Steve Allen, Where Art Thou?

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Connoisseurs of old fart Jeremiads about the vulgarity of popular culture may enjoy this essay on hypermass by The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger. For the dumbth time, Henninger contrasts the "pop vitality" of black and white idols like The Honeymooners with the "mass-market culture" that produces loose women like Christina Aguilera, and blames the decline on recently fired media moguls. But he builds up to an interesting conclusion:

[T]he same digital wonders that Jean-Marie Messier thought would deliver movie trailers to cell phones looks (sic) like it's going to allow people to drop out of the whole hypermass culture.

The young people downloading music with Kazaa are mostly just mixing their own CDs. Not interested in "Men in Black II"? Netflix will mail you a Dolby DVD version of Bergman's "Wild Strawberries." Silentera.com will direct you to the newly restored 65-piece orchestra version of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927). A satellite radio subscription, offering every imaginable musical genre, lets you bypass the unlistenable hypermass music on nearly every radio station. Thanks to technology, you can now assemble and live on your own cultural island, far from the hypermass din. They don't want us, we don't need them. Perfect.

It's a relief to read one of these laments that acknowledges how much better we all are thanks to mass media proliferation—whether your "bag" is Eminem or the monuments of unaging intellect that stir the soul of a WSJ columnist.

NEXT: Psst. Wanna Cigarette?

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  1. Henninger has a point on this one. American popular culture is geared toward the masses, and as such, has had to repeatedly dumb itself down to the least common denominator. If that fact is not self-evident, I don’t know what is. Where I disagree with Henninger is his belief that dumbing something down is necessarily bad. True, “Joe Millionaire” is pretty much brainless, low-brow entertainment. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not kind of a fun spectacle to watch.

  2. My problem is “dumbing something down” to appeal to the LCD is that there is little left for those of us (like me) who want to watch something that doesn’t treat me like like a common dolt.

  3. Re: dumbing down

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    A: People have to turn to the BBC to get
    decent international news.

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