The culture has become less inhibited (good), coarser (bad)

The old inhibitions were repressive. Freudianism was a huge phenomenon because it got people to recognize that the repressions of the culture were related (in a complex way) to neuroses.

Freud wrote during the early part of the century and got popularized during the twenties, thirties, and forties. By the fifties and sixties we had Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, etc. “Let’s not be infantile.” The Joy of Sex. Momentum toward cultural sophistication.

But capitalism and mass society commercialize and vulgarize everything. Naturally your internet screen in 2020 (as with the television screen of 1960 and the highway billboards of 1940) is filled with advertisements to the point of nausea.

When TV started to proliferate during the forties and fifties there was optimism about the conjectured potential to “bring high culture to the masses.” By 1961 the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minow, famously referred to American commercial television programming as a “vast wasteland.”

Now the most-visited website is Pornhub. That represents how a liberating impetus toward dis-inhibition became vulgarization. What a shame.

* * * *

Q. Rereading the 1966 cover story after all this time, what strikes you most?

A. “. . . that brave new teen world [of the sixties] still looks quaint compared with the nude selfies, from both sexes, that are being exchanged by teens today. A decade later, we were worried about the targeting of children by advertisers on the Saturday morning children’s cartoons and TV kids shows. Somehow our civilization is surviving — or is it? There’s no doubt that our media, the political culture and entertainment world have grown much coarser and more lurid.”


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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).