The Return of the Primitive

At his blog today, Ace of Spades writes, "Trashy Former Pop Star Drinks Her Own Urine on MTV in Ratings Stunt":

If you had questions about whether Ke$ha was a classy lady-- questions that really ought not to persist, given that she really spells her name that way, "Ke$ha" -- consider them now resolved.

Some are using this provocation as a justification for renewing the calls for a-la-carte cable subscriptions. "Some" are, in this case, correct.

Anyone who now has cable pays for MTV. Cable companies negotiate a flat payment to a station for carrying it. MTV also collects revenues from advertising, but a major source of its revenue is the automatic "tax" MTV imposes on your cable bill every month. You have no way to avoid paying for MTV-- except for cancelling the service altogether.

Monopolies are generally not permitted to "bundle" services together. And local cable companies are usually monopolies, or, at best, have but one competitor-- and as all of them have instituted this bundling practice and will not stop the practice no matter how much the public clamors for it, the monopolies (or duopolies) at least appear to be in collusion on this point.

And finally, while Robert Redford's boyish shock of tousled hair and studio system hauteur hides a multitude of sins, his own primitivist mindset is lurking just under the surface, easily found:

Robert Redford today accused the US of losing its way in the years since the second world war. Speaking at the press conference for his new film All Is Lost at the Cannes film festival.

"Certain things have got lost," said Redford. "Our belief system had holes punched in it by scandals that occurred, whether it was Watergate, the quiz show scandal, or Iran-Contra; it's still going on…Beneath all the propaganda is a big grey area, another America that doesn't get any attention; I decided to make that the subject of my films."

Redford, now 76, also had critical words for the US's never-ending drive for economic and technological development, which he considers has been a damaging force.

"We are in a dire situation; the planet is speaking with a very loud voice. In the US we call it Manifest Destiny, where we keep pushing and developing, never mind what you destroy in your wake, whether its Native American culture or the natural environment.

"I've also seen the relentless pace of technological increase. It's getting faster and faster; and it fascinates me to ask: how long will it go on before it burns out."

Gee Bob, who gets to decide that technological progress will now officially be concluded? As Virginia Postrel told C-Span’s Brian Lamb in 1999 when promoting The Future and its Enemies:

The Khmer Rouge sought to start over at year zero, and to sort of create the kind of society that very civilized, humane greens write about as though it were an ideal. I mean, people who would never consider genocide*. But I argue that if you want to know what that would take, look at Cambodia: to empty the cities and turn everyone into peasants again. Even in a less developed country, let alone in someplace like the United States, that these sort of static utopian fantasies are just that.

Incidentally, that fawning profile of Redford appeared (but of course!) in the UK Guardian under the headline, "Robert Redford on America: 'Certain things have got lost.'" Well, that can happen when elderly Hollywood multimillionaires make films condoning terrorism, which are in turn approved by a former presidential aide, on the morning show that's aired nationwide on a TV network owned by the Disney Corporation:

In his 2oo6 book Our Culture, What's Left Of It, Theodore Dalrymple wrote:

Having spent a considerable proportion of my professional career in Third World countries in which the implementation of abstract ideas and ideals has made bad situations incomparably worse, and the rest of my career among the very extensive British underclass, whose disastrous notions about how to live derive ultimately from the unrealistic, self-indulgent, and often fatuous ideas of social critics, I have come to regard intellectual and artistic life as being of incalculable practical importance and effect. John Maynard Keynes wrote, in a famous passage in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, that practical men might not have much time for theoretical considerations, but in fact the world is governed by little else than the outdated or defunct ideas of economists and social philosophers. I agree: except that I would now add novelists, playwrights, film directors, journalists, artists, and even pop singers. They are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, and we ought to pay close attention to what they say and how they say it.

Especially when the first thought is turn away from the daily horrors our pop culture seems to bring forth in ever-greater numbers.