A fictional dialogue on decency
in popular culture
Also known as my final paper for one of my classes at Amherst College
- Political Science
5: Politics, Statecraft, and the Art of Ruling.
Notes: I understand that
attempting to convey a personality like that of Snoop Dogg is especially risky
in a fictional dialogue.
I have tried
to emulate his style and views by reading and analyzing several of Snoop’s
interviews and song lyrics, but I’ve intentionally tried to make his language a
bit clearer and cleaner.
Also, I used Plato
a guide for the format of the dialogue (Persons of the Dialogue, Scene, etc.)
Persons of the
(b. Calvin Broadus)
Scene: MacArthur Park
, Los Angeles
a shock it is to be here today, among both one of the greatest philosophers and
one of my greatest foes, the vanguard of obscenity- “Snoop Doggy Dogg.”
Surely, Rousseau, you will help me in
proving how Mr. Dogg represents the downfall of modern popular culture.
cannot make any promises to you, Mr. Bork.
Although I am for decency in popular culture, I believe that many men
can differ on the specifics.
why I cannot say whether my words will support you or Mr. Dogg.
We will have to allow Snoop to present his
We may both be academics, but I
fear my argument may be contrary to yours.
don’t even know why I came here today.
I got one stuffy Republican breathing down my neck and some other white
guy who’s been dead a couple hundred years.
Why am I even talking to you guys?
It’s not like either of you knows what popular culture is all about.
Certainly, it is your choice whether you wish to speak with us.
I, personally, am confident in my beliefs
that your music is not only indecent in and of itself, but in the kind of message
it sends to the general public.
do you mean?
me present an example of one of your “songs” that I have cited as indecent in
In “Horny” you “sing”:
I called you up for some sexual
I’m callin’ again so let me come
Bring the lotion so I can rub
Assume the position so I can f…
Your lyrics are indecent in so many
You glamorize misogynistic
behavior, drug use and promiscuous sexual behavior.
You endorse violence and you use profanities liberally (2).
You do this without melody and often without
coherent language, and yet you bill this as legitimate music (3).
I fail to see any possible redeeming quality
to this “music”.
Just look at some
lyrics from another one of your “songs”- “Gin and Juice”:
I got b-----s
(derogatory term for women) in the
living room gettin it on
and, they ain't leavin til six in the mornin (six in the
So what you wanna do, sheeeit
I got a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too
So turn off the lights and close the doors
But (but what) we don't love them hoes, yeah!
So we gonna smoke a ounce to this
G's up, hoes down, while you motherf---ers bounce to this
In a mere eight lines you manage to
depict misogyny, promiscuous sex, and illegal drug use, while using numerous
profanities and derogatory terms.
believe this is indicative of the depth to which popular culture has sunk, and
you, Mr. Dogg, are one of the leaders of this decline.
got to respond to your attack.
don’t get my music.
I speak to the
people of the ghetto, the black poor.
experienced is the squalor of ghetto life: drive-by shootings, drug addiction,
rape, and murder.
I’ve read your book,
Bork- how can my people relate to Jerome Kern’s and Dorothy Fields’s “The Way
You Look Tonight”?
It’s just a load of saccharine written by
two white guys being paid a lot of cash by some big studio owned by a bunch of
rich white men.
Hey, I’m not blaming
them- that’s the way the culture was back then, but it’s not the way it is now.
must agree with and clarify what Snoop Dogg has said.
I have commented on his points before, in my Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre.
I wrote, “Man is one; I admit it!
But man modified by religions, governments,
laws, customs, prejudices and climates becomes so different from himself that
one ought not to seek among us for what is good for men in general, but only
what is good for them in this time or that country.
Thus the plays of Menander, made for the Athenian theatre, were
out of place in Rome’s” (4).
on to write, “Who doubts that the best play of Sophocles would fall flat in our
We would be unable to put
ourselves in the places of men who are totally dissimilar to us” (5).
Bork, you must understand that Snoop is only
tailoring his material for those men who may be completely dissimilar to you or
Bork: I understand what you are saying, Rousseau, but there is a clear hole
in your argument.
You write that
popular culture should seek to be what is good for men “in this time or that
country”, but I allege that Snoop’s music is not good for men in any time or
Certainly, there is no
“good” in Snoop Dogg’s music- he promotes and glamorizes such deviant behavior.
Furthermore, your argument that your rap
music is not indecent because it is tailored to its alleged audience (the
inhabitants of the “ghetto”) is wrong in two ways.
First of all, it is not the poor blacks in the ghetto that are
the main consumers of your product; it is the predominately white inhabitants
of the suburbs (6).
Certainly, it is
not their culture that you depict in your music.
If anything, you are merely trying to entice and draw them into a
destructive culture by promoting and glamorizing despicable acts.
My second argument has to do with your
belief that it is right to tailor your music to your audience.
Perhaps you are “giving the people what they
want”, but is it right for them to have it?
I agree that the demand for decadence is there (7), but does it
rationalize the creation of forms of entertainment that promote immoral
I think not.
Dogg: Bork, you don’t
understand my style.
First of all, it
doesn’t matter if white suburbanites buy my records.
My music is about the ghetto, and it’s for the ghetto.
Second of all, you seem to think that I
promote only immoral behavior, and I’ve gotta disagree with that.
My kind of music addresses the reality of
the ‘hood- crime, broken families, gangs, and everything else- and sometimes
tries to show that this stuff shouldn’t ever be done.
Just look at a song from one of my friends, Coolio.
In “Gangsta’s Paradise” he raps:
Death ain't nothing but a heartbeat away,
I'm living life, do or die, what can I say
I'm 23 now, but will I live to see 24
The way things are going I don't know
Tell me why are we, so blind to see
That the ones we hurt, are you and me
Coolio’s talking about the
self-destructive nature of the ‘hood.
There’s so much violence in our neighborhoods that my people sometimes
don’t understand that the we- the people of the ghetto- are the ones who
sometimes cause our own problems.
Anyway, I'll admit it.
Sometimes I go over the edge with this
Just look at those lyrics that
you mentioned, Bork- do you really think all I do is have sex with prostitutes
and do drugs?
You and I know that
that’s just a fantasy, and the people can see that sometimes it’s just a
stylized image of ‘hood life I’m selling, and not a real photograph.
But your problem is that you ain't living on
the streets, man.
What you think of as
obscene lyrics is just what my people live with every day.
How can you sit there and say that it's all
right for middle-class, white bread America to talk their talk, but that the
ghetto’s gotta keep silent?
Yet again, I must agree with Snoop.
extreme and often caricatured depictions of gang life may serve as a good
influence to the public.
In my Letter
I commented on this point.
I wrote, “An
ugly face does not appear ugly to him who wears it.
If we wish to correct them by caricaturing them, we leave the
realm of probability and nature, and the picture no longer produces an
Caricature does not render objects
hateful; it only renders them ridiculous” (8).
Furthermore, would a reasonable and overt attack on deviant behavior
have any salutary effect on the public?
I wrote, “It is only reason that is good for nothing on the stage.
A man without passions or who always
mastered them could not attract anyone” (9).
Without the “passions” of the ghetto, fictionalized or otherwise,
Snoop’s music is robbed of its ability to captivate the public and is, in
effect, sterilized and rendered unmarketable.
you see passion, I see simple and stark indecency.
The aims behind the message are irrelevant if the message itself
is obscene and unacceptable.
of the purveyors of the message, specifically Time Warner executives, tacitly
admitted that they sell an offensive product when they refused to read aloud
the material they sold and even refused to respond when they were asked if
there was anything “so low, so bad, they would not sell it” (10).
don’t get it, man, you just don’t understand the way my message works.
The words of the message itself might be
obscene, but the aims behind it eclipse the words themselves.
My language is raw, it’s pure, it’s so dope
you just can’t handle it.
But my people
The gangs, the pimps, and the drug
dealers with their guns, their “bling bling” (flashy jewelry), and their fancy
cars- they’re a part of life where I come from, and I just tell it.
They might not be the greatest people in the
world, but they are part of the ghetto.
Here is where I must disagree with Snoop.
Commenting on Molière, I once wrote, “See how this man, for the sake of
multiplying his jokes, shakes the whole order of society; how scandalously he
overturns all the most sacred relations on which it is founded; how ridiculous
he makes the respectable rights of fathers over their children, of husbands
over their wives, of masters over their servants!
He makes us laugh, it is true, and for that he is all the more
guilty, in forcing, by an invincible charm, even the wise to lend themselves to
jests which ought to call forth their indignation” (11).
Snoop may not be trying to make us laugh,
but he in some ways does endow the wicked with an “invincible charm”.
Although at some points he conjures
caricatured personas that are more likely to evoke laughter, he can also depict
seemingly heroic “gangsta” figures that endow criminal figures with a kind of
Snoop, in your album “Tha
Doggfather” you created a character loosely based on yourself, who enjoyed
corrupting the morals of youth, selling drugs, murdering his enemies, and
engaging in sexual acts with several women.
You then glamorized characters like him in several of the songs on the
album, including “Groupie” and “Snoop’s Upside Your Head.”
Although I may have previously defended your
music on the basis that it reflects the tastes of the society, I feel that some
of your work only serves to elevate criminal figures in an obscene way.
that is exactly why I feel that this must be censored.
As these “songs” promote this kind of
behavior, our society will decline.
alternative to censorship, legal and moral, will be a brutalized and chaotic
culture, with all that that entails for our society, economy, politics, and
physical safety (12).
Without some sort
of external force that can limit these dangerous influences, our society may
continue its decline.
If that decline
continues, then it could undermine the very foundation on which our society
I once wrote, “Morality is an
essential soil for free and democratic government.
A people addicted to instant gratification through the vicarious
(and sometimes not so vicarious) enjoyment of mindless violence and brutal sex
is unlikely to provide such a soil.
population whose mental faculties are coarsened and blunted, whose emotions are
few and simple, is unlikely to be able to make the distinctions and engage in
the discourse that democratic government requires” (13).
A public that continues to embrace your kind
of music, Mr. Dogg, is the kind of public that may someday be unable to maintain
and perpetuate our great democratic society.
Is there anything you can say to dispute that?
Dogg: I can
say that my public is the kind that doesn’t care one bit about your democratic
My audience, and even the main
audience of most popular culture in general, is so distanced and alienated from
your “democracy” that they have become essentially disconnected.
“Democracy” as you see it will remain, with
a bunch of rich white men calling the shots while the rest of us live poor and
You’ve got to
understand, my music might be about the ghetto, but it reflects an enormous
discontented subgroup, black or white, poor ghetto-dweller or middle-class
All the people in this
group, they all feel like the government has nothing for them.
The only thing the poor ever think they get
from government is a check each month and welfare officers breathing down their
That’s the way it is, there’s
nothing that a bunch of rich white men in Washington are going to do to change
Also, you seem to think that my
words are somehow “dangerous” to the public and to democracy in general.
I don’t agree.
If anything, it’s better that they understand what the ‘hood is
It’s important that they see my
downtrodden brothers and understand how they live.
My message tells the people something they should hear.
fail to make an important distinction, Mr. Dogg.
Even if your argument that the main consumers of pop culture
aren’t directly involved in the government were true, a rational and moral
populace is still critical for the functioning of society.
If all people fundamentally distrust
authority, who will pay taxes or cooperate with the police?
If people see nothing unacceptable about
criminals and crime (and even see them in a positive light), how can we
maintain a society of order and justice, or even any true society at all?
All citizens of a nation are critical to the
survival of the regime.
That is why I
feel we, as a society, must band together to reject your brand of
Furthermore, your second
point is clearly flawed.
hearing about the “ghetto” through your obscene and indecent “songs” is only
causing a gradual moral decline.
people who hear your message only become further desensitized and numbed to
They gradually become more
accepting of the morally bankrupt culture and lifestyle (14).
This truly is an enigma!
culture, through its use of shocking material, encourage destructive behavior
or serve to curtail it by either showing its foolishness or even by simply
“purging the passions” of the people by saturating them with so many sensory
inputs, as the poetic theatre of my time has claimed (15)?
Or is the function of the message itself
irrelevant if the contents of the message itself are indecent and obscene?
This is a question I fear will remain
unresolved long after my friends Snoop Dogg and Robert Bork have departed from
1: Bork, Slouching Towards
2: Bork, Slouching Towards
3: Bork, Slouching Towards
4: Rousseau, The Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre
5: Rousseau, The Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre
6: Bork, Slouching Towards
7: Bork, Slouching Towards
8: Rousseau, The Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre
9: Rousseau, The Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre
10: Bork, Slouching Towards
11: Rousseau, The Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre
12: Bork, Slouching Towards
13: Bork, Slouching Towards
14: Bork, Slouching Towards
15: Rousseau, The Letter to M.
D’Alembert on the Theatre
Snoop Dogg’s arguments have been
complied and extrapolated from several interviews from MTV