THE DEATH OF OUTRAGE. The Miley Cyrus story is not much, and so not much that even Howard Stern has denounced her Vanity Fair photo spread. (The odd bit is that her father Billy Ray is a former Pax TV actor and Jesus testimonialist. Well, to be fair, Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.)
Maybe I don't have much of a story either, as my favorite God-botherers are taking this rather lightly. Rod Dreher, having perhaps exhausted his compassion on Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse, cuts the little tart no slack. "The dear thing is shocked," he says. "She was, she claims, hoodwinked by the evil Annie Leibovitz into appearing semi-nude after her parents left the set (never mind that her publicist, her granny and her manager were still there)..." Then, for laughs, a Brother Theodore routine on nymphets. I guess Dreher has finally decided that the Benedict Option is in full effect, and is preparing for a new Zion where the Cyruses will be unwelcome and the nubiles will dress less provocatively when not screwing fogeys.
James Poulos does offer a wistfully Benedictine closer ("It's going to take a long time to untangle the psychosexual web this culture's woven. Maybe forever") but defends the principle of "marvelous fresh fecundity and youthful radiance" in representational art, which is inevitably reduced in our corrupting times to "the erotic appeal of a giant confection. In an earlier era, this picture would in fact be a painting of a nameless young girl, and it would be a work of art. In this era, it's a brick in a long, high wall." So maybe the real problem is mass production -- in a nobler time, we had to wait for geniuses to laboriously hand-paint our softcore porn, and it was shown in galleries where jacking off was frowned upon. Supply and demand being what it is, the Masters wouldn't have bothered with Miley, who is "not particularly gorgeous," and the Cyruses would have been content with a simple, rustic existence, with Dad appearing in Passion Plays and singing with his daughter in the church choir. I wonder that Poulos chooses to contribute to the degrading march of technology by writing online; doesn't he realize that every new reader he brings to this fetid trough will be degraded beyond redemption? The more the merrier, I say, but he should consider switching to illuminated manuscripts.
Ross Douthat figures the Cyruses have it macked: because "the Cyruses are stage-managing this whole 'controversy,'" they probably have "enough worldliness and self-awareness to navigate Miley's adolescence without letting the celebrity machine grind her down into Britney Redux." He saves his tears for "the weak and the damaged and the dumb" who suffer in the maw of the machine. Well, that's capitalism, comrade -- most of us writers are likewise too weak and damaged and dumb to score a prestigious gig (like an Atlantic blog), and will wear away our souls scribbling unprofitably, maddened by the prospect of fame, pathetic victims of the opinionating machine. Weep for us!
We could easily go downmarket for some real ravings, but when the major thinkers of culture war can't pop a stiffy over a half-dressed teenager, America may be on the verge of losing her moral compass, and alicublog of losing some valuable material. I hope at the next Restoration Weekend Bill Bennett gives them a good talking-to.