Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Culture Wars

One of the things that seems to upset people when I say it, and so I'll say it again, was that the true power of the 9/11 attacks was that there is something profoundly upsetting about an essentially meaningless act. The mind struggles to rationalize the meaningless act of violence, to put it in some sort of rational framework- a matrix of logic- and fails utterly. People think they have it figured out, but honestly, what could it possibly mean to destroy the World Trade Center? It's as surrealist and bizarre as using the nation's military to destroy a McDonald's. Ultimately, the power of the act was in the fact that it doesn't make a lot of sense.

This allows the act to become a cipher- people project whatever they want to on it. Osama bin Laden becomes a Marxist to the Marxists and a culture warrior to the culture warriors. His actual ideas: a bit of anti-globalization, mixed with old fashioned anti-Semitism, and some freaky mysogyny, mixed with some bizarre religious nonsense, are so incoherent and pointless that they actually have something to offer all alienated people. Do you hate social injustice? Well, Osama sort of hates it too... admittedly, he'd like to replace it with totalitarian domination by a religious fundamentalist sect. But, otherwise, he's just like Che Guevera! (who was a proto-fascist himself!) Do you hate Hollywood, with its cultural decadence? Well, so does Osama! Although, admittedly, he's never actually talked about Hollywood, he does hate "shameless" women who go outside of the house. So, it's sort of the same!

Anyway, I've argued against people using national tragedies to further their own agendas. So, Dinesh D'Souza's latest screed about how cultural liberalism caused Osama bin Laden (here Osama's a rational thinker!) to attack the country, annoys me as much as that horseshit from Ward Churchill about how US capitalism forced Osama (such a good citizen, isn't he?) to blow shit up. But, hey, I haven't read D'Souza yet, so I'll bite my tongue.

Katha Pollit has read the book, God bless her, and she characterizes it thusly

9/11 was provoked by feminism, birth control, abortion, pornography, feminism, Hollywood, divorce, the First Amendment, gay marriage, and did I mention feminism? Muslims fear the West is out to foist its depraved, licentious, secular "decadence" on their pious patriarchal societies. And, D'Souza argues, they're right. Working mothers! Will & Grace! Child pornography! Our vulgar, hedonistic, gender-egalitarian, virally expanding NGO-promoted values so offend "traditional Muslims" that they have thrown in their lot with Osama and other America-haters.

Okay, so it sounds pretty dumb. Just another book for bedwetting authoritarians to use in their argument that "freedom can go too far!"

But, you know what? The hell with it. I can see a way to agree with D'Souza that I like:

Hear ye! Hear ye! Good Americans!
Do you hate Osama bin Laden? Do you hate terrorists? Well, there's only one way to fight them- cultural decadence! Dinesh D'Souza is right! We have to relax our morals in order to combat terrorism! Start making out with the same sex! Start having sex in public! Make gay marriage mandatory and straight marriage illegal! Grow more pot! Demand that Hollywood make sleazier movies! Allow nudity in all public places! Call on R.E.M. to write more songs about sex and drugs, and less wussy songs about swimming at night! Demand that the President end his state of the union address with the phrase 'PARTY ON, DUDES!' Let Motley Crue re-write the national anthem. Give the Statue of Liberty a strap-on! Demand that Brad and Angelina release a porno movie, for crying out loud! Dinesh D'Souza demands that America get sleazy!

Sex! Drugs! and Rock'n'roll! Your children's future depends on it!

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