Much of the commentary on WAP and "Cuties" has focused on the question of censorship - whether justified or not. But the more fundamental issue is whether culture (popular or otherwise) is broadly understood to support or offend the sensibilities of its audience.
Wendell Berry gets to the nub of this issue in his 1992 essay, "Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community." He notes a shift in different understandings of the role of artists and makers of culture, grounded in whether one sees one's art as _part_ of a community, or standing outside.
Berry, in the title essay: "I would distinguish between the intention to offend and the willingness to risk offending. Honesty and artistic integrity do not require anyone to intend to give offense, though they may certainly cause offense….
"There is a significant difference between works of art made to be a vital possessions of a community (existing or not) and those made merely as offerings to the public.
"Some artists, and I am among them, wish to live and work within a community, or within the hope of a community, in a given place. Others wish to live and work outside the claims of any community, and these now appear to be an overwhelming majority.
"There is a difference between these 2 kinds of artists but not necessarily a division. The division comes when public art begins to conventionalize an antipathy to community life and to the moral standards that enable and protect community life, as our public art has now done."
The more of our culture has become "popular culture" - born of and from and for a homogenizing and deracinated monoculture - and less embedded within the rhythms and lives of people within communities, the more artists come to think of themselves as liberators of backward people.
The more this division defines the relationship between art and community, the more likely the call for censorship. Yet, to reach this point, any extant culture has likely already been so thoroughly damaged that it can no longer exercise a role as a pedagogical and shaping force.
And, the more such calls are regarded merely as the demands of an small and insignificant bunch of moralists, the more it needs to be recognized that there is very little culture at all left to be preserved.
In the anti-culture, all that remains is to engage in ever more radical forms of provocation, for the "radical" artist to experience the waning thrill of tearing down any extant cultural forms or norms. As we can see today, those outer boundaries must come to include pedophelia.
As Berry notes, most actual culture is local, which we largely see are dying art forms. Instead, we have an internationalized "anti-culture," a product designed to undermine and displace _all_ cultures around the globe.
While liberalism was largely an American achievement, it is the exporting of anti-culture that has made it a global and imperial legacy.
This is why, to answer its destruction, a two-pronged approach is needed: the development or retrieval of local culture, and the political defeat of liberal anticulture. It's not Dreher OR Vermeule: it's both/and. /fin.
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