Mark And Brian Radio Show - Erosion Of Empathy - Sarcasm - Corrosive Humor - No Moral Center Of Gravity

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Beware Of Programming That Destroys Your Emotional Centers

The Mark and Brian radio show reflects the U.S. culture's general erosion of empathy. Mark and Brian's sarcasm and corrosive humor have no moral center of gravity, deafening listeners to their inner voice.

Arguments regarding the Mark and Brian program's relationship to the desensitized US political climate follow the series of pics.

Click here for a more general discussion of shock jock culture [make link].

Cultural Criticism - November 21, 1998

Saturday, 7:00 a.m. Yesterday as I drove to work I was listening to the Mark and Brian radio program (KLOS, pdf) (Wikpedia, pdf). They were performing a creative interpretation of a wonderful old song entitled, "Lean on Me." The song is about friends and family supporting one another in times of need. Lyrically as well as musically, the song is positive and enjoyable. But Mark and Brian's version disturbed me. The singing was out of key and lacked emotional sincerity; there was much inappropriate laughter; abundant and purposeful mistakes were made playing the piano and other instruments; the rhythm or beat was "off;" and a loud, obnoxious, poorly-played trumpet appeared throughout -- apparently to destroy any miniscule remaining pleasure listeners might have derived from the song.

Mark and Brian are known for their hatchet-jobs on music. They frequently take a good song and tear it to shreds using the same techniques of musical anarchy listed above. Listeners, previously having only heard the song played in the usual, reverent manner, tend to burst out laughing -- as I did yesterday. Mark and Brian's version of "Lean on Me" was so bad, so poorly executed, and so mischievously irreverent, that I was amazed. But it made me uncomfortable, too. I had listened to only about a third of their piece when I instinctively turned off the radio and put in a tape of music from home.

It's not that I don't have a sense of humor: I do. And it's not that these two guys aren't intelligent: They are. They're gifted at what they do. But much of their humor is at the expense of others. They frequently take a good song and make extraordinary fun of it. Their doing this almost always leaves me feeling hollow and uncomfortable.

Our culture is known for its narcissism, sarcasm, and, as some magazines describe it, "erosion of empathy." If, as a culture, we take what is good and ridicule it, what does that leave us with? Not much, in my view. Not that I would ban such satire. People should be able to listen to it if they want to. It's just that I find it mildly immoral -- and definitely in poor taste. Our actions, our humor, and our words all should point us in a positive direction.

Where is the moral center of gravity in Mark and Brian's humor? That is, from what vantage point are they making such fun of others? My quick response to this question is that their "fun" is located in their proposition that there is no right and wrong -- that there is no compelling reason to use one's God-given skills of discernment to judge one's actions. In this framework, all music -- and all art -- becomes equally susceptible to satiric attack.

Ultimately, I find such humor callous and deadening. Why don't Mark and Brian make fun of the hard-driving rock music that depicts women as sex objects and legitimizes emotional deceit and physical abuse? Or, why don't they make fun of the hypocrites in political office -- all those Puritanical zealots who fail to acknowledge their own moral weaknesses and sexual excesses?

Making witty -- even vicious -- satire of wrongness in our world is the source of real humor -- a humor that is oriented toward the ideal. Such humor integrates spirit into this world, as its referent is a more ideal condition, a place of how things should be.

We need more of this heartfelt, ideals-oriented humor.

The humor of Mark and Brian -- a form of satire and sarcasm that deafens listeners to their inner voice and inherent divinity -- has no place on the spiritual path.

Sarcasm is to the heart what smoking is to the lungs.

It constricts and obstructs that which should be free.


Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps with Rob Zombie.


Mark and Brian with Quentin Tarantino.


Mark and Brian with Ozzie Osbourne. Note the trumpet, a favored weapon of the two DJs. I do believe that is Brian on the right making the "Devil" or "Horned One" sign. I guess we all have to worship something.


There Is A Political Dimension To This

What Mark and Brian choose to tear apart reveals quite a lot about their social and moral values. In general, they set out to destroy that which is sensitive, feminine, connective, and kind. They don't attack what is mean and powerful. They don't attack what is masculine. So, for example, take the militant Christo-fascists currently running the US today (it's August 2007 as I write this). Would Mark and Brian use their satiric brilliance to humiliate them -- to humble them? Or would they take the low road of merely ridiculing victims of the Bush cabal -- people who are already on their bellies due to the fear and poverty brought upon them by the policies of our great God-chosen "Decider?" The answer, unfortunately, is the latter.

Mark and Brian's humor flows from a hardened male chauvinistic point of view. It's a POV that is associated with corporatism and militarism. Corporations don't want us to "love thy neighbor," but rather to "purchase a product that thee needs even more." Policies of aggression require that we not trust, nor even seek to dialogue with, our so-called "enemies." In the business of war there is no meeting of hearts, no attempt to find the common ground of shared interests by which to make enduring compromises. Diplomacy is a humane -- and increasingly lost -- art. It requires that we share a fundamental respect for another's interests and concerns. The fundamentalist bipolar world of G.W. Bush allows no room for such decency. This decency or civility can also be described as an empathy for our earthly cohabitants; it forms the bedrock of compassion, nuanced perspectives and, one might argue, civilization itself. Hence the emptiness of Bush's claims of priviledged moral and spiritual insight.

If we want a world where we don't honor our need for community; if we want a world where we steal whatever resources we can get because we're the stronger party; then closing ourselves emotionally, and silencing our urge to communicate -- commune -- with our fellow human beings is the way to go.

Mark and Brian are purveyors of "exploitainment" -- the selling of humor based on the (at the very least) emotional exploitation of others. They are not responsible for this erosion of empathy, but are products themselves of a corporate and economic system that requires that we be reduced in this manner.

If Mark and Brian can make us insensitive to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, then they are at the same time readying us for further wars of aggression where the victims' point of view is never recognized, and where the human cost of US economic policies (e.g., hardships for working families, outsourcing or exporting the few remaining good jobs, raiding of pensions and Social Security) is ignored because "Wall Street" (i.e., the very rich) is loving it. The desensitization that is part and parcel of the Mark and Brian Show is a necessary precondition for the advancement of Anglo-American corporatism. Mark and Brian are emblematic of a corporate media landscape that is intent upon separating one American from another, making us distrustful, depressed, and obedient. Mark and Brian help to create the emotional context where consumerism (the purchase of commercial products like SUVs and mood enhancing drugs like Prozac), rather than socializing with fellow Americans (because people are cast as inherently untrustworthy, while television and radio personalities deserve our undivided attention and trust) is the only answer to life's deeper questions.

Dehumanizing entertainment -- the entire "shock jock" culture -- provides cover for the Bush administration. Both use power, lies, mistrust, intimidation and the cult of personality to sow fear in the hearts of the citizenry. The rise of Mark-and-Brian-like programs coincides, in my opinion, with the loss of US freedoms and the related ascendancy of the "unitary executive" legal concept by which George W. Bush can trash the Constitution with various Executive Orders and signing statements, thereby freeing the actions of his administration from any meaningful checks or oversight by Congress or the courts. In the minds of the neo cons, the weaker and more passive the people can be made, the more powerful the (fascist) leader will be. I say "fascist" because a true leader knows that real power -- indeed, the raison d'être of his public office -- flows not from his/her limited person, but from the collective will of the people he/she represents. Or as a Taoist might say, a true leader is never the Unitary Decider; rather, the true leader "leads by following" those he has been given office to lead.

As Noam Chomsky states: "We live in an era of media concentration, [with] vast efforts on many fronts (political, economic, military, ideological) to insulate state and private power from critical discussion or even popular awareness, and to reduce citizens to isolated atomized creatures restricted to satisfying personal 'created wants.' This massive and coordinated campaign has been partially successful, but only in a limited way. The range and scope and dedication of popular activism has also increased, all over the world, reaching a level of international solidarity and mutual support that has never been seen before. The basic conflicts are very old, but they have taken quite dramatic and significant new forms, and the stakes are far higher than ever before. It is, regrettably, no exaggeration to say that the survival of the species is at risk -- and many others with it. We all know why." (pdf)

Mark and Brian are enabling this "atomization" of the populace. Media products such as the Mark and Brian Radio Show stand in the way of popular activism and a life dedicated to Spirit.


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