That ghost is just a kid in a sheet

That ghost is just a kid in a sheet February 18, 2019

• Here’s a bit of a recent statement from singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers on the “allegations of emotional abuse and sexual misconduct” on the part of 44-year-old Ryan Adams:

Ryan had a network too. … Friends, bands, people he worked with. None of them held him accountable. They told him, by what they said or by what they didn’t, that what he was doing was okay. They validated him. He couldn’t have done this without them.

In one sense this story of a creepy, manipulative man abusing his influence over others in the music industry has nothing to do with the widening gyre of clergy-abuse scandals shaking the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. In another sense, it has everything to do with them.

Likewise with this Pitchfork essay from Amy Phillips, “Why Are Women Underrepresented in Music? Look to the Ryan Adams Story.”

• Scott Lemieux has some thoughts — and a big stack of receipts — on “Theater Critic Punditry and the ‘Authenticity’ Shell Game.” Also: “The Authenticity Police Live Inside Their Own Ass.” If the latter title strikes you as crude and harsh, please remember that it’s less crude and harsh than these folks deserve.

See also Will Bunch, “Media promised better coverage of the 2020 race, and all I got was Kirsten Gillibrand’s fried chicken.”

• Ted Baehr’s “Movieguide” is, and always has been, ridiculous. It’s really a relic of 1990s-style religious right activism, the sort of elaborately irrelevant piety that focused on what Ken Myers (I think) described as “making the world safe for Mormons.”

Baehr’s outfit fussily tabulates and quantifies everything that folks like them find objectionable in Hollywood movies: profanities uttered, alcoholic beverages consumed, nudity, dancing, failure to tithe dill and cumin, etc. My favorite example of this is probably still that time when their otherwise very positive review of the Smurfs movie offered a cautionary content note about the film’s worrisome inclusion of “upper male Smurf nudity.

Movieguide also gets the vapors over any instance in which businessmen, rich people, industrialists, etc., are portrayed as anything other than benevolent overlords. Capitalism is something they have always counted among their “Christian values,” without ever feeling any need to explain why.

The reason why, of course, was that Ted Baehr came of age as a Cold War fundie and still views the world through a Reaganite lens of Godly Capitalism versus Ungodly Communism.

So then, how did a man and a media “ministry” organized around prudish white-fundie piety and anti-Communist Cold-War fever wind up as lock-step supporters of America’s most infamously crude vulgarian while also getting all cozy with Kremlin-backed oligarch/mob-bosses?

That seems like a contradiction of Movieguide’s principles only if we mistake their weird cultural folklore for something as grand as “principles.” White fundamentalist piety is not an ethics or an ethos. It’s a wail of inarticulate fear and undifferentiated disgust, not a set of principles. And when you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

• “It’s never been clear to what extent Lyndon LaRouche was a con man, or just a megalomaniac who drank too deeply of his own Kool-Aid. But he left a lot of damage in his wake.”

• I lived in Media, Pennsylvania — “Everybody’s Hometown” — for 15 years. Here’s a terrific profile of one of Media’s more interesting born-and-raised residents: “People Laughed When This Philly Lawyer Sued Led Zeppelin. Nobody’s Laughing Now.”

• Dr. Bobby E. Mills is preaching on the op-ed page: “Christian Right Evangelicals, Get Right With God.”

I have no illusions that Mills’ sermon will reach his stated audience, but it is preached in their language. Nearly every word of this that is not a direct citation of scripture is written in the fluent evangelicalese of a native speaker. Mills even drops 2 Chronicles 7:14 right back at the white Christian nationalists who’ve been misappropriating that verse for decades.

None of that matters, though, because even though Mills may be speaking their language, his op-ed includes a photo of its author. And if there’s one thing we know about American Christianity from the centuries it has grown and malformed on this continent, it’s that white Christians are unwilling to listen to a black pastor and incapable of hearing him, even when he’s delivering an inspired, scripture-soaked message they urgently need to hear.

• The title of this post comes from Bridgers’ new song (with Conor Oberst as Better Oblivion Community Center), “Dylan Thomas“:

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