Why We Love to Hate Awards

Obama expressed his disappointment recently when rapper Kanye West stormed the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to protest singer Taylor Swift‘s win of the “Best Female Video” trophy. Soon after, Obama himself was Swifted by critics who felt he was undeserving of his Nobel Prize win. This process is “not wildly out of character with how awards generally work,” writes Jonathan Chait at The New Republic. He references a study published in the Journal of Wine Economics which found that “a wine that wins one competition is no more likely to win another competition than any other wine. Which is to say, wine awards are handed out completely at random. … Yet awards [in general] provide emotional responses — gratification, victimization, schadenfreude — that make the ritual perversely compelling. Understanding that the process is fatally flawed, or even corrupt, seems to do nothing to diminish its appeal.” [%comments]


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  1. Read It! says:

    Nice summary, but I encourage all to read the linked article.

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  2. Thorstein Veblen says:

    I love the blog — but I’m just curious when you guys are actually, you know, going to defend your book? All the other blogs are pointing out various fallacies, inconsistencies, and misleading statements in your chapter on global warming. You haven’t defended yourselves against a single “slander”.

    Basically, you just went up to environmentalists and poked them in the eyes w/ your book. Now, in response, they are giving you guys nuggies and picking on you, but since you guys are defenseless, you just decide to curl up in a ball until everyone forgets about the eye-poke that set it all off?

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  3. eliot says:

    Swifted or Wested?

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  4. Panem et Circanses says:

    We all need to get a grip about the true (lack of) importance about awards. The Oscars and Emmys are trade shows. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is a museum owned by an accountant. The Nobels are bestowed by a small group of Norwegians accountable to few if any. Tradition, and media hype, start the distortion, but ultimately we choose how much to buy into their significance. We don’t have to.

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  5. PsiCop says:

    Awards are generally just a reflection of the people who give them out, not of the person or thing being given the award.

    In the case of Oscars, Emmies, MTV Music Awards, and other assorted Hollywood-type “awards,” really what’s happening is that Hollywood is congratulating itself for being … well … Hollywood. They’re a convenient excuse for lots of parties (at which, also conveniently, they’re all lavished with “gift packages” whose value can run into the tens of thousands of dollars if not more). They’re also a convenient excuse for Hollywoodites to perform for each other, as if people working as performers really needed a reason to perform for each other.

    I’m not sure I get the point of these awards. Most people in most professions manage to do their work just fine without doling out “awards” to each other for having done their jobs. Perhaps the folks in Hollywood are so insecure that they need the reassuring adulation of their fans and coworkers? If so, they need psychiatric help, not more Oscars.

    As for the Noble Peace Prize, it’s given out by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament. As such, it reflects Norwegian politicians’ opinions and beliefs about the world. There’s nothing wrong with that — I don’t mean to disparage Norwegians in particular — but one must view the decision to give this award to Obama as a reflection of Norway’s own politics and culture, not of Obama himself or anything he’s done (or not, as the case may be). Reading anything more into it than that, is a fool’s errand.

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  6. Matt says:

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t find awards compelling at all — at least not this sort. Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. Really, how much credibility did they have to lose?

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  7. Abby Tucson, AZ says:

    Where do we get to comment on that altira thing? I played a similar game in my social service days. We were placed in groups of four with a pile of money divided among ourselves. We were given options I don’t clearly recall, but ultimately, you could take from or contribute the pile. No one was allowed to speak. I saw immediatley that if we all gave to the pile, we would become the richest group, but even the Tohono O’odham in the foursome wanted to take rather than give. A lesson for socialists and capitalists. Anyone know the name of that game? I can’t recall all the parameters.

    I do know that when the food bank was pitching the fact they could buy $9 of food for every dollar contributed, I skipped the canned food and cut a check. I know not to miss the chance to get in on good deal. Anyone investigated enlightenned self-interest? Sort of a hybrid deal.

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  8. Eric M. Jones says:

    The most recent right-wing rumor is that the Pope canonized President Obama.

    I certainly hope it’s true.

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