Thursday, January 03, 2013

What To Permit or What Not to Permit -- That is the Question

Social deviance and anomie was one of the first phrases I learned in freshman sociology class.  In short, it means that social disorder or crime is linked to a feeling of personal alienation or anomie from the culture.  I thought it a good segué as to how I might express the profundity of what I think has gone wrong in our nation.  Why am I even bothered by this question?  I am bothered because I believe it matters and, yes, I am bothered that I sometimes am seduced by the anger of our new age.

I am a fervent protector of the First Amendment BUT as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion stated in the famous case of Schenck v. United States, 249 US 47 (1919), when, quoting Wikipedia, the Supreme Court explored the limits of the First Amendment protection of free speech.  Justice Holmes said:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.

I aver there is a panic in our crowded theater because there are no limits, no boundaries and no behavioral brakes in our nation's system any longer.  I stand in utter disbelief at the filth that passes as art and the violence that passes as entertainment in our nation. There is no sense of decorum and there is no fear of the consequences of one’s actions or speech.  There is a sexual and violent anarchy of greed in our land that makes this so.  

What is permissible to do and say and what is not that is the question.  At long last, paraphrasing Joseph Welch at the Army McCarthy hearings, have we no sense of decency?   

Kathy Griffin on New Years Eve with the supposed journalist Anderson Cooper spoke things and did things on CNN during the New Year's Eve celebration that I might read on a bathroom wall so the entire world (including children) could see. It was utterly embarrassing and monumentally profane.  Anderson Cooper is supposed to be better than that or so I thought.   

Two evenings ago I happened see part of the film "Reservoir Dogs."  I had heard it was violent but I wanted to see for myself if it was as difficult to watch as some had said and it was so much so I could not watch it as torture and mayhem were visited upon human beings in utterly sickening blood drenched detail.  

Then I happened upon a film called "Good Time Max" about two brothers both of whom were drug addicted.  Do I know that the behavior of addicts can be profane? Yes, of course, I do.  But this film depicted a confrontation between brothers that took the word filth to a new low actually filming and showing one brother's own excrement to exact revenge on the other. The camera cannot simply allude to it but it must show it directly.  I exploded in incredulity.

We are a nation adrift caring little for one another.  Our films show it, our TV news shows it, our books, newspapers and magazines show it, our advertisements show it and the cacophonic decibels of shock jock radio sound it.  Our Congress shows it when one member of status can use the most profane word in disrespect to his colleague so others can hear it or when some in Congress seek the best way to ruin the most vulnerable among us by stripping Medicare or Social Security. When is enough enough?

Is it any wonder we have a murderous Newtown or a theater in Aurora or a Virginia Tech when we have so much vicious violence directed at children and an NRA that thinks more guns carried by teachers armed to the teeth in schools is the answer to the devastating problem of the murder of innocents? What could possibly go wrong?   Is it any wonder we have 300 MILLION guns in our closets?  Is it any wonder we have ad infinitum war conducted by a country supposedly known for its democratic due process exceptionalism but one which has committed abominable atrocities and conducted a war based on lies?  We are a nation that has gone wild and knows no boundaries for its wildness whether at home or abroad.  Worse, most of it has been done for the money it earns.

The Kathy Griffin/Anderson Cooper spectacle was done for ratings which means money and how big an audience can something attain. How much money can the latest violent video game or violent movie make?  How far can sexualized cable TV go to get those ratings and money through its unbridled vulgarity and lasciviousness?  

Who would tune in on New Years Eve to a Guy Lombardo orchestra any more? Okay, so who wants to go back to that?  But Kathy Griffin's profanity with a clearly embarrassed Anderson Cooper is UNACCEPTABLE and is an example of how low we have culturally gone.  Those media events are mere microcosms of how many examples of cultural mayhem there are. Where are the boundaries of vulgarity, violence and greed? There are none and that is sad because of the social deviance and anomie it produces for generations to come.

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