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26 June 2009 8:42 AM

Interview with James Poulos, Part III

(Parts one and two of my interview with James Poulos.)

Q. I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about my favorite phrase you've coined -- "The Pink Police State." To what are you referring? And why should it worry us?

The Pink Police State is a more extreme version of a regime I use to taunt my libertarian friends in my essay on 'The Sex Vote' that's just been published in Doublethink. I worry, and I think we should all worry, about the way cultural libertarianism is snowballing while the snowball of political libertarianism rolls deeper into hell. I'm aghast at the shrug with which many self-styled libertarians greet massive government, so long as it's run by people with 'enlightened' attitudes about pleasure-seeking. It's not death to the state these libertarians want, it's the state as cool parent, with a stripper pole in every pot. I've actually had one good libertarian friend argue straight-faced that the solution to the drug problem is a monopoly partnership between Washington and Walmart. Well, with solutions like that, who needs problems? And of course you get that kind of institutionalized approach from fans of legal prostitution. It's almost as if libertarians are willing to let the state regulate everything so long as everything's decriminalized.

On top of this, we all know how intimately sex -- or at least images of sex and talk about sex, alas -- has become a part of everyday life. What gives me fear is the idea, which large numbers of people seem to be buying into, that a growing sphere of libertinistic freedoms compensates (or more than compensates!) for our shrinking spheres of political liberty and the practice of citizenship. You can guess what I think about 'liberaltarianism'.

That's the background brief on the Pink Police State, a vision which came to me courtesy of one of the most visionary videos of the 1990s. I'm talking about Marilyn Manson's "The Dope Show," off 1998's Mechanical Animals. I know it's a bit odd for a conservative cultural critic to praise Manson as a brilliant genius, but before the Columbine aftermath unfairly derailed his career and life Manson was firing on all cylinders, and Dope Shows' incredible 'live performance' sequence [2:15-3:00], in which an all-male body of riot police wearing head-to-toe pink uniforms are inspired to make out, was deeply prophetic, in an as-yet symbolic way, about the manner in which our manufactured contradictions and desires are apt to show forth in contemporary life.

"Cops and queers," Manson sings on that track, "make good-looking models." We should all ruminate on that lyric to better understand the uncannily dovetailing fantasy of administrative omni-competence in official life and sexual omni-competence in unofficial life. I'll simply link to my related invectives against Dov Charney and Sasha Grey -- blase, barbarian avatars of the banality of evil who are as much the heirs of de Sade as Bill Kristol is the heir of Winston Churchill.

So citizens of a Pink Police State (I should say subjects) are apt to surrender more and more political liberty in exchange for more and more cultural or 'personal' license. And the government of a Pink Police State tends to monopolize and totalize administrative control while carving out a permissive playpen for the people. This tradeoff has a creepy economic component. Already, in places like Russia, China, the Gulf states, and Singapore, we see the machinations of a new 'laboratory of autocracy', as oppressive regimes grant wealthy residents de facto privileges to all the sin money can buy. As I've asked in our own context, however, how many hipsters are too poor to party? Next to the al Qaeda neanderthals, the harbingers of the Pink Police State pose a far more frightening and serious challenge to the Western model of social order. Nobody frets, like many of our intellectuals did over Stalinism, that maybe Osama got it right. There's more to worry about when we see China's youth consent en masse to equality in servitude in the shadow of Macau, Earth's biggest gambling mecca. Of course the freaky environs of Dubai are a stone's throw from the real Mecca. The secret depths of perversity and abuse at the 'frontiers of the West' -- pent-up porn, sex slavery, the whole network reaching from the Baltics through the Balkans, down into the Gulf, and out to Indochina -- really needs to be told. But our rapt attention is held instead by Bruno.

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Comments (1)

The paragraph beginning "So citizens of a Pink Police State"---well, aren't they just enjoying the glories of what unfettered capitalism is offering and making big bucks out of? Your insinuation that only "hipsters" (my God, were you born in the 60s?) are doing the consuming is simply "stupid". Now, I do not suggest that the dumbing of the populace --whether in Pasadena or Peoria-- is a desirable development, but to pop the whole blame onto the "liberals" is worse than naive; it is a symptom of what you deplore--
thinking like an octopus through its own ink.

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