“AMERICA HAS BECOME A CRUEL AND VICIOUS PLACE. WE REWARD THE SHALLOWEST, THE DUMBEST, THE MEANEST AND THE LOUDEST. WE NO LONGER HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE OF DECENCY. NO SENSE OF SHAME. THERE IS NO RIGHT AND WRONG. THE WORST QUALITIES IN PEOPLE ARE LOOKED UP TO AND CELEBRATED. LYING AND SPREADING FEAR IS FINE AS LONG AS YOU MAKE MONEY DOING IT. WE’VE BECOME A NATION OF SLOGAN-SAYING, BILE-SPEWING HATEMONGERS. WE’VE LOST OUR KINDNESS. WE’VE LOST OUR SOUL.”
—FRANK MURDOCH, GOD BLESS AMERICA
Empathy, sympathy, care and passion are swiftly becoming things of the past. Right-wing politics are on the rise. Xenophobia, hatred and division have grown stronger than ever, and emptiness is lauded, provided it’s packaged correctly. Currently six corporations control 90% of American media, and 21st century celebrities and public figures appear to be a constant celebration of all that is vacuous, meanspirited and utterly self-absorbed.
Take contemporary pop music for instance. Writing for the investigative website Anti-Media, journalist Claire Bernish spoke of the relentless dumbing down of popular culture. She references a study by Andrew Powell-Morse of SeatSmart, in which the chart-topping songs across popular genres were analyzed for lyrical intelligence over the course of a decade. The results will be of no surprise to anyone who thinks the Billboard Hot 100 doesn’t sound so hot these days: “Ten years ago, the most popular songs read between a third- and fourth-grade level, but the inanity only increased with time, and after a five-year downward tumble ending in 2014 (the last year of the study), chart-topping hits had a reading level equivalent to second or third grade.”