History of a Revolution We Hope to Read

Article excerpt

Excerpted from: A History of the United States, Copyright 2074, 2079:

The American Renaissance of the early 21st century generally is considered to be one of the great cultural, intellectual and moral revivals of planetary history. It was also unique. Unlike previous movements, it was not the work of a small number of geniuses. Nor was it centered around any particular city or region. Nor did it happen because of the patronage of wealthy elites or through a great religious revival.

Instead, the American Renaissance took place almost spontaneously, after the people rebelled against what came to be known in the 1990s as the Great American Garbage-Making Empire, or GAG-ME.

"The Rise and Fall of GAG-ME"

In the late 19th century, the United States began an unprecedented enterprise -- the creation of a national popular culture through the mass production and distribution of images and artifacts. It started with advertising, mass-circulation newspapers, magazines, cheap novels and popular music. It expanded throughout the 20th century as primitive electronic media and computers became available. Initially, this culture seemed benign if somewhat banal, often pleasant, occasionally brilliant. Still, by the 1960s, it was apparent that something was going very wrong. But it took more than 30 more years, and a lot more garbage, for the rebellion against GAG-ME to begin.

By the 1990s, GAG-ME was everywhere and into everything: entertainment, athletics, politics, education, religion, allegedly "high" culture and social welfare. Everything had to be packaged, presented, debated and judged according to its procedures and standards. GAG-ME was indeed a complex enterprise. But its basic characteristics are understood easily

First, in any field, the demand for talent usually outstripped the supply. The media explosion, plus the reduction of issues, values and events to sensationalistic entertainment, meant that a lot of ill-educated, shallow people were churning out the product. An old Madison Avenue proverb held that some of the people making the ads were fully as stupid as the people they thought they were addressing. What was true in advertising was equally true in publishing, cinema, news presentation and music -- especially when that stupidity was buttressed with psychobabble and trendy self-righteousness. Also, many of the producers felt the purpose of their work was to glorify and advance their own lifestyles.

The conglomerates that ran GAG-ME understood the nature of their product. But they also had an enormous investment to protect, so they opted to exploit their trash by intensifying it and pandering to the lowest common denominators of the mass market: the pornographies of sex and violence and the banalities of brain-dead drivel coupled with various politically correct "commentaries" and "consciousness-raising" scams. They also insisted on a celebrity or star system, packaging a few glitzy -- and usually disposable -- "personalities" of minimal talent, while neglecting the development of serious creators, performers and politicians. …