Browsing the works of my fellow artsjournal.com bloggers this morning, I discovered in his blog Overflow a piece by Harvey Sachs that illuminates the condition of American popular culture in the new century. Mr. Sachs, the distinguished biographer of Arturo Toscanini and Artur Rubinstein, recently repatriated to the US after decades overseas. He posted this item nearly two months ago, but it has a long shelf life. Here is an excerpt:
I had heard of Michael Jackson, knew that he was an entertainer — knew, even, that he was odd looking and that he had a sister who had bared a breast, accidentally or otherwise, before the television cameras during some sort of sporting event. (None of my friends in Europe, where I was living at the time, could understand why this had created a scandal. “Was her breast ugly?” was the closest any of them, male or female, could come to fathoming the issue.) What I did not know, however, was that at some point during my long absence from the country this Jackson fellow had replaced Jesus Christ as the primary object of worship for most Americans.
Fortunately, I was traveling in the Midwest from Friday until Tuesday morning, thus I had the incredible privilege of taking in an enormous quantity of television “news” in hotel lobbies and breakfast rooms, in restaurants, and in a few private homes. My imagination was fired by the rare chance to see how the early prophets of a new religion manipulate the masses. And on Saturday, when I realized what was about to happen, I began to tremble all over.
To read the whole thing, click here.
Welcome back to the United States, Mr. Sachs.