Allan Bloom on MTV and the closing of the American mind
I'm reading The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom's 1987 broadside against postmodernism, moral relativism, rock music, feminism, MTV and anything else he could think of. Bloom's thesis is that western civilization (by which he means the top students at the top Ivy League colleges) has lost its moral bearings by having lost touch with the Greco-Roman classics. I'm enjoying it, though it's pretty silly, and full of gross generalizations about modern America based on a handful of students Bloom has spoken to at Yale or Cornell. Bloom comes across as a complete elitist, a snob, and a faux European, embarrassed by his Americanness as some cultured Americans are. But he does write well. For example:
Picture a thirteen-year-old boy sitting in the living room of his family home doing his math assignment while wearing his Walkman headphones or watching MTV. He enjoys the liberties hard won over centuries by the alliance of philosophic genius and political heroism, consecrated by the blood of martyrs; he is provided with comfort and leisure by the most productive economy ever known to mankind; science has penetrated the secrets of nature in order to provide him with the marvelous, lifelike electronic sound and image reproduction he is enjoying. And in what does progress culminate? A pubescent child whose body throbs with orgasmic rhythms; whose feelings are made articulate in hymns to the joys of onanism or the killing of parents [I think this is a reference to The Doors' Oedipal anthem, The End]; whose ambition is to win fame and wealth in imitating the drag-queen who makes the music. In short, life is made into nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.
He goes on:
liberal education is supposed to encourage the belief that the good life is the pleasant life and that the best life is the most pleasant life...But as long as they [the youf of today] have their Walkman on, they cannot hear what the great tradition has to say. And after its prolonged use, when they take it off, they find they are deaf.
Not a big fan of rock music, Allan. Here's him in action, talking to another likeable old grump, William F. Buckley, back in the days when you could smoke on TV. I love the weird opening shot, with the granny grinning insanely at the camera, like something from a David Lynch movie. Buckley himself is so languid he looks in danger of falling off his chair.