NY Mag: Lil Nas X, Cardi B, and the Anti-Pop Conservative Outrage Machine

As many of our readers probably remember, I was dialed out of politics in 2020. I was focused on aesthetics, culture and history. Specifically, I wanted to trace the root causes of America’s cultural degeneration to their source. How did my generation come to live in a culture of omnipresent filth?

New York Magazine:

“Pop stars are not babysitters. Pop music is not wholesome entertainment. If you play mainstream music expecting to have your values reaffirmed, you will — inevitably, eventually — be disappointed. Pop stars (at least the good ones) push against the boundaries of what’s possible and acceptable, sometimes in the noble interest of challenging the prevailing social mores, sometimes just for the devilish thrill of crossing lines, and sometimes because they just can’t help it. These people aren’t, like politicians or superheroes, paragons of justice or hometown pride. Their job is to reflect on their lives and sing about what they have learned. Sometimes those reflections align with our own experiences, and we connect with the music on a visceral level; you could argue that the best stars working in any era have a sense for what’s culturally prescient that keeps them in the conversation. The blend of aspiration and passive aggression at play in the catalog of Drake feels like a uniquely postmillennial commentary on social-media era narcissism in the same way that the loss of innocence recalled in the best early Britney Spears singles seems inextricably tethered to the late ’90s, when we all became incrementally more online and judged by more onlookers’ standards.

It takes more than visibility and cultural savvy to be a role model, though. We hand that title away too freely. We expect too much. We believe the world should accommodate our thinking. We fight fiercely against perceived threats to the median wholesome values and traditions we’re raised with. This is the story of the Beatles in 1966, when John Lennon voiced frustrations with religion and declared his band “more popular than Jesus,” sparking bans, bonfires, and protests that seemed to quell the British quartet’s interest in performing live, and it’s the story of the Rolling Stones in 1968, when “Sympathy for the Devil” drew devious insinuations. (“There are black magicians who think we are acting as unknown agents of Lucifer and others who think we are Lucifer,” Keith Richards told Rolling Stonein 1971, recalling the controversy.) It’s the story of Loretta Lynn in 1975, when she released “The Pill,” a song about a wife who’s driven by her husband’s cheating to start taking birth control, and country radio stations banned the single, seeking to curtail the success of what would ultimately become one of the singer’s biggest hits. It’s the story of Senate hearings about explicit lyrics in 1985, of Pepsi pulling an ad starring Madonna in 1989 after the singer’s “Like a Prayer” met outrage for its mix of sensual scenes and Catholic iconography, of 1990 obscenity trials over 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be and complaints from George H.W. Bush about Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” in 1992, of backlash for the sexual liberation of Britney Spears’s “Oops!… I Did It Again” in 1999, of Janet Jackson being shunned after a wardrobe malfunction in 2004, of blowback over Lady Gaga’s Luhrmann-esque “Judas” video in 2011. It’s the story again this spring as conservatives lash out at risqué performances from Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Lil Nas X. Times change, but the message is consistent: You have a responsibility to make art that is appropriate for young eyes. It’s naïve.

The fuss about Megan and Cardi’s “WAP” was a greatest-hits album of scare-mongering about rap music and pearl clutching about female sexuality so canned and dated that you couldn’t help but laugh at the people trying to sell it. Ben Shapiro’s reading of the lyrics to the song was instant meme gold, much like Charlton Heston’s recitations of the lyrics to “Cop Killer” in 1992. These performances both suppose that the artist is always using words literally, misunderstanding rap fundamentally as a form rich with embellishment that asks listeners to suspend their disbelief for the more extravagant and ridiculous lines as much as we are expected to believe it when it speaks to the artists’ passions and struggles. No one who heard “WAP” thinks Cardi B really likes uvula play. The point is upending power dynamics and countering the male gaze. The least interesting approach to processing deliberately transgressive art is to rate it on how well it dispenses or upholds traditional values, judging it for its success or failure to meet purposes it clearly doesn’t aspire to. It is a narcissistic framework that seats the listener at the center of the universe and values outside stimuli on how comfortable they make us, rather than on their own merits and traditions. (The question with “WAP” isn’t whether or not it should be played on the radio during the daytime or whether it’s even appropriate for late primetime, as renewed complaints around the performance of the song at this year’s Grammys seemed to suppose American children would be tuned in after 10 p.m. to see it on television. It’s how sharp the bars are and how tall it stands in the pantheon of twerk jams it evokes with its Baltimore club sample.) …”

For a long time, I associated cultural degeneration with progressive liberalism because the two are clearly so joined at the hip today, but there was something about this theory that bugged me. The original “progressives” in America were nothing like this. Quite the opposite.

In the 19th century, American liberalism had been about political rights and economics. By today’s standards, we had a government that was almost nonexistent and an economy that was virtually unregulated. And yet, we had a Victorian culture which was far more cohesive than our own. There was a 19th century “mainstream” which existed before our 20th century “mainstream.” Previously, Americans had a fairly cohesive national identity even in spite of sectional divisions, a common culture, history, religion and morality, but this was lost over the course of the 20th century.

In the early 20th century, American liberalism took a sharp turn toward cultural liberalism. American liberalism came to be about cultural liberation and cultural egalitarianism or the emancipation of individuals from their own “backward” traditional cultures. It became elitist, anti-populist and anti-traditional. It began to celebrate novelties and the breaking of cultural boundaries, not to create new or better works of art, but for the thrill of doing so. The self-expression of the artist was romanticized and was elevated above the interests of society and was detached from and set in opposition to social norms. Aesthetics was elevated above ethics. Traditional morality and religion began to crumble in the wake of this. The freedom of the sovereign individual to pursue any degenerate lifestyle was held to be more important than the common good. This is a very 20th century way of approaching the world. Americans certainly didn’t think this way in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries because this is the sensibility of the European avant-garde and is ultimately foreign to this country.

Gradually, it dawned on me that this isn’t liberalism. Not really.

This is modernist liberalism which was imported from Western Europe in the 1910s and 1920s. It isn’t an ideology. It is an aesthetic or sensibility like Romanticism which was dominant in the early 19th century. As modernism infected the American liberal intelligentsia in the 1920s, it began to open the rift that led to our interminable culture war. Modernist elites are always starting new battles like “trans” which is the ultimate example of the modernist romanticization of the interior self as the “true self.”

“Hi, just call me … “Elliot Page”

I have no doubt that some people will point out that secular leftwing college-educated Jews are vastly overrepresented among the forces driving America’s cultural degeneration and Weimar Germany’s degeneration. There is also a lot of truth to this because this whole enterprise was jumpstarted by Greenwich Village in New York City but it is also a much more complicated story.

In my research, I discovered that Jews were also some of the harshest critics of modernism and that the roots of the phenomena can be traced back to Charles Baudelaire and other artists in mid-19th century France. Max Nordau, who wrote the amazing book Degeneration in 1892 which viciously critiqued degenerate art, was in fact an Orthodox Jew who was one of the co-founders of the Zionist movement with Theodor Herzl. Nordau predicted the likes of Madonna, Cardi B and Lil Nas X.

Adolf Hitler had a point when he condemned Cultural Bolshevism. It wasn’t just Hitler though who hated modernism on aesthetic grounds. Daniel Bell and many others have criticized its subversive nature and highlighted how it has been embraced by capitalists to further their own ends.

About Hunter Wallace 10507 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

16 Comments

  1. The Victorians on either side of the Atlantic didn’t have the heavy, toxic baggage of “Diversity” to drag around with them. Ironically, the Victorian’s political and social liberalism prepared the ground for their posterity to be plagued with said baggage.

  2. “Pop stars (at least the good ones) push against the boundaries of what’s possible and acceptable, sometimes in the noble interest of challenging the prevailing social mores…”

    THIS IS A LIE.

    You will NEVER see a pop star burn a Koran on stage or in a video.

    You will NEVER watch a pop star re-enact a racial lynching where a black man is hung for raping a white woman and everyone onstage claps in approval.

    NEVER, EVER will you hear a song by a pop star about Islam’s prophet having sex with his 6 year-old “wife” Aisha.

    Push against the boundaries of what’s possible and acceptable?

    Challenging the prevailing social mores?

    I think not.

      • “The article was just trash.
        One kosher klub member defending the tribe’s interests.”

        “I have no doubt that some people will point out that secular leftwing college-educated Jews are vastly overrepresented among the forces driving America’s cultural degeneration and Weimar Germany’s degeneration. There is also a lot of truth to this because this whole enterprise was jumpstarted by Greenwich Village in New York City but it is also a much more complicated story.”

        Why, too, does HW continue to DEFEND THE JEWS?

        How about we acknowledge that Hitler, even if he was a flaming nancy boy, and failed ‘artist’ who kept ‘butches’ around for his own perverse lusts, STILL was a ‘good faggot’ in that he denounced BAD Art, BAD Music, BAD Culture, and sought to REMOVE the truly Perverse JEWISH FAGGOTS from his nation (i.e., Magnus Hirschfeld, etc.)- and then lauds FDR in a previous post, for ‘allowing’ such degenerate filth to enter the USA?

        He [AH] was right. About the Frankfurt School, about Entartete Musik, about women being mothers for the Reich, about stopping JEWISH Bolshevism- all of it.

        But not about Christianity… but a sodomite wouldn’t like the True Faith, for obvious reasons.
        “They liked sin more than righteousness….”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerate_music

        • Obviously, I care about accuracy.

          I also think it is funny that Max Nordau, an Orthodox Jew and leading Zionist, wrote such a good book and helped create degeneration theory. It isn’t even really fair to describe German modernism as Jewish. Most of the artists who were condemned by Hitler was Germans.

  3. I think popular culture’s decline can be traced back to the year 1917, when the first jazz recordings were released. Then came the scandalous excesses of Hollywood in the 20s. We never really recovered from the Great War.

  4. “Pop stars (at least the good ones) push against the boundaries of what’s possible and acceptable, sometimes in the noble interest of challenging the prevailing social mores, sometimes just for the devilish thrill of crossing lines”

    By this logic, progressives everywhere should love Johnny Rebel and Skrewdriver since those are actually transgression social norms. Music videos promoting homosexuality and sexual deviancy/miscegenation aren’t transgressive at all, the New York Times and corporate America promotes the same values every day.

    If these people truly respected the idea that pushing social norms is always good, then they would see music that was anti-gay as truly transgressive, or music that advocated for white people as making them uncomfortable and therefore good.

  5. “Aesthetics was elevated above ethics.”

    That’s not true though. Modernist art often had ugly or banal aesthetics. The aesthetics were often treated like an afterthought. What characterized it was that is was “conceptual” and high ideologicized. You were supposed to think it was great because it had a clever gimmick rather than being aesthetically pleasing.

  6. 10-15 years ago, pop music was dying out and it was becoming uncool to listen to mainstream music. Then all of the hipster indie websites sold out and started pushing mainstream pop and hip hop crap like Drake or Kendrick Lamar or whatever. It happened almost overnight, so I’m guessing they were paid off. Now the sites that used to be about hipster art rock are all about Cardi B and Lizzo.

  7. I”n my research, I discovered that Jews were also some of the harshest critics of modernism and that the roots of the phenomena can be traced back to Charles Baudelaire and other artists in mid-19th century France. Max Nordau, who wrote the amazing book Degeneration in 1892 which viciously critiqued degenerate art, was in fact an Orthodox Jew who was one of the co-founders of the Zionist movement with Theodor Herzl.”

    Even the rare kikes who take a correct position on some issue will invariably also support what is unsupportable from our viewpoint. The advancement their percieved jew interests is always their guiding star, no matter the question of the moment, never the overall well-being of goyim & our society.

  8. Lmfao My how ellen page has fallen her handlers should did a fine job of brainwashing her into a absolute mental patient. Now shes a teenage boy named Elliot…

    The democratic nation of north Korea if you have transcribed this message successfully please nuke us into oblivion

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