Society Lost In The Swamps Of Jersey

I don’t have a lot of tolerance for stupid.

Part of it is that I am a conservative; I believe that society and its members should strive to be worthy of the best of its legacy.

Part of it is that I spent some of the best worst years of my life working in bars, among the drunks and the idiots.  This was at the same time I was dealing with a famously-addled roommate, “Wyatt”, a child of boundless privilege with uncountable advantages, whose stated mission in life was to stay high all the time and “f[ornicate with] every woman in the world”.

Which brings us to “Jersey Shore”, another vapid MTV “reality” series chronicling the “lives” of a bunch of meatheads who could well be, I kid you not, “Wyatt”‘s younger siblings.  I saw about ten minutes of it, more or less by accident.

I almost puked.  I’ve thought about writing something about that wretched waste of time focused on wretched wastes of flesh.  And then I almost puked again.

So I’ll leave it to Jonah Goldberg to A suck it up and actually address what Jersey Shore and reality TV in general really mean:

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great television. But gladiatorial games would be great TV, too.

Orwell noted that in 1984.  But I digress:

The Los Angeles Times reported the other day that the reality-show industry is suddenly having a crisis of conscience about its impact on the culture. That’s nice to hear, but it’s not nearly enough.

British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it’s hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay.

It’s not all bad news, to be sure. The elite minority’s general acceptance of racial and sexual equality as important values has been a moral triumph. But not without costs. As part of this transformation, society has embraced what social scientist Charles Murray calls “ecumenical niceness.” A core tenet of ecumenical niceness is that harsh judgments of the underclass — or people with underclass values — are forbidden.

Meaning that I’d be considered declasse to say that “The Kardashians are not just vapid dimbulb tramps, but in fact signs that our society is basically screwed”, or that “Jon and Kate Plus Eight the show was a vacuous waste of time, but the two “parents” themselves should make every parent in America hang their head in shame that we collectively allow child abuse to become an entertainment sport”, or “the “people” on Jersey Shore are fit only to be used as compost”.

A corollary: People with old-fashioned notions of decency are fair game.

Paging Carrie Prejean.

Long before the rise of reality shows, ecumenical niceness created a moral vacuum. Out-of-wedlock birth was once a great shame; now it’s something of a happy lifestyle choice. The cavalier use of profanity was once crude; now it’s increasingly conversational. Self-discipline was once a virtue; now self-expression is king.

Not just “king” – but a form of “art” along the lines of “music criticism”; people with nothing useful (much less ennobling) to say, saying it without any constraint.

Whatever you think of what Toynbee and Murray would call the “proletarianization of the elites,” one point is beyond dispute: The rich can afford moral lassitude more than the poor can. [Paris] Hilton, heir to a hotel fortune, has life as simple as she wants it to be. Tiger Woods is surely a cad, but as a pure matter of economics, he can afford to be one.

The question is: Can the rest of us afford to live in a society constantly auditioning to make an ass of itself on TV?

Read the whole thing.

As for me?  I’m going to throw darts at the picture of the latest cast of Real World.

13 thoughts on “Society Lost In The Swamps Of Jersey

  1. “British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it’s hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay.”

    Rather rich coming from you all in the Jes’ Folks Country Music Republican Party of 2009, where actual upper class values – education, culture, the ability to pronounce words correctly – are derided as elitist.

    Whatever you want to say about George H.W. Bush, the guy was an old-style country club Republican, through and through. He hated having to pretend to like pork rinds and country music. His son, however, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and educated at Andover, Yale and Harvard, couldn’t run away from his past fast enough. You are the party of rich people who want to be like the lower classes.

    It wouldn’t be so comical if you just took one side and stuck to it. But Mitch, you play both sides of the street, often several times in the same day. Maybe you and your party just need to do a little more soul-searching and a little less talking. Are you populist or anti-populist? Are you elitist or anti-elitist?

    You need to decide whether you’re Mr. Drysdale or Jed Clampit and stick with it.

  2. Yeah, Mitch. Your stubborn refusal to allow Clownie to stereotype you is insufferable.
    Behave yourself!

  3. But Mitch, you play both sides of the street, often several times in the same day

    I’m like the wind.

    You need to decide whether you’re Mr. Drysdale or Jed Clampit and stick with it.

    Um, why? Says who?

  4. Hey, what happened to the other intern – you know, the gay guy with “a passion for heirloom tomatoes”? Haven’t seen him around here in a while.

  5. Um, coherence, credibility?

    Send me their email addresses. We’ll do lunch and nosh the whole thing out.

    Those are the things you’re leaving on the table right now.

    Says a guy whose oeuvre is throwing pies and sweeping up light circles.

    Hey, what happened to the other intern – you know, the guy with “a passion for heirloom tomatoes”? Haven’t seen him around here in a while.

    Doug’s contract says – and has always said – “write when the urge overtakes you”. Once a week, once a year, management is happy either way.

  6. You need to decide whether you’re Mr. Drysdale or Jed Clampit and stick with it.
    Not much of an icon. Angry clown accuses the authors & conservative commenters on SITD of being both trailor park meth-heads and snobby country club republicans.
    Angry Clown is not an iconoclast, he is a mad man.

  7. Angryclown is an iconoclast.

    In the same way Ted Kaczynski was.

    SitD is the icon. .

    Roosh? Run this down to marketing. Stat.

  8. “being both trailor park meth-heads and snobby country club republicans.”

    He’s close, I used to be a trailor park meth-head, now I’m snobby country club republican. Ain’t America great?

  9. Nice, thoughtful post, Mitch. I agree with your statement that: “The rich can afford moral lassitude more than the poor can.”

    Reality TV has also yielded the concept of the “right” to fame. It seems that some wannabe reality stars, such as the Sahalis, view their quest for stardom as a divinely inspired gift to the rest of humanity. Their attitude seems to be, “Why should we have to pay the salon or the landscaper? These service providers should be grateful to be part of our entourage!”

  10. KT, I wish I”d said it – I was quoting Jonah Goldberg!

    But you’re right; “reality” “celebrities” beggar the meaning of “celebrity” – “someone who we celebrate”. They’re “Celebrated”, largely, for being crass and dysfunctional and just awful.

    I don’t like what that says about our neighbors.

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