Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Jingle Jingle Shiny Shiny Everybody Look
After being treated to a rant about cultural rot from my own spouse last night (after she spent the day listening to repeated cultural-rot ranting by callers to her favorite radio station), I have had quite enough of Janet Jackson. I am compelled to note, however, that proposals to fine each individual CBS affiliate the maximum $27,000 for indecency would be an act of utter bureaucratic overkill, not to mention an exercise in unjustified collective guilt. By any standard of fairness short of "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out," a network affiliate in Boise or Moline simply can't be considered culpable in the Janet kerfuffle in the same way the CBS network brass might be. But "kill 'em all" is a popular model for jurisprudence in America at the moment, so I suppose it's no surprise that FCC chairman Michael Powell (a future candidate for the Republican presidential nomination) would embrace it.

In the end, the whole damn thing is textbook, and it must have brought a smile to Karl Rove's face. On a day when Bush announced the most deceitful budget in history and put in motion plans for a probe into WMD intelligence that will investigate whether our bumbling intelligence agencies gave bad information to the poor, trusting souls in the Bush White House, the country is consumed by the very sort of culture-war battle the GOP relies on to distract us from what they're really up to. So anybody who wants to talk about outrages that really matter is dismissed as elitist and out of touch with the concerns of normal Americans.

The Janet episode has everything Americans love most--the chance to spew moral outrage at big targets (rock music, youth culture, TV, celebrities), the opportunity to look all concerned and involved without actually having to think too hard, and, of course, tits. It's no wonder we couldn't think of anything else yesterday, and we're still obsessed today. Not even the discovery of ricin in a Senate mailroom could keep the TV morning shows off the breast beat.

Recommended reading: In America, you don't have to do anything or be anything to become a celebrity, or to chase the celebrity life. We've got an entire class of young, rich kids whose tickets were punched for life the moment they were born, and who become objects of fascination for that reason alone. Benjamin Wallace-Wells has hung out with them, and watched The Simple Life, MTV's Rich Girls, and other TV programs and movies in which they lament how hard their lives really are. He finds that while many of these people are merely taking up space on the planet, some realize the emptiness of their existence and are seeking a better way to live.

And finally, I've found another blog for the must-read list--the charmingly named Wonkette, half political analysis, half Washington gossip, all funny.

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