Home > Causes and Culture, conservative coffee, History, My Commentary > Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

A lot was made about the pro-life ad that ran during the Superbowl sponsored by Focus on the Family and featuring college QB Tim Tebow and his mother. Feminist and pro-choice groups came out against the ad and a lot of ink was spilled in an attempt to counter what some groups said was its “dangerous” message.

Of course, the message wasn’t “dangerous” at all, it was simply pro-life.

But, I was personally struck by the imagery of the ad. Why was it necessary to show Tebow tackling his mother?

Not that I was offended by the ad and I certainly understood that the intent was supposed to show the “toughness” of his mother, but why was it necessary that the ad show him taking her down in a full tackle? I don’t get it?

If you ask me, the ad failed on its own, because without the outside controversy, I wouldn’t have really known what it was about. In the context of the ad, I would have been forced to ask, “Does Tebow have a form of Turet’s Syndrome where he compulsively tackles his mother without warning from time to time?” Remember, in the text of the ad, she does say “I still worry about his health” just before he rams into her.

But, worse, the ad was one of many that were overtly violent, and dare I say, one of a number that were openly misogynist. I know, as conservatives we’re not supposed to get all uptight about such things lest we wander into the land of political correctness, but  my concerns are not what you think; I am concerned here about the state of the culture.

Now, I know that Super Bowl ads do not make up the whole of the cultural output of contemporary Western civilization. I am constantly reassured that there is plenty of great art being produced today, and any “end is nigh” hysteria about the state of cultural production does not take into account the quantities of what is being produced these days.

However, I personally believe that these commercials are saying something and that something is an ominous sign of a failing civilization. With all due respect to “A Clockwork Orange”, when  “ultra-violence”provides us with humor and fun, and open hostility to women is tolerated within a culture, something wicked this way comes.

Someone has put together a montage of the violent ads in the Super Bowl and it is below.

This video led Joe Carter at First Thoughts to comment:

Apparently, advertisers get their ideas about how to market to us from watching the Ain’t-It-Funny-When-Someone-Gets-Hurt clips on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Which got me to thinking about the movie the Idiocracy. Released in 2006, to a very limited run in movie theatres, Idiocracy is a not-so-concealed commentary on contemporary American culture. Despite it being set in the “distant” future, the director, Mike Judge, was no doubt aiming his sights on a dumbed-down, overly consumeristic American culture, which he obviously believes (using poetic license and not a little hyperbole to make the point) is producing a population that within the span of a few generations will become so incompetent that even the most basic knowledge necessary for survival will be lost to it. In the movie, for instance, the fact that water, and not Gatorade, is needed to grow crops is high science even to the country’s political leaders.

In this idiotic America of the future, the most popular television program is a show called “Ow, My Balls!”It features  a guy who finds various ways to abuse his own testicles and films the self-injury in real time.

So, I wonder: Are we there yet? I mean, if this kind of stuff is being used to sell products and TV shows and movies now (think Jackass), where will the culture be in a few years? And what does it mean for society and politics in general? I think history shows that societies in such a state of decline are neither predisposed nor capable of self-governance. But, we’ll leave that discussion for a a later post.

Along with the violence exhibited in this year’s Super Bowl ads, most of it aimed at men, there was a concomitant and equally disturbing theme running through some of the ads during the game: There seemed to be a hint of hostility towards women. The best ad that exemplifies this is below:

This one too:

Both ads express an appeal to power for men, and sort of frustration with women and domestic life.If marketers have determined that this is the experience of a good number of men in modern society, and they can use the experience in order to sell more stuff, what is it saying about the state of male/female relationships and the traditional family altogether? What does it mean for the American dream-at least for men?

The answer to that question may take a lot more posts, but in brief, it is my opinion that these ads express a kind of pre-Fascist consciousness. According to historian Edward Veith, Fascism arose out of a cultural milieu of Europe which included an alienation from the 19th century positivistic and materialist worldview. The reaction to this alienation bred a form of romanticism or, a sort  modern pantheistic paganism that reasserted the value of the natural world and insisted that it be experienced not through reason, but through experience and emotion.

According to Veith and other historians, this renewal of paganism led to a very open hostility to the established order which expressed itself primarily by violence and ugliness through art. And as eith has written, the aesthetic of pre-Fascist and Fascist art is visible in the culture today:

In the 1930s, avant-garde artists shocked the bourgeoisie with their aesthetic theories that glorified violence and the release of primitive emotions. Today, if you like examples of early fascist aesthetics, simply go to the latest Hollywood blockbuster, turn on MTV, or go to a Heavy Metal concert.

Here you will see realized the fascists’ artistic ideals: pleasure from violence; the thrill of moral rebellion; the cult of the Aryan body. The grisly blood-letting of a slasher movie; the body-builder who takes the law into his own hands by machine-gunning his enemies; the masses of teenagers slam-dancing as Metallica sings `Scream, as I’m killing you!’–such art is the quintessence of the fascist aesthetic.

Well, I could go on. But it is also important to mention that culture and politics are inexorably intertwined. If our culture exhibits the “quintessence of the fascist aesthetic” I think we need to truly examine that culture and the state of our political life as it relates to human liberty. And I believe that phenomena like the personality cult that surrounds Barack Obama, is a part of something that is very wrong with Western civilization, but let’s leave that for future posts.

As for the culture, conservative philosopher and writer Roger Scruton has the cure:

“I think we are losing beauty, and there’s a danger that with it, we will lose the meaning of life!”

I just wonder if we aren’t too far gone for Beauty ever to have meaning in our lives again.

  1. February 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Hello to all I cant understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Help me, please

    • Jason
      February 15, 2010 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Mathew. Just go down to the box on the side of the blog that says Meta. There you will find the RSS feed to post and to comments. Just click on them and your reader should pick them up.

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