just lures us back in . "If they win," he has now said, "it will be a complete and utter disaster. I'd probably sulk for about six months and get on a very fast plane out of the country." And as if by magic, phones ring off the hook to Keep Jedward In. Resistance is futile. Cowell will always succeed. John and Edward to win.