Miley Cyrus Is A Symptom

If you didn’t watch the MTV Video Music Awards last night, and don’t feel bad if you didn’t, you missed a spectacle highlighting precisely how far our culture has degraded.

Meet what Miley Cyrus has become, via Mashable…

Yes, those are teddy bears on stage with her. MTV just sexualized and cheapened one of the enduring symbols of childhood; not that this display is the first in recent years. It’s the first with a thorough absence of merit, however.

It’s very clear Miley Cyrus is just another example of not just the coarsening and devaluation of American pop culture, but of something else instead.

Namely, that it’s no longer sufficient or even of primary importance to have and develop talent in today’s society.

It’s more important, it seems, to be willing to dive deeper into the muck than the next guy.

We see this in politics all the time. Look who is in the White House. Our president routinely abuses his power, and does it openly. He degrades his political opponents into enemies, and sends his minions out to assault their rights. And he expends an enormous amount of effort in an effort to divide the American people along racial and other lines.

But Barack Obama isn’t alone. Look at his subordinates. The bald-faced, shameless lies of his press flacks like Jay Carney, Robert Gibbs, Jen Psaki and Stephanie Cutter aren’t unprecedented, but they’ve been attention-grabbing. There is a willingness to play dirty, to abuse the process for personal gain, inherent in what this administration and its perpetual campaign has done which is unmistakable.

And it extends to the leadership of the president’s party in Congress. Any examination of Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz or James Clyburn would indicate these aren’t charismatic politicians of any particular intellectual gifts; they’re where they are because they’re more willing to to what it takes to “push a narrative” than the rest. And as a result we get fresh wedges driven between Americans every day courtesy of their efforts.

But the coarsening of the culture, and our rewards of those willing to toss principles aside in pursuit of ambition, extends far beyond politics. It has pervaded the sports world.

Look at Lance Armstrong. Look at Alex Rodriguez. They’re only two of a myriad of examples of athletes willing to go outside the rules to get an unfair advantage on the competition.

And look at Gregg Williams, the Saints’ defensive coordinator who, if you’re willing to believe the NFL’s accusations, was running a bounty program rewarding attempts to hurt opposing players.

There are other industries in which we see this phenomenon. Remember the grade-fixing scandal in Atlanta’s public schools? Remember Enron? How about Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford? Or Al Gore selling his environmentalist TV channel to Arab oil sheikhs?

But it’s especially evident in the pop culture. Miley Cyrus isn’t alone; by now the up-and-coming female singer who attempts to enhance a middling level of musical talent by sexualizing her onstage persona is a cliche’. Lady Gaga has done it, Katy Perry has done it, Britney Spears did it, and Madonna continues to do it. Even the singers who don’t need to present themselves in that way to mask a so-so singing voice have fallen into that trap; look at Christina Aguilera.

Which is of a piece with all the gangsta rap out there, which is nothing more than a cheap money-grab using sex and violence to disguise low-quality art.

We see the willingness to dive into the muck in the film business. Is there societal value in Django Unchained? Is there truth and virtue in The Butler, with its myriad historical deficiencies? Do the constant end-of-the-world exploitation films lift audiences up or tear them down?

It’s almost literally everywhere. It’s gotten so bad that if you complain about it you’re derided as a prude, or holier-than-thou, or unrealistic or old-fashioned or even racist or homophobic or sexist.

It’s pervasive, and it’s pernicious. We are less as a result. And we know it.

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