I was worried that I was becoming too much of a puritan, you know. “Goodness, Ben,” I thought, as I posted in defence of marriage, “If you keep this up you’ll make Roger Scruton look relaxed.” Then I saw that Miley Cyrus feels that her music is “educational for kids”.
“Educational for kids”. The worst thing is that she is correct. On her new tour, it seems, she dresses up in the outfits of a colour blind Las Vegas stripper before groping, dry humping and miming fellatio on her dancers, who are dressed as ex-Presidents, the Liberty Bell and the Stars and Stripes. She has much to teach children about mindless irreverence and promiscuity.
Once you start to read about popular culture it is hard to stop. It is like gawping at a pile-up that stretches back as far as one can see. Kanye West, who began his career with a somewhat intriguing song that asked God to show him the way, now features on a rap in which he informs his heiress wife, “I impregnated your mouth, girl. That’s when I knew that you could be my spouse, girl.” Such poetry befits a man who named his daughter “North”.
Libidinal smugness is, of course, no new phenomenon. Miley Cyrus is Madonna for another generation. That ageing star is now involving herself in politics. She invited members of the Russian feminist collective Pussy Riot to join her onstage at a recent human rights event by thanking them “for making the word pussy a say-able word in [her] household”. John Lennon’s son, who performed at the same concert, voiced his opposition to Putin’s regime by saying that he thought he was homosexual and wished that he would “have a gay orgy” with him. The President must be awestruck by the power of liberal civilisation. Could these people grasp that they are making an argument for him?
Turning to high culture may not help one to avoid these trends. Should you have sought solace in Butler Library of the University of Columbia you might have bumped into a crowd of naked students who were filming a surreal quasi-erotic video, complete with broken eggs and rubber chickens, in an attempt to “transgress the relative conservatism…of the space”. Campus authorities showed their conservative credentials by taking no action. The students’ rationale, though, offers an insight into the minds of cultural revolutionaries. The offspring of the children of the 60s still imagine that they are struggling against the forces of repression. No. They died. Your parents killed them. You are merely trampling on their graves. Libertinism has been unleashed, and how do you like it? Your little sister’s favourite pop star is onstage miming a blowjob on a Bill Clinton impersonator.
It is the pride with which such culture flaunts its ugliness that is amazing. To listen to these people speak you would think this sneering, leering, grasping farce of colourful animalism represents the best of liberty and self-expression rather than a symbol of the need to swim against the tide.