Twerk-Offs: Rightbloggers Ride Out the Summer With Miley Cyrus
It's hard and tedious, the day-to-day rightblogger work of promoting impeachment, stirring racial enmity, scrambling for a position that can encompass both a desire to bomb Syria and a desire to thwart Obama, and so on.
Their traditional relief valve has been culture war -- shaking fists at some recent outrage to morals. It's easy and fun! But in their last great kulturkampf effulgence, the "War on Women" craze of the 2012 elections, that strategy seemed to backfire, and since then most of their offerings in this line have been ad hoc, individual, and unlikely to catch the popular imagination -- for example, a National Review writer defending his right to seize and toss a theater patron's cellphone as a victory for civility.
So thank Miley Cyrus for providing them -- and us! -- an easy layup to end the summer.
You've probably seen how most people dealt with Cyrus' grisly attempt at sexy dancing at the Video Music Awards: With scorn and derision. What was expressed in the best of these, like the Breaking Bad mashup, was not so much outrage as enjoyment of outrage, like a shared shudder after a gross scene in a slasher flick. It ruffled the internet like a zephyr across a vast savanna, and the moment passed; Cyrus' people announced she and Justin Bieber had a number called "Twerk" coming out, and everyone went home happy.
Some heavy thinkers had more serious complaints about the Cyrus gig. Jody Rosen at Vulture, among others, thought Cyrus' act was a "minstrel show," appropriating from and demeaning to black people -- which we sorta see, but for pop music, alas, that's just another day at the office and has been for decades.
Others went waaaaaaay further. As he has with other Hollywood starlets, Vigilant Citizen portrayed the incident as proof that Cyrus was a "beta slave" programmed by the Illuminati to oh God go read it yourselves it's amazing. And someone named Freeman asked, "Why is Miley's performance important to our nation? Simply stated, Global Mind Control." He posited that Cyrus summoned the "unleashed form of Kali... the fearful and ferocious form of the mother goddess... this is wartime propaganda and Disney has been at the heart of it since WWII." Syria went unmentioned, but if you're astute enough to be reading Freeman you can connect the dots, we guess.
And what of the rightbloggers? It would seem the universal derision of Cyrus convinced them they could finally make common cause with the sheeple on matters of public morality. Why, maybe it could be just like the old days, when attacks on Murphy Brown and The Simpsons endeared them to middle Americans.
In their handling of this particularly event, however, they were less like the popular internet jokesters and wiseguys, and a lot more like Vigilant Citizen and Freeman.
Michelle Malkin, for example, announced she'd seen this all coming in 2008, when 15-year-old Cyrus did a semi-nude photo shoot for Vanity Fair.
Such carefully-constructed scandalettes have made Cyrus' career an enormous income-generating machine, but Malkin steered readers away from this no doubt Marxian analysis. "The Disney girls gone bad of Hollywood are not created in a vacuum," Malkin warned. "They have many, many enablers. Before focusing on corporations like MTV, though, we need first to look at the closest adults who surround these damaged youths." She referred back to her own 2008 column on the cover shoot, in which he blamed "parents without scruples" -- meaning Cyrus' father Billy Ray, a showbiz figure with a fine Christian pedigree -- as well as photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Why he didn't use Assad as Robin Thicke, we'll never know.
"Leibovitz has a reputation for talking subjects into titillating poses under the guise of 'art,'" snarled Malkin. For example, "She put Demi Moore naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair." That was in 1991: Shortly thereafter, Clinton won the Presidency. In a later shoot, "[Scarlett] Johansson's back side was completely exposed." Thus do empires fall!
At The American Spectator, Matt Purple announced, "The entertainment industry has done with Cyrus what it does with most young child stars, and especially female ones: Tear them away from their parents, chew up all their moneymaking potential, then spit them out damaged and morally adrift." We assume his description of the role of the Illuminati in these transformations was removed by editors.
Purple was pleased, though, that ordinary writers had criticized the act -- not on grounds of taste or anything secular like that, but because "moral outrage over sex is usually considered tacky, practiced only by hidebound social conservatives who want to send us back to the days of Hester Prynne or something. So to see it being leveled against Cyrus with such intensity might seem encouraging." Soon scolding would be in, and Purple's mounting majesty might be recognized!
But Purple was not satisfied: "...consider Cyrus's fellow VMA performer Lady Gaga, who spent most of last night wearing what can only be described as a G-string minus most of the string," he seethed, "flaunting her bare derriere... Yet there's been almost no moral outrage over Gaga's exhibitionism." So despite their Cyrus snark, the liberal media remain corrupt! Probably a good thing for Purple's career in the long run.
William Teach of Right Wing News was also mad at Lady Gaga for "running around on stage wearing a thong... This seems to be what society has been moving towards. Remember the horrendous Beyonce Super Bowl halftime?" Actually, no, and neither does anyone else, but Teach went on about that and "the 'if it feels good, do it' culture," and how "liberals and feminists more and more want to turn young women into sexualized adults, rather than just letting them be kids."
No links with that feminism bit, alas, but maybe he was just channeling Rush Limbaugh, who declared "feminists... are the ones who are upset about it," which he found hypocritical, "because they're the ones who told us, 'Little girls are gonna have sex. You can't stop it. So introduce them to Planned Parenthood, introduce them to condoms, introduce them to cigarettes afterwards on the nightstand, introduce 'em to rooms in your house instead of the backseat of the car.'" We're not sure, but we think he's quoting from The Female Eunuch.
"When was the last time you felt patriotic joy about America?" asked Mark Judge at The Daily Caller. Probably a while, said Judge, thanks to "Obama's crippled economy, Bloombergian buzzkills who want to tell us what we can eat and drink, global warming panic, and liberals wailing that if one person is hungry the USA is a concentration camp." Things were different through the 1980s, when "Reagan slapped us back to life after the Carter malaise," said Judge, but "even though the 1990s were a good economic time, something during that time soured in the culture." (ClintonClintonBlowjobClinton.) And now Miley Cyrus: "Watching her catastrophe," said Judge, "I was reminded of something the great historian James Hitchcock once observed," blah blah blah and eventually "the thing about narcissism and liberalism is that there are no limits. Al Sharpton and the grim faces on MSNBC will be angry the rest of their lives, so matter how much social progress is made, because in order to feel like virtuous people, they have created identities for themselves as truth speakers and activists... Miley's manic acting out on stage was a desperate attempt at legitimacy and feeling. How tragic that she and her country have lost the ability to experience real joy."
Maybe Judge saw a Director's Cut of the number with very different footage from the one we saw; does anyone have a copy?
National Review's Kathryn J. Lopez said, "it's hard to get too upset or outraged by anything that happens on MTV," but showed she was up to the task. "People were repulsed by the performance because it was crass and base, an ugly display in the name of entertainment on an awards night," she said. "But as college students settle in on campuses, isn't this just the scene next Friday night after a first or second week of classes?" We haven't been to college in a long time; maybe this is why they're charging so much for it now. In a follow-up, Lopez asked, "Are we mad as hell yet, or happy to dirty dance (now 'twerking,' what Cyrus did to Thicke on national television) our way there?" Seems a hard way to cross the River Styx; maybe Charon could offer a booze cruise.
When it was pointed out to James Lileks that Cyrus might build sales off the outrage, he thundered this "reminds you that some people see the world as a cash machine, and if your PIN is the numeric equivalent of S-L-U-T, punch it in. Of course that's a bad term, S-L-U-T, except when it's a good term thrown back at those who regard it as a bad term. Doeth what thou wilt so long as it shall hurt no one. We are all Crowleyans now." Wow, from Miley Cyrus to "SlutWalk" feminists to The Great Beast 666, and in one sentence! Lileks has still got it.
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit also got in on the feminist angle: "If you wish for men to behave as they did in past times," he wrote, "you may have to live with women behaving as they did in past times, too. In the age of Miley Cyrus and Sandra Fluke, that doesn't seem especially likely." Boy, they can't quit Sandra Fluke, huh? You'd think they'd learn.
At PJ Media, Roger L. Simon's tottering rightwing media empire, they need all the linkbait they can get, so the Cyrus act was good for at least a dozen items. Some of these were cryptic one-liners, e.g. "Miley Cyrus Needs Tough Love (Jennifer Graham)." Others just went on and on and on about filth on the TV, and Weimar Germany.
Susan L.M. Goldberg did a sort of slideshow of Cyrus pics and... quotes from Closing of the American Mind author Allan Bloom denouncing rock culture. (Guess BuzzFeed didn't go for it.) "How does an artistic movement continue its 'nostalgia for the mud,' once it's wallowing in it?" cried Ed Driscoll, eyes closed and the back of his wrist pressed against his forehead
"We are true Cleveland sports fans and kept cable around so we could catch all of the games," wrote Paula Bolyard. "We had no problem with the games themselves, but oh, my... those commercials! We could count on at least 2.5 ads an hour for male-enhancement products during a game and everything from hamburgers to beer being peddled in ads with scantily clad young women flaunting their sexuality to entice viewers to buy a product that usually had no sexual attributes." As the Bolyards were raising a family at the time, we assume something had been wrong with their TV reception for many, many years.
At PJ Media, Megan Fox (not that one) offered "9 Politically Incorrect Secrets to Keep Your Daughter from Twerking." Sample: "Take your daughters to church and implement what you learn there in your lives... Learn her Bible verses with her, read scripture together, particularly the scripture that deals with the worth of women, for she is more precious than rubies and diamonds and she should know it." We guess Dad doing a show on Pax doesn't cut it. Other prescriptions included "real feminism," which is "staunchly pro-life and pro-family," and "Shame, shame, and more shame... there is a whole cabal of women so concerned with 'slut-shaming' that they can't see that the war on women is happening right in front of them by the people they're defending. I say, shame away!" Fox could be the new Dr. Spock for a certain demographic.
Sigh; we were so innocent then.
In a video jeremiad, PJ Media culture critic Bill Whittle told us Cyrus had "lowered the bar," but so had done Madonna, and Lady Gaga. So, no big deal, right? Well, said Whittle, it was true that "these three women are multi-millionaire capitalists," which is always good, and they were "very effectively using our outrage to move product."
So close! But, Whittle eventually harrumphed, "there is a deeper issue here," and that had to do with [record scratch] Weimar Germany, when "pop culture... was astonishingly grotesque even by modern standards." Whittle told us about some lady who did drugs, danced naked, and had sex with men and women, but even worse, he said, were Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, who didn't dance naked but instead made "dark, dystopian and depressing music -- songs of despair, songs of hopelessness, and war as cannibalism... If you listen to the music of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya just for an hour, then the rise and mindless brutality of the Nazis becomes not only understandable but inevitable."
No, they "didn't bring about the Nazis," Whittle allowed. But "the question we should be asking is, what is our culture doing to Miley Cyrus?" asked Whittle. "What's in the air, the zeitgeist, that turns someone from Hannah Montana into a kind of pathetically desperate, absurdly sexualized, insatiable attention junkie? Well, we know."
Money? Please tell us you understand that money makes people do these pseudo-naughty numbers on MTV... Alas, Whittle said this: "As in the case of 1930s Germany, a culture whose elites, unlike the solid, sensible middle, are bored, jaded, and above all filled with a self-loathing and self-hatred that can be described as nothing less than a death wish." Non-middle elites, yawning over your fancy porn, see what you have wrought! Whittle predicted an "explosion," but did not specify whether that meant a global holocaust or the issue of one man's personal frustration at having nowhere to go after invoking Hitler over Miley Cyrus.
As you might expect, the godly were all over Cyrus. At Pantheos, Deacon Greg Kandra wrote her an open letter, bidding she envision herself in a future time when "someone will be taking care of your kids for you. Their father isn't around--where is he? Belize? Tanzania?... You'll fumble out of bed and take a quick look in the mirror. Things aren't where they used to be, but that's why God made Spandex." Anyway, you whore, then you'll regret your VMA appearance, and maybe feel "a twinge of shame, maybe even remorse and something resembling regret." Aha, but it will all be in vain! "You will have to live with that. Your kids will have to live with that. Even your grandkids." Twerkers in the hands of an angry God!
After detailing the depravity of Miley Cyrus, Austin Ruse of Crisis talked about the "Slane Girl," a young woman who was filmed having sex with strangers at a concert. The girl has filed an assault report with the police and they're investigating, but this did nothing to alleviate Ruse's excitement to learn that she was being savagely derided on the internet. "Perhaps there is a vestigial aversion to what she did," said Ruse in an increasingly strained voice. "Maybe way down deep they can make moral judgments, and not only that, they can pronounce them, too. Maybe" -- grunt -- "Maybe after the rat-a-tat-tat news cycle of Miley Cyrus, the Juggalos, and the Slane Girl comes a moral resurgence." Splurt! And he knew that his Redeemer liveth.
At FrontPageMag, Daniel Greenfield finally made the stretch we'd been waiting for: "Shamelessness is the quality that Barack Obama's antics in Washington and Miley Cyrus' antics in Brooklyn have in common," he wrote. "Miley Cyrus was once a Disney starlet. Obama was once anti-war... Like Cyrus, he is celebrating his liberation from any standard or value. It may be sex in Brooklyn and power in Washington, but both tawdry spectacles expose the elemental thing that is left behind when all virtues and values fade away... Or as Aleister Crowley put it, in between one of his bouts of Satanism and binging on cocaine, 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.'" Crowley again! Well, at least these guys read each other.
Oh, wait, Elizabeth Scalia of The Anchoress got there, too, in a post called "Miley Cyrus, Syria and the Head of Saint John the Baptist": "In this month's issue of Magnificat Magazine," she said, "Heather King writes of this day: 'Then, as now, people were butchered for a trifle; an obscene dance, the whim of a call girl.' And -- as it turns out -- the need for a man in power to prove himself by reluctantly ordering a drastic, irreversible action. The story just seems to speak to our times, doesn't it? A young, poorly-educated girl worth, it is said, approximately $150 Million dollars, performs lewdly before a crowd of elites and the world loses its head over it, unable or unwilling to look away or to stop discussing it. Men in power, meanwhile, speak rash words and then hope they may be blurred and re-interpreted, or re-ordered."
Obama and Miley Cyrus as Herod and Salome! That'll show Mr. and Mrs. America that rightbloggers understand their concerns; once they've got their attention, and all the exits are blocked, the brethren can talk to them about the real issues -- like how Shirley Sherrod is so a racist (proven with science!), the President golfed after making his Syria declaration, which is just asking for impeachment, etc. 2016, here we come! Someone get Sandra Fluke warmed up.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.