Hollywood's most influential cultural commissars also live by this code. They would claim to be the champions of authenticity, but in their endless attempts to persuade us through their "art," they often suggest that nothing is authentic on its face, that no one can be trusted and everyone deep down is a phony, living a lie. I'm not talking merely about the manufacturers of movies and television shows and music, but about the critics who constantly proclaim for the whole country what is the best in art, and the award-show managers who now slavishly follow what the critics pronounce.
Insincerity is also rampant in Manhattan, in national magazine publishing. There is no greater irony than Kurt Andersen, one of the founders of a Snark Ages trendsetter, Spy magazine, to proclaim to Weeks that "If someone were to look at 2008 culture from 1963, I suppose it would look strangely unsentimental." How priceless. Watch as the polluter looks out on his black oil spill of mockery and decides it isn't all good.
Weeks turned to experts who suggested that sentiment is strangled in our private lives as well. Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California, theorized that the culture "has lost the capacity to be nice, to appreciate, to be modest, and even to be reverential -- all relatives of the appreciation family of emotions." Keltner added the theory that we spend more and more time with strangers than family and old friends, people who spur us to occasions he called "deep niceness."
But Weeks protested that people are still sentimental in their private lives, that they still say, "I love you" to one another, they still send flowers and greeting cards, they still cry at funerals and at tearjerker movies. Of course they do. We have not lost the ability to love and revere and be sincere. There are still songs and shows that reflect that feeling. They're just dismissed as hopelessly cheesy and square.
Throughout our lives, we privately resist the Snark Ages peer pressure of popular culture. Even today's young people can learn to reject it. Call it rebelling against the rebellion. Who's the counter-culture now?