Sunday, January 21, 2007

YOUNG MAN, THAT'S THE FUNNIEST THING YOU'VE SAID ALL NIGHT -- SCREW THE IRISH! At "Islamophobic and proud of it" Gates of Vienna, "Baron Bodissey" covers a U.K. reality show tsimmis in which an Indian actress complained of racist treatment. At first he wasn't going far wrong, which in his case is a great achievement. The Baron finds the comments directed at the actress "boorish, tasteless, and unwarranted," notes that British lowbrow humor has long had a racist component that is probably not going to be easily ameliorated by "administrative fiat," and thinks it was a bit much for the Prime Minister to get involved in this case.

Agree or not, a reasonable reader might at least judge this response within the bounds of reason, which bounds, alas, can never long restrain the Baron:
It would be laughable if Britain were not facing a looming cultural disaster at the hands of Islamic zealots. When sharia takes over on the nook-shotten isle of Albion, Ms. Shetty will no longer have to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous racists on reality TV, because there will be no more reality TV, and no more shameless infidel women in their scanty outfits.
Then he completely misreads parodies of racist behavior by the Firesign Theatre and Ed Sanders. Then his helpmeet "Dymphna" amplifies on the topic with a takedown of celebrity culture. I, too, think celebrity culture is pretty silly, but as Dymphna warmed to her topic my mild nods of approval quickly turned to a Springtime for Hitler gape:
The [People] magazine was crammed with improbable looking women, all dressed and sculpted to look alike, their botoxed lips giving them a certain K-Mart Lolita air. The Stepford Wives have nothing on these creatures; they are merely messier looking versions of their legendary suburban foremothers. And the men? They all seemed to need a shave and a job and a trip to Good Will for some clothing.

Plumbing the depths of People didn’t take the pain away, but it did create a diversion of sorts as I attempted to figure out the ramifications of a culture of women with lots of money, ratty hair, and clothing that seemed to have been grabbed off the street from passing hookers.

I’m still working on this puzzle, though I did notice a central part of their belief system: repeated stays at drug rehabilitation center as a swinging door rite of passage. Their in-and-out-the-rehab-door-dramas brought to mind those clocks or barometers with little German dolls that used to lurch woodenly out of their tiny spaces to announce the time… or did they forecast the weather?
Here's the thing: I can enjoy, or at least tolerate, a standard-issue Jay Leno gag about skanky Hollyweird actresses. But were Leno to stick with the topic after the first wave of laughter passed, darkly warning of the cultural "ramifications" of all that drug abuse and thrift-store clothing, I think NBC would be cutting away to a commercial pretty fast.

This reminds me of something that those of us who cover conservative cultural criticism often forget: most such criticism circulates only within a closed loop occupied by outrage junkies. The number of citizens who see Paris Hilton as the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse is very small. We Americans can be weird about our pop culture, but few of us are that weird.

The thought is mildly reassuring. A clever demagogue, of course, can exploit our vague uneasiness about changing mores for electoral gain -- and it has in fact been done more than once with great success. But if Dymphna and the Baron represent cutting-edge rightwing thought, it may be that conservatives really are losing whatever populist touch they may have had.

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