Sunday, February 3, 2008

Most awkward MSNBC segment ever

(Greetings, AOSHQ Morons!)

Somehow, I don't think this anchorette babe knew what she was getting herself into when her producers booked Marty Beckerman on the show:

I first found out about Marty several years ago through his book, "Generation S.L.U.T.," a novel-with-essays that -- despite its bizarre title and even more bizarre content -- offers a fundamentally thoughtful and critical perspective on contemporary youth culture. It's a graphic depiction of the dehumanizing effects of growing up in a hypersexualized society without norms or proper adult supervision.

Being an inverterate bibliophile, I spotted "Generation S.L.U.T." on the discard table at the office where the book review section dumps the extra books it's not planning to review. When I began reading the book, I was stunned. Space does not permit a complete description of the book, but it culminates with a booze-and-drugs-and-sex party -- at an upscale home where the self-absorbed parents are obliviously AWOL -- when a teenage girl is sadistically gang-raped and the crime captured on video for Internet distribution.

It's a tragedy of degradation, and the perceptive reader recognizes that Marty is portraying (from an obverse perspective) exactly what such cultural conservatives as Wendy Shalit, Diana West, Danielle Crittenden, Dr. Miriam Grossman, Kay S. Hymowitz, Robert H. Knight and Dana Mack have been trying to warn America about for years: In the post-"liberation" era, adolescence has become a toxic playground of depraved sexuality characterized by selfish cruelty and conducive to disease, personality disorders, and crime.

Here's my Amazon review of "Generation S.L.U.T.":
Beckerman is completely insane -- and that's a good thing. What he has done is to throw back the curtain to show us the horrible moral decay that has afflicted the children of the Woodstock Generation. The graphic language and sexual content may shock adults, but this is how young people talk and what young people do. Just when you think to yourself, "That's too far-fetched to ever happen," you turn on the TV or pick up a paper and see that it already HAS happened: Teenagers posting self-porn on the 'Net, the Duke gang-rape case, etc. Despite its pornographic content, Generation S.L.U.T. is fundamentally a socially conservative book, and Beckerman's a Robert Bork for the MTV era. Marty shows us the emotional and physical wreckage wrought by the serial betrayals of the "hook-up" age among kids with too much privilege and not enough supervision.
The phrase "a Robert Bork for the MTV era" is, of course, a reference to Bork's classic "Slouching Toward Gomorrah" -- although I doubt Beckerman appreciated the intended compliment, and obviously no president would ever think of nominating him to the Supreme Court.

After reading "Generation S.L.U.T.," I was able to locate Marty online and began an e-mail correspondence that eventually became an actual friendship, based on the fact that he's one of the few people I know who's crazier than I am. I enjoy making friends with crazy people because, as I explained to Marty, it's such a relief occasionally to be the second-craziest guy in the room.

Marty is very much a cynic, but he clearly realizes that the culture in which he has been raised -- he's still only 25 -- is profoundly abnormal and unhealthy. This is a conservative realization, even though he's hardly a conservative in a political sense. (He has described himself as a libertarian, and has written rather viciously about his contempt for what he sees as the illogic and hypocrisy of typical specimens of both major parties.)

Marty is also funny as hell. A lot of people don't "get" Marty's deadpan absurdism, his purposeful affronts to good taste, or his self-deprecating penchant for embarrassing revelations. In person, he seems quiet, serious and (usually) polite, which is why inviting Marty to a party is always a risky proposition.

Thus with the MSNBC anchorette babe who finds herself at a loss to react when Marty puts John McCain's habit of using the phrase "my friends" into the context of the Hanoi Hilton. Offensive, tasteless, insulting -- I dare even say such a joke is un-American.

But that's Marty. He is an intrinsically flawed human being -- and he knows it. That self-awareness amounts to an approximation of the Calvinist conception of Original Sin, which was why, in one of our first e-mail exchanges, I suggested he investigate the dynamic young evangelist Joshua Harris, whose theology is essentially Calvinist.

Marty's Facebook page describes his religion as "Jewish - Self-Hating," and he's a contributing editor at the Jewish humor site Despite his youth and precocious success, he's already gone through one of those soul-scorching nightmares that makes the book business so traumatic, with a two-year drought caused by a major publisher canceling his contract after he'd already completed the manuscript of a time-sensitive non-fiction book about politics. (Offhand, I'll guess the marketing department was to blame. A good rule of thumb about the book biz: When in doubt, always blame marketing.)

Marty says the experience nearly made him an alcoholic. Having undergone some tribulations of my own, I spent a lot of time commiserating with Marty by phone and e-mail, and occasionally in person. But now he's emerged into the sunlit uplands of success and sobriety, with a new publisher and a steady gig in New York.

So I'm happy for Marty. And even if his jokes about Crazy Cousin John were tasteless to the point of being unpatriotic, I'm sure Mitt Romney appreciated that expression of support -- and maybe that Supreme Court nomination isn't as far-fetched as I thought.

P.S.: Marty took a cheap shot at Michelle Malkin; I replied. (And in case you don't get the reference to "self-abuse," you can read Marty's tale of woe here, although I must add VERY STRONG CONTENT WARNING.)


  1. The jokes weren't offensive because they were tasteless. Much worse, the jokes were not funny.

  2. you turn on the TV or pick up a paper and see that it already HAS happened: Teenagers posting self-porn on the 'Net, the Duke gang-rape case, etc.

    I don't know about teenagers posting self-porn, but you do know that the "Duke gang-rape case" was a hoax, don't you? The guys were completely exonerated, the case was a sham put together by a fame-hungry corrupt prosecutor who was seeking re-election.

    Does that affect your argument? Probably not. But at least use honest examples.

  3. Jen & Tonic:

    Yeah, I know it was a hoax, and actually gave a presentation last year about how the media helped hype the hoax. But the point is, the Duke lacrosse players thought nothing about calling up Dial-A-Stripper as if they were placing an order from Domino's. Even though they committed no crime, uch behavior is still pretty decadent, don't you think?

  4. Glad you recognize it was a hoax, Robert. But why continue to refer to it as a gang-rape case then? How about calling it the "college sports team thinking nothing of hiring strippers" case?

    Anyhoo, yeah, hiring strippers is decadent behavior. But I think it's one of those situations where "those without sin should throw the first stone." Who hasn't attended a bachelor party, for heaven sakes?

    Bottom line, I don't think the case fits one of your examples as an indication of deep-seated moral depravity. Why not point to, say, the Channon Christian case to make your point instead?

  5. If you'll look at the actual post, Jen & Tonic, that quote comes from my Amazon review of Marty's book. The review was written before the full story of prosecutorial abuse was known. I could not, at the time of that review, reference facts which were not yet available. But as I say, the actual facts of the case -- of a dope-addicted escort-service employee who made a false accusation -- do not deprive the case of its relevance to the themes explored in Marty's book.