LOS ANGELES—Matt Philbin is the managing editor of the Culture and Media Institute, a part of the Media Research Center Network, which bills itself as "The Leader in Documenting, Exposing and Neutralizing Liberal Media Bias."
Quite a mission statement, especially the use of the term "neutralizing." Kind of makes you wonder how many of these right-wing intellectuals pack heat at work; you know, just in case someone from the liberal media happens to stray into their crosshairs. Oh, you mean the use of the term is not meant to infer a violent act? Riiiight.
Anyway, Philbin has written an editorial about porn for another unbiased website, The Daily Caller, titled "The Sexxxtons and the mainstreaming of porn." In it, he attempts to make some sort of nuanced point about the state of our culture by juxtaposing a recent study that debunks the so-called "damaged goods" theory of porn stars with the news that a mother-daughter team make porn together as the Sexxxtons.
From the vantage point of his moral high ground, however, Philbin doesn't really make a particularly coherent argument, but instead jokes and gesticulates his way through the piece as if it were unnecessary to explain his point because the absurdity of the situation is just so damn obvious. He gets a special kick out of the fact that a Huffington Post piece on the Sexxxtons contains a quote from, as HuffPo labels him, "adult film historian Bill Margold."
To Philbin, the idea that porn even has a history, much less someone who takes it seriously enough to document it, is something so obviously absurd that it boggles the intellect. It's all part of the equally ridiculous fact that a thing called the Journal of Sex Research exists in the first place, though he has an explanation for that, too, writing, "Legitimizing studies like The Journal of Sex Research’s new report are part of the relentless mainstreaming of porn."
In other words, the "damaged goods" research, which was reported in the Journal, must of necessity be flawed because it is part of a broader conspiracy to legitimize the inherently illegitimate. "These studies," he enlightens, "are part of a larger apparatus that has grown up around the porn industry that includes award shows, trade groups, conventions and even porn historians."
It comes as no surprise, then, that towards the end of his piece he argues that taboos are breaking down and that what was once beyond the pale is now the norm.
"To a growing segment of the population," he says, "beautiful women strutting provocatively in various states of undress is a yawn—a hint of stocking, as it were."
It gets worse. "In a porn-sodden culture where less and less is illicit or forbidden," he warns, "human nature has to go farther afield to get its kicks. Taboos fall like slow-motion dominoes. A generation ago, it would have been unimaginable that porn would be as mainstream and ubiquitous as it is today. If you really think about, it’s unimaginable that an act like the Sexxxtons will earn even a shrug a generation hence."
So... are you yawning yet?
He's not done. "Our cultural suicide is moving along at a brisk pace," he concludes apocalyptically, adding with a cynical wink, "But at least the porn stars are happy."
Does that mean porn stars will inherit the earth, along with what Philbin's Culture and Media Institute likes to call the "gay mafia" and their "gay agenda," or the "sleazy" Lena Dunham, or "slutty" Lady Gaga, or Reba McEntire and her new show's "lefty agenda themes?"
Philbin's sense of history is fatally flawed, of course. Taboos, old and new, remain firmly in place, which is precisely why pornography remains popular. Incest also remains a line that most people do not cross, even if some perverted souls do, as they have always done. Laws against incest are also still on the books, as Philbin rightly points out, though his unexpressed point is that he expects them to one day no longer be. But that's his pessimism talking.
Poor Matt Philbin and his moral crusaders. They seem to have admitted defeat in their quest to hold the line against the brisk pace of our cultural suicide. Their resignation is palpable, the sigh practically audible, the neutralizing nowhere to be seen. The election, it seems, which was obstensibly about the economy but for MRC was always about our moral decline, has taken the wind out of their sails.