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Kalikiano Kalei

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Vulgarity as a top-selling US export
6/5/2011 9:50:29 AM

Another installment in the unending series of gripes I have with several recurrent flaws in modern American society, this one deals with the cheap vulgarity that characterises American culture (or lack of it) to so many others across the world. [Note: This is probably at least partly attributable to a bowl of Kim Chee that had 'gone off' on me a day or so earlier, as much as to my inherent tendency towards curmudgeoness.]

Vulgarity Tops American Exports

The Wall Street Journal, a subject I frequently find myself harping upon, is delivered to my office gratis, since our division of State Government is responsible for the nuts and bolts processes concerned with maintenance of California’s powerful investments. Certain information in the ‘Money & Investing’ section is useful for our machinations and financial wizardry, but due to the fact that today’s newspapers are by and large a waste of money (all the news you really need can be found on-line), I read the WSJ out of habit each morning. It’s sort of like getting a crotch-shot from a 300 pound, ugly woman: an economic expression of the old pleasure/pain principle that is almost physically palpable.

At any rate, despite my awareness that reading the rag will invariably start my day off on the wrong foot, read it I do. Ever since Rupert Murdoch bought the publication, he’s initiated a continuing series of changes and updatings that appear intended to turn this former icon of stuffy economic conservatism into a financial version of USA Today, complete with tastefully tasteless (sic) titillations, slyly worked-in articles on various inane preoccupations of the masses, gossipy popular commentaries on American ‘power society’, a 'Real Estate for Sale' section that doesn't bother with anything worth less than several millions, and a section called the ‘Personal Journal’ that is gradually becoming a sort of Wall Street investor ‘s wet dream version of Vanity Fair. Think of a high-class call-girl with hyper-moral gonorrhea; that about brings the WSJ's nature to holographic life.

The 2nd and 3rd pages of the main section seem to have now become the regular advertising venue of a half dozen high-status Swiss watchmakers (Ulysse Nardin, Raymond Weil, Girrard-Perregaux, Mont Blanc, etc.) who all appear obsessed with outdoing each other in offering diamond-encrusted, solid gold or platinum wristwatches that are barely recognisable as time-pieces. That is to say the ornamentation is so ostentatiously gaudy that one has difficulty trying to figure out exactly what time the hands are displaying (or even IF they are displaying anything). To my mind, these bits of expensive jewelry contravene the basic concept of something like a wristwatch, a device that ought to register the passage of time functionally (i.e. clearly, with highly readable display and with the most basic but accurate efficiency) and precisely. Try explaining that concept to some Wall Street poltroon who is so obsessively whacked out on being perceived by his peers as so uber wertmehr that he doesn’t care if he can’t even read the watch he just spent the entire annual equivalent of my salary on!

But I digress.  One of the new Murdoch media gimmicks that the WSJ has adopted is the positioning on the bottom front of page 1 the Journal’s daily a feature I like to call the ‘We are now going to chuckle condescendingly over this delicious expression of mass-culture tastlessness’ story of the day. Usually highlighting some sort of sub-cultural ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ tidbit about the lumpen proletariat’s latest fixation intended to provoke the wealthy fat cats on Wall Street into rolling their piggy eyes at the latest antics of those hoi poloi rascals they’re so eager to exploit, today’s installment dedicated itself to the latest gambit of a popular MTV ‘reality show’ titled Jersey Shore.

Very recently the entire cast and film crew of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore descended upon the Tuscan Italian Renaissance region of Florence, thinking it would be great fun to film some episodes there as a suitably hinkty backdrop in which to accentuate and reflect the Italian-American flavor represented by the show’s cast. As anyone familiar with that show likely well understands, the whole ‘schtick’ of Jersey Shore is supposed to be about too-cool-for-you post-adolescents behaving objectionably (as they act-out coming to grips with the contemporary adult culture they so detest and reject on the erstwhile path to maturity). Gratuitous displays of public urination, disrespectful ‘in-your-face’ behavior and other acts of puerility carefully calculated to incite tongue-clucking by older individuals (whilst simultaneously drawing the approving attention of youthful post-teens) constitute much of what it’s all about. Heavily saturated with hip ethnic innuendo and what the producers imagine is a strong flavor of the Italian-American neighborhoods that figure in the flavor of the show’s zeitgeist, the show has gained a considerable following among those who deign to be considered in the vanguard of what’s hip and fashionable on the tube.

Try to image then, their collective surprise when they learned very quickly that Florence is not very keen on having to tolerate this sort of flippancy in its midst, especially as performed by a bunch of American minor media celebrities whose concept of their own coolness is vastly overrated, as the local gendarmerie began tracking them in public like InterPol on the trail of a major international criminal.

A surprise too (to them), was the officially diasapprobative response from Florence’s Major and elected civic officials who quickly banned the Jersey Shore cast from being filmed in Florence’s bars, public eateries, restaurants and just about any establishment that sells ETOH. As if to fulfill the city’s predictive anticipations of unacceptable behavior by the visiting ‘Mericanos, members of the cast and film crews began to have run-ins with the local police as soon as they hit the Italian coast. Cited amongst these encounters were spates of vehicular red-light running, illegal parking (to a helmeted Carabinieri carrying an automatic weapon: “Hey, chill out dude…we’re filming a movie, here…”), and even a few vehicular accidents (one of which involved a popular female actress on the cast colliding with a police car!).

As annoying and irritating as all ‘reality’ TV shows are to anyone with the slightest sense of what ought to constitute higher quality entertainment values, this example of American pop-culture crassness should serve as a wake-up call to remind us that far too many Americans seem to have a grossly distorted (and self-congratulatory) sense of what other nations and cultures may think of us and our social culture. In one context, it serves as a further excellent example of the solipsistic tendency Americans have of viewing the entire world as though it were merely an extension of our own culture, that unique characteristic of defining ‘normalcy’ everywhere by our own (perversely distorted) standards and perceptions. In another, this clash by ‘Jersey Shore’ with Italian conservative social approbrium provides a gauge by which one may understand just exactly how decadent, how narcisistic, how egocentric and self-obsessingly distorted America’s understanding of what constitutes 'entertainment' has become.

While America has never had an exclusive franchise on vulgarity, Jersey Shore’s latest encounter with the rest of the world should demonstrate to anyone’s satisfaction how myopically banal our morals and standards of acceptable cultural behavior have become. In this context it’s probably worth mention that Hollywood, that festering cess-pit of prurient ‘popular entertainment’ industries, has (generally speaking) little concern with the moral quality of its products other than the ratings received and their subsequent income potential. In the past, a few brave social critics and cultural analysts have dared to point to the preponderant ‘Jewishness’ that seems to permeate Hollywood, referencing the palpably Jewish flavor of Hollywood’s Vaudevillian precursor milieu and examining how Ashkenazi immigrants fleeing Russia's anti-Semitic pogroms and German fascism carried over in their mercantile mentality, inserting overtones of Jewish financial acquisitiveness first into the silent film industry, then into ‘talkies’ and finally into today’s mega entertainment corporations that exploit all forms of verbal and visual media equally. Invariably, money (most of it Jewish) can be found at the bedrock bottom of Hollywood’s pyramid of iniquitous collective character, linked with abuses of power, influence, sex, and just about every morally questionable behavior that conservative (Christian) religious groups themselves protest most loudly about. [Note: Author Christopher Hitchins correctly states, in some of his writings, that a measureable degree of ‘prurient interest’ frequently underlies (and thereby betrays) the exaggerated earnestness demonstrated by some of the most outspoken moral critics of this sort of thing. His example of the Roman Catholic Auto-da-fé, that horrific culmination of the Spanish Inquisition, with its extreme emphasis on torture that implies a morbid fascination with the sexual and moral degradation it condemns, is noteworthy in its aptness. For all that, far too often the Bard’s immortal words resonate strongly (“Methinks he doeth protest too much…”) in the background when a fundamentalist Christian evangelical with a reputation built upon castigation of sin and iniquity is himself found to be a covert sexual deviant in today’s society, thinking himself safe behind the wall of his own vehement demands for sinners to repent their sinfulness.]

Although any suggestion that there is a distinctly ‘Jewish’ character or flavor behind the efforts to capitalise on all that loose morality that Hollywood so trenchantly displays in its commercial entertainment products is almost always squarely met by legions of defamation proponents who shriek ‘anti-semitism’ at the slightest provocation, lest there be any doubt of the general veracity of that surmise, one simply has to look for that same element at work within the US Government (i.e. the ‘Pro-Israeli Lobby’ that exerts so much influence on American foreign policy) and in other venues elsewhere to glimpse the true nature of the beast. Numerous articles and papers have, in the past, explored, analysed and evaluated the part Jewish money and influence play and have played in the development of today’s prurient pop-culture entertainment and its for-profit sleaze products, so much so that it is hard for any socially alert, culturally awake and critically aware person to conclude otherwise. The same dynamic is true in the political arena.

At this point, and admittedly at risk of setting off screaming alarms and flashing red lights among those of the Jewish faith who are convinced that American Nazis and White Supremacists/Skinheads lurk behind every other rock in our nation, let me assure you that my observations do not constitute and are not a blanket condemnation of the Jews or of traditional Hebrew religion in general terms. That sort of caustically vitriolic angst is best left to the rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth ultra-rightists whose hate-filled sentiments should properly shame any decent, broad-minded and reflectively aware individual who ecounters them, since any student of history understands (or should, at least) full-well the great debt the civilised world owes to Jewish intellectuals, musicians, humorists and thinkers in recent centuries. [Digression: As if that weren't enough, there's also the fact that my favorite vintage comedians, The Three Stooges, were also of the Jewish faith; their often overlooked story as underappreciated geniuses of their unique form of humor deserves a blog entry entirely of its own! For some excellent background on them, go here.]

The point I wish to make here is simple enough, that in a nation that hews to the concept of what we politely term ‘American Capitalist Democracy’ the tendency to exploit human beings en masse as well as individually has been in the past 100 years raised nearly to an art form by those who value personal profit above all other aims and objectives in life. The modern American entertainment and media milieu has grown up to tap into that rich vein of public naiveté and the fact that today’s American media and Hollywood’s entire culture is predominantly empowered and backed by Jewish economic capital is almost anecdotal, given its vast and pervasive nature. The chief point that needs to be recognised is that these forces of selfish greed and aggrandisement are obsessed with economic self-enhancement (i.e. personal profit) and viewed on that particular microscope stage nothing is too outrageous, too garish, too reckless or too irresponsible to consider that will allow that narrowly-defined and egocentric economic goal to be pursued, relentlessly and with unchecked enthusiasm.

Since the simple-minded masses (the faceless, naïve and gullible public I love to be so critical of) have always been and continue to be so easily exploited, media and entertainment corporations will do just about anything (short of overtly breaking the law in a manner that may result in expensive law suits) to perpetuate their vulgar agenda of raking in millions of dollars from the ‘rubes’ they feed upon parasitically, like financial remora in a commercial shark feeding frenzy. For this reason, American television frequencies are inundated with programs today that reflect that sort of cheap, sleazy immorality that is so fatally attractive to as-yet not fully formed human consciousness (read: adolescents and teenagers). That’s where the easy money is, of course. Thus we have ‘reality television’ programs like ‘Jersey Shore’ (a perfect sub-title for which could easily be ‘immature, physically grown-up kids acting badly and being told it's cool...’).  These same forces that have resulted in American television being perverted, over the past half-century (from a medium with potential for achieving elevated social, expanded intellectual awareness and higher thought into a hard-edged commercially driven medium exclusively focused and directed to suck money from the pockets of shamefully gullible, immature individuals), are responsible for the absolute drivel that most ‘reality television’ shows actually are today. By extension, they are also responsible in a larger sense for helping make America into one vast corporate exploitation machine and it’s no coincidence thereby that unchecked domestic consumer spending (usually by Americans least able to afford it) constitutes the single-most important economic source of income for the entire nation. Someone once noted that this rampant materialistic consumerism is such a written-in-stone concept underpinning America’s capitalistic system that ‘In God We Trust’ on our currency should be replaced by ‘Spend, Baby, Spend!’  I find that hard to disagree with, given its amusing aptness.

Capitalising on weak-minded people (assuming, as I am wont to do, that they constitute the bulk of the intellectual midgets and imperfectly self-actualized individuals that seem to fill out our national demographic) has become the sine qua non of America’s entire commercial economy, more important and more formidable a motivation in our time than any other single or multiple aspect of the modern American zeitgeist. The only power that acts to keep this monumentally corrosive dynamic even modestly in check is the mild moral deterrent that the American legal system comprises. Of course, the fact that American culture is so riddled with moral and ethical corruption has in turn given birth to yet another monster…the American legal profession…although admittedly not yet quite as devastating in terms of its impact on the quality of our lives as our amoral media and entertainment industry (but that’s another problem entirely).

At any rate, as much as I loathe all that the Wall Street Journal stands for, in its perpetual fanning of the media flames of greed and acquisitive gluttony, despite the heavily pro-Israel (and pro-Jewish cultural) bias that is so clearly evident on its editorial and opinion pages, and regardless of my personal allergies to obsessive philistine acquisitiveness of any sort, I will admit that the WSJ does (fairly regularly at that) provide an occasional article or two of incisive relevance worth commending (and of course its book reviews tend to be excellent). This does not diminish my low-level antipathy for the WSJ any more than it diminishes my dislike of America’s cultural vulgarity that that paper’s story on ‘Jersey Shore’ focuses on, since bringing out this latent fact that one of the worst aspects of our great American Experiment is our innate eagerness to capitalize on virtually everything from Jesus himself (the annual sales of ‘Jesus related’ commercial products and consumer goods must be in the billions of dollars) to the Virgin Mary’s (immaculate) knickers (were there a way to turn them into a profit generating concern associated with a new super-detergent product) is an important insight into the morally corrupt nature of the American system that we lose sight of only to our greater detriment.

Since my arguments (along with my enthusiasms) are running out of steam here, thanks to the distraction offered by my two Siberian Huskies (who sit at my feet gnawing rather noisily on sectioned cow femurs, at the moment), I’ll end this here without further development. Lest there be any question as to the veracity of my observations on the incipient nature of our national moral sleaze and its origins in popular culture (read: media & Hollywood profiteering at the expense of higher social ethics), dial up the URLs highlighted earlier in this text. One other item you might find illuminating may be found below (it deals with the Hollywood practice of using ‘screen tests’ and the casting couch as a pretext for obtaining sexual favors from wannabee stars and starlets…a time-honored form of Hollywood's institutionalised moral perversity that is as old as Tinseltown itself).

Aloha mai e, malama pono!

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