Censorship, self-censorship, poison pens and the new moral majority

Art is dead.

How profound, eh? Let me explain. Art, as I’ve understood (and enjoyed) it my entire life, is officially deceased. It’s expired. Kaput. Extinct. Cold, lifeless, stiff…whatever you want to call it, it’s no mas. It’s been on life support for years now but we’ve finally pulled the plug and put the last couple of nails in the coffin. R.I.P. art, you will be missed. Or maybe not. Maybe no one will even notice. It might not even get a hashtag or a shout out on the Gram from the shallow, selfie-obsessed hordes of zombie fuckheads who constitute modern society…GASP!

The only question that remains is: where do we go from here..? I wish I knew. 

Art is, of course, subjective. So feel free (all three of you) to tell me I’m full of shit and move on, but I’m right. I know I’m right because I can feel it. I’ve felt it coming on for years and I’m not alone. Watch above as author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) discusses censorship in writing.

In my opinion, art ceases to be art when it is created solely for profit. Art also stops being art when you prevent yourself from creating it out of fear of offending others – when you make it safe. And Jesus Fucking Christ on a Cracker is everything SAFE now. It’s disgusting.

I loathe this nanny culture we have transformed into; this mother-knows-best morally superior culture that wants to save us from having our eyes and ears assaulted by anything deemed BAD.

“Won’t someone think of the children?!”

I resent it. I oppose it. I reject it. I have, after all, always had a problem with authority and I reject this mother superior authoritarian horseshit that people are obsessed with now.

I saw the writing on the wall a few years ago when peers started demanding that more and more things be banned, but I had no idea how bad things would get.

I want to be offended.

I want to make up my own mind about if something offends me.

I reject the idea that someone else should decide for me what is ok and not ok to read, to watch, to hear, taste and enjoy.

I reject your smug sense of moral superiority.

I reject your delusion and your power drunk desire to decide for all.

I rejected the moral majority then and I reject them now.

What we have now is a perfect marriage of art created for profit but not to challenge anything. Morally superior art to appease the angry mobs…and rake in the cash, all the while nuns with rulers run rampant smacking everyone’s knuckles for thinking impure thoughts.

There can be no art which is both censored and commercial. Yet here we are. And this has been a long time coming.

Not only is art largely (if not solely) commercial now but it is also heavily regulated. In fact, I’d argue that it is so heavily regulated now that there’s a worldwide stranglehold on all creativity which has killed art and sent many artists into hiding, or burned them at the stake for the sin of creating…or even thinking of creating.

And who, exactly, regulates art these days you ask?! The government you say? Nay. ‘Tis ourselves. We are, after all, our own worst enemy.

I remember a few years back when there was talk of creeping self-censorship in the air and many people blew it off, myself included.

Pfffft. No one is gonna make me censor myself, pal!

And then 2016 happened.

And then the mobs started. The witch hunts began. The doxxing torches were lit. The public executions were held. The character assassinations popped off. The boycotts boomed. Online mob justice became chic, and still is. It’s the new black!

Then things really got started!

And now we’re stuck in this never-ending Twilight Zone episode where corporations are sponsoring “the revolution,” people are begging the government for censorship and any kind of art that comes out that dares to step outside of the two official narratives is immediately condemned. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

Absolutely everyone is afraid to say anything for fear of offending the new moral majority. So no one says anything any more.

No one creates. No one is on the edge. No one dares.

And so we end up with all of this forced, corporate, safe and sanitized garbage that no one wants.

There’s an old saying that goes something like: Creating art is the basis of existence, therefore, if you cease to create art you cease to exist.

Think about that for a moment the next time you consider the ridiculous culture we live in now and the soulless consumer-obsessed zombies who populate it. Personally, I think it’s profound. I think far too many people have ceased to exist. Hard as it is for some to admit, zombies are, after all, a metaphor for us.

For most of my life I’ve sought out the avant-garde. The underground. I’ve been drawn to it. The punks. The weirdos. The outcasts. Those who go against the grain. The fish swimming upstream. The fringe. Those on the edge.

I always made a B-line for the indie bookshops who carried books and art that were too weird or harsh for mainstream bookstores. This pattern repeated itself in numerous ways my whole life. I became a writer of the harsh, a publisher of the weird and a champion of free speech.

And then I got called a Nazi.

All these years later those kinda folks – the ones who pushed boundaries and dared to think outside the box, people like myself and some of my peers – are disappearing. What’s worse is there’s no one to replace them. There is, for lack of a better a term, a growing void that’s devouring creativity and the freedom to create. I can feel it in my bones.

They are, by and large, our dinosaurs – slowly going extinct in the tar pits of censorship and mob justice – slowly being eaten alive by the cancer of second guessing yourself. Many these days will applaud this – and that, my friends, is truly depressing.

Instead of pushing boundaries, everyone is simply conforming to one extreme or the other now and quietly shutting the fuck up, period. No deviation from the narrative aloud! Sit down, pick a side and shut up and buy something while you’re at it. Buy two!

You either toe the line these days or you are cast out. Silly as it is to say out loud, WrongThink is real now. Thought Crime is everywhere and for these things art has died. It’s been crucified and left to rot.

So what, you say. Not my problem, you say. You’re over exaggerating! Well friendo, things are bleak. Bleaker than they’ve ever been on the creative front for this weirdo.

I am, for the first time in my life, hesitant. I am gun-shy. I am second guessing myself and self-censoring my work and my creativity. That is something I’ve never done before. I am scarcely creating art, which in turn means I am scarcely existing.

I am, for the first time, contemplating the risk in writing about this or that. And that, my friends, sucks. That’s where art dies.

You risk your livelihood these days by daring to think out of the box. We live in an era of two emotions only, no more, no less:  fear and loathing.

You begin to question if you will offend this person or that group. Do I dare write about this? Can I use that word? What if…

Where we once reveled in pushing boundaries we now revel in being morally superior to each other.

You start going down a checklist of things and lines not to cross. Is this racist? Is it sexist? Is it shaming? Is it offensive? And on and on you go until ultimately you change your mind, you delete what you wrote and you shut down. You give up.

Even when you don’t mean to offend anyone you do. And then the mob comes for you.

They are waiting with pitchforks and torches. You are already guilty. There is no trial necessary. Guilty until proven innocent and no one is ever innocent, or forgiven. We live in the zero tolerance era.

And we get so focused on pleasing everyone that we please no one and art suffers for it. We are more focused on how not to offend than how to create.

When a few artists self-censor it is a tragedy. When most artists do, it is a crime.

They win by making you second guess yourself. And they have won.

I’ve watched people drown in public because they dared to think differently. I’ve seen them tarred and feathered and watched them go into hiding. None DARE speak out now.

I’ve been accused of many things these past few years by various angry groups of people online, all of them hellbent on control and punishment. There is no pleasing any of them and if you try you end up crucified anyway.

I retreat to the confines of my own little space here but largely to the confines of my own mind. No one, thankfully, has found a way to read each other’s minds yet…thank god. Lord help us should that ever happen.

And so, we are all painted in our little corners now, afraid to say anything and there’s no art any more – no real art any way.

Oh sure, sure…there’s art, but not really.

There’s no art any more that challenges your worldview. There’s no art that dares you to think. There’s no art that makes you feel alive. There’s no art that enrages you or makes you sick to your stomach. There’s no art that makes you value your existence. There’s no art that makes you want to make art.

There is only the past.

Ask yourself why people are SO obsessed with the past and with the art from the past…because that’s all there is any more: reminiscing and robbing the grave of the past. And we do that again and again and profit from that as well.

Where is the new? No where. Art is dead. We killed it.

This witch hunt culture we live in now makes me hesitant to create anything – to write. It makes me hesitant to share and reluctant to be honest. Why risk telling your truth if the price is your head?

There was a time when art was considered art, no matter how offensive, and everything that fell under its umbrella was protected from the mob. That time is long gone. If you create something deemed offensive now you play a game of Russian roulette.

The culture of fear and loathing grows larger every day. The new moral majority demands new penance every day and sacrifice. Every day things get weirder and more reserved and art suffers. We suffer. We cease to exist.

We live in an era where profit is king. Where consumerism is a cult and where everyone is afraid to say the wrong thing. We live in an era of no art and of obsession with the past. We live in puritanical hell.

I am sick to death of the culture wars. I want no part of it. Both of the cults can go fuck themselves.

And yet for these reasons is why I remain locked away in print. Obscure. Unread. They haven’t started burning books… yet.

I cannot abide.

And yet…my own pen is poisoned. Or so I have convinced myself.

And I know it’s not just me. Let this be my heresy by speaking out. Maybe by doing so I absolve you of your sin. But probably not.

Maybe I should just shut the fuck up.

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