5
Mass Art and Morality

Introduction

Perhaps the greatest anxieties about mass art concern morality. During the 1996 presidential campaign in the United States, Democrats and Republicans vied with each other to see who could raise the greater alarm about the moral dangers of mass art. While at the same time pocketing enormous campaign contributions from leaders in the entertainment industry, Bill Clinton, taking his cue from Bob Dole, used the presidency as a 'bully pulpit', urging Hollywood, TV, and the music industry to clean up their act.1 In America, politicians and other pundits are fond of citing statistics about the number of hours children spend before the TV set, contrasting it with the number of hours they spend in school. Emboldened by these figures, they are wont to declare that TV has become the major educator of Americans, and, when it comes to moral education, the mass media are geneally found to be wanting on every side. Thus, special computer chips -- V-chips -- are being installed in every newly manufactured TV set in order to assure that our children will not be corrupted.

Of course, such criticisms of the mass media in Western Culture harken back to Plato. For Plato's suspicion of the relationship of art to the emotions was ultimately motivated by ethical concerns, since the emotions are connected to action. Plato's fear was that by roiling the emotions, art was apt to give rise to ethically unpalatable behaviours, encouraging not only specific, morally obnoxious emotional dispositions like cowardice,

____________________
1
After denouncing the entertainment industry for their indulgence of violence, both Clinton and Dole went on record -- this time Dole imitating Clinton -- praising Independence Day, a film in which probably more human beings are wantonly murdered than in any other in recent memory.

-291-

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A Philosophy of Mass Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Philosophical Resistance to Mass Art: The Majority Tradition 15
  • 2 - Philosophical Celebrations of Mass Art: The Minority Tradition 110
  • 3 - The Nature of Mass Art 172
  • 4 - Mass Art and the Emotions 245
  • 5 - Mass Art and Morality 291
  • 6 - Mass Art and Ideology 360
  • Envoi 413
  • Index 419
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