“The flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture”

A solid, sobering read by Peggy Noonan this Friday — and one that should make a lot of people sit and look around and worry:

People in politics talk about the right track/wrong track numbers as an indicator of public mood. This week Gallup had a poll showing only 24% of Americans feel we’re on the right track as a nation. That’s a historic low. Political professionals tend, understandably, to think it’s all about the economy—unemployment, foreclosures, we’re going in the wrong direction. I’ve long thought that public dissatisfaction is about more than the economy, that it’s also about our culture, or rather the flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture.

Now I’d go a step beyond that. I think more and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.

Every story that has broken through the past few weeks has been about who we are as a people. And they are all disturbing.

A tourist is beaten in Baltimore. Young people surround him and laugh. He’s pummeled, stripped and robbed. No one helps. They’re too busy taping it on their smartphones. That’s how we heard their laughter. The video is on YouTube along with the latest McDonalds beat-down and the latest store surveillance tapes of flash mobs. Groups of teenagers swarm into stores, rob everything they can, and run out. The phenomenon is on the rise across the country. Police now have a nickname for it: “flash robs.”

That’s just the young, you say. Juvenile delinquency is as old as history.

Let’s turn to adults.

Also starring on YouTube this week was the sobbing woman. She’s the poor traveler who began to cry great heaving sobs when a Transportation Security Administration agent at the Madison, Wis., airport either patted her down or felt her up, depending on your viewpoint and experience. Jim Hoft of TheGatewayPundit.com recorded it, and like all the rest of the videos it hurts to watch. When the TSA agent—an adult, a middle aged woman—was done, she just walked away, leaving the passenger alone and uncomforted, like a tourist in Baltimore.

There is the General Services Administration scandal. An agency devoted to efficiency is outed as an agency of mindless bread-and-circuses indulgence. They had a four-day regional conference in Las Vegas, with clowns and mind readers.

The reason the story is news, and actually upsetting, is not that a government agency wasted money. That is not news. The reason it’s news is that the people involved thought what they were doing was funny, and appropriate. In the past, bureaucratic misuse of taxpayer money was quiet. You needed investigators to find it, trace it, expose it. Now it’s a big public joke. They held an awards show. They sang songs about the perks of a government job: “Brand new computer and underground parking and a corner office. . . . Love to the taxpayer. . . . I’ll never be under OIG investigation.” At the show, the singer was made Commissioner for a Day. “The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner’s suite last night” the emcee said. It got a big laugh…

… Only a generation ago, earnest, tidy government bureaucrats were spoofed as drudges and drones. Not anymore. Now they’re way cool. Immature, selfish and vain, but way cool.

You’ll want to read the rest.


  1. ron chandonia says:

    Noonan concludes, “Something seems to be going terribly wrong.” She does not say what it is, but I will venture a guess: the two-parent married family, the basis of any civilization worthy of the name, has collapsed right before our eyes. As a result, more and more of our children are being forced to raise themselves, mostly on salacious fare provided by the mass media. Meanwhile, Christians are afraid even to bring up the topic in church for fear that somebody will take offense and perhaps find them less than “welcoming.”

  2. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Few talk about it, but arguably the most decadent and corrupting “entertainments” on TV are the sit-coms and some of the salacious stand-up comedy routines where everything sacred or moral is ridiculed, derided, made fun of–frequently in a manner that people don’t realize what arsenic poison for the mind and morals is insinuating itself behind the loud laughter.

  3. Irish Spectre says:

    …and at home I’m trying to raise Catholic adolescent sons amidst this utter sewerage.

    As usual, Noonan hits the nail on the head, although I’d like her to have focused even more on the completely commonplace and many varieties of abuse of the gift of sexuality that we see all around. Satan works efficiently; he knows that the faith gets passed most effectively via traditional families, the very cell structure of society, and so he’s destroying it by rendering this gift less meaningful by the day.

    …and WE’RE the ones who are utterly off our rockers??!! I think that our kids might secretly think so, and why wouldn’t they, because virtually every cultural influence to which they’re exposed in effect conveys exactly that message to them.

    Our nightly Rosary, in which the boys begrudgingly partake, sometimes feels like our only hope for them.

  4. FTA: “In New York the past week a big story has been about 16 public school teachers who can’t be fired even though they’ve acted unprofessionally. What does “unprofessionally” mean in New York? Sex with students, stalking students, and, in one case, a standing behind a kid, simulating sex, and saying, “I’ll show you what gay is.” The kids in the flash mobs: These are their teachers”

    The reason I homeschool,. Every time I look on the internet, there’s another story about teachers and students having sex, teachers “teaching” left wing agitprop, etc. I want my kids spending their formative years close to Jesus, close to family and you know… learning. I am in agreement with Noonan, I fear for my country, I just don’t know how a society can survive the abortion holocaust and the literal breakdown of the family. I fear for my kids and their children, and I probably don’t pray the Rosary near enough.

  5. Fiestamom, this country survived the great sins of slavery, legally mandated segregation (as well as de facto segregation, which unfortunately persists), and the shameful internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Yes — abortion is an all too sad reality in this country. But we’ve survived other times when human rights were denied in profound ways, and we managed — after long struggle — to reject those human rights abuses. Don’t give up hope.

  6. pagansister says:

    Steve, you made an excellent point. EVERY generation has had it’s problems and you mentioned a few. I’m not pessimistic when it comes to this country. It will survive and do so just fine. As you say—this country survived the mistreatment of Japanese Americans, legally mandated segregation (I was raised for several years in the South and am back after a long time), slavery and countless other things. We are survivors in this country. There are many, many up-lifting stories—and good people. Those are the ones that don’t make the news, only the ones who cause trouble seem to be highlighted.

  7. I think the prevalence of reality shows is one factor contributing to this. Everybody basically knows that reality shows aren’t reality; sometimes it leads to the feeling that reality itself isn’t real. Everything is grist for entertainment, even other people’s suffering. It takes Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” to a whole different level.

  8. The real problem inthis country is that EVERYBODY wants to be a celebrity and have their 15 minutes of fame-no matter what.

  9. Why must you watch TV? Just get rid of it. I don’t have a TV and I enjoy myself a lot with old films which are available on youtube. You can find real gems there: old films from East Europe and Russia, BBC series from the 70s. and 80s.

    Just avoid the rubbish which was produced in the last two decades. There is still some quite decent stuff from time before 1980.

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