Another Sign Of The Apocalyptic Times
When I was in Europe, whether in the former communist countries, or in the western European countries, the thing I heard over and over was disgust about what American popular culture is doing to them, and their kids. In Poland, a high school teacher said to me that there is no institution or force in his country that has a stronger influence on the youth of Poland that social media, through which Western popular culture and its ideals spread. I completely side with those people. It’s not enough to say, “Just turn it off.” OK, fine — but what about the fact that most people will not turn it off? That we all have to live in a society polluted by these people?
So, last night, the most powerful popular culture on the planet proclaimed its judgment on the best of the music videos it has produced in the previous year. The top prize at the Video Music Awards went to:
Lil Nas X won the top prize for video of the year with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” then began his acceptance speech by thanking “the gay agenda.” That video also won for best direction and best visual effects.
You might recall that this video features an image of the artist being sodomized by Satan. It leaves nothing to the imagination.
We have seen this sort of thing before. From Live Not By Lies:
The post-World War I generation of writers and artists were marked by their embrace and celebration of anti-cultural philosophies and acts as a way of demonstrating contempt for established hierarchies, institutions, and ways of thinking. Arendt said of some writers who glorified the will to power, “They read not Darwin but the Marquis de Sade.”
Her point was that these authors did not avail themselves of respectable intellectual theories to justify their transgressiveness. They immersed themselves in what is basest in human nature and regarded doing so as acts of liberation. Arendt’s judgment of the postwar elites who recklessly thumbed their noses at respectability could easily apply to those of our own day who shove aside liberal principles like fair play, race neutrality, free speech, and free association as obstacles to equality. Arendt wrote:
The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it.
Regarding transgressive sexuality as a social good was not an innovation of the sexual revolution. Like the contemporary West, late imperial Russia was also awash in what historian James Billington called “a preoccupation with sex that is quite without parallel in earlier Russian culture.” Among the social and intellectual elite, sexual adventurism, celebrations of perversion, and all manner of sensuality was common. And not just among the elites: the laboring masses, alone in the city, with no church to bind their consciences with guilt, or village gossips to shame them, found comfort in sex.
The end of official censorship after the 1905 uprising opened the floodgates to erotic literature, which found renewal in sexual passion. “The sensualism of the age was in a very intimate sense demonic,” Billington writes, detailing how the figure of Satan became a Romantic hero for artists and musicians. They admired the diabolic willingness to stop at nothing to satisfy one’s desires and to exercise one’s will.
What are we to make of a culture that not only produces a mass-cult video featuring a gay man being willingly sodomized by Satan, but that celebrates that video as the best one of the year? This is what the late Philip Rieff called a “deathwork.” It does not speak of life. It celebrates death. It is nihilism, and it leads to death.
This is who we Americans have become. This is not a joke. You don’t have to believe in the devil to understand that this is evil, and that this is not where it ends. If you missed it last year, go back and read this powerful 2020 essay by Peter Savodnik, who sets out to understand our woke culture today through the lens of 19th century Russian novels that more or less prophesied the totalitarian revolution to come. Excerpt:
We know how this turned out, and for those who have forgotten, or for those who are too young or ignorant to know, we should remind them over and over: Those who questioned the revolution, objected to any of its ends or means, thought there might be something worth preserving, were deemed hostile combatants or hapless chumps whose false consciousness inhibited progress. In the end, they were all airbrushed. In the end, the way one escaped this airbrushing was to signal, with a great and inauthentic virtue, that one was not a hostile combatant by spotlighting the real enemies of progress. Whether these enemies were real or “real” was immaterial. Only idiots worried about the truth. There was no truth. What was most important was to keep one’s head down and, if need be, accuse wantonly. Accuse! Accuse! Accuse! Or as Americans like to say, the best defense is a good offense. Everyone knew this would never lead to the place they had been promised it would lead to, but what else was there to do? As the violence ratcheted up, it was necessary to signal with ever greater ferocity, to name more names, to out more wrong-thinkers, until all that was left was the pathetic, bloodless corpse of a country dislodged from itself.
You are tired of hearing me say this. I know that. I am tired of saying it. But something terrible is coming. The house is on fire. Let those who have eyes to see, see. And then act.