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Behind the News with Doug Henwood - September 13, 2012 at 12:00pm

Behind the News with Doug Henwood, for September 13, 2012 - 12:00pm

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I enjoyed both interviews,

I enjoyed both interviews, even found one observation in the first interview to be stunning (re: poverty would have been eradicated in USA by mid-1990s had GDP & per-capita income relationship remained what it was between 1959 & the mid-1970s).

But I do believe that you were -- not for the first time -- too easy on capitalist popular culture when you interviewed Melissa Gira Grant. I thought she was extremely insightful & I'll be adding her to my reading list for sure. I do think porn, however, deserves more analysis and criticism -- or maybe I should say our relationship to porn, or what porn reveals about us, deserves more attention.

While there are some admirable exceptions within the industry (like Girlfriend Films), the vast majority of the industry does indeed depend upon crude debasement of women. And with the advent of sites like YouPorn (and sex surveys, if any bother to get really explicit), one can see that porn has a very real influence on the habits and practices of young people, esp college-age men & women.

Melissa is correct, of course, to emphasize that porn is not alone in the entertainment industry in regard to its sexism, debasement, and exploitation of women. But the influence of porn might be unique. As mentioned, the amateur porn on YouTube provides some evidence of this. (Btw, the number of men with military haircuts in the amateur videos seems to be quite high. But this is a matter which requires far more analysis than I can provide here.)

A final note: While channel-surfing the other day -- through my meager selection of non-cable channels! -- I watched a couple minutes of Dr Oz, where a healthy- & happy-looking young, middle-class & soon-to-be-married straight couple were questioned about their sex life by sex therapist or counselor. The man responded that he looked to porn for ideas, and strove to emulate the "professionals" in porn, because, he said, they are pro's after all.

Popular culture & the entertainment industry in capitalist America deserves more critical scrutiny on Behind the News. You might reply, Doug, that it is beyond the scope of the program. But anyone who listens regularly has heard you, on a number of occasions, characterize most all critics of pop culture today as mere reactionaries fearful of the newest technology, fashion, or industry trend.

This absurd characterization ignores a large number of insightful leftist cultural critics, from Adorno & Benjamin to today's academics working in film criticism, english & cultural studies programs.

And, I think your tendency to defend all new and dominant trends and developments in the popular media & entertainment industries might actually stem from your old right-wing ideology rather than any real study of the texts written by the more sophisticated or informed cultural critics on the left (most of whom are, alas, in academia).

John C.D.

PS: This comment was also inspired by the dismissal of cultural critics who have voiced concerns over social media, esp Facebook.

Facebook, LinkedIn,, and other social media businesses have been rightly criticized, I think, for attempting to transform the open web [back] into a handful of branded, commercial enclaves requiring membership if not paid subscriptions.

Social media businesses like Facebook and LinkedIn have, I think, been justifiably studied and criticized for subsuming & exploiting individual relationships & friendships within commodity capitalism. Relationships of any type are increasingly promoted as means to ends. Individuals are encouraged to "brand" themselves -- and to consider the impact that others around them might have on their "brand".

Single people are less likely to even try to meet new people in the 'real world' because & other personals are seen as more "efficient" because, among other things, they can screen out individuals with different values and backgrounds from oneself.

All social media sites, in fact, provide an "efficiency" that doesn't exist when one meets in person for conversation, or even talks on the phone And greater efficiency means more time to work (though, of course, we are already working when we post our "likes" and photos on Facebook, or add another link to LinkedIn's network, etc.).

One might say that we are living in an age of real subsumption that Marx could not have imagined in his worst & most surreal nightmares.

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