Diana West

It may be a time of Thanksgiving, but my dissatisfaction runs deep. The New York Times -- which, like a frightened squid, keeps squirting gushers of ink at Bush-voters -- now declares that television remains "far more likely to keep pumping from the deep well of murder, mayhem and sexual transgression than seek diversion along the straight and narrow path."

Of course, my first question is, that's it? It's really got to be one or the other? Stinky well or sterile path, it's never quite enough to make me flick on the TV just for fun. Which is why I haven't seen "C.S.I." or "Desperate Housewives." Or, for that matter, the old "Touched by an Angel," the second of the two kinds of show that represent the lonely poles of contemporary cultural possibility. That doesn't mean I don't feel as though I've seen them -- I know character names, plot lines, how the "Housewives" creator was all washed up, and, of course, how a towel-clad star-housewife jumped Ron Artest, setting off the infamous Pistons-Pacers-Fans conduct-malfunction. Or something.

And somehow the Times is trying to pin the cause for this cultural decline on Bush voters. By adding exit poll numbers to Nielsen ratings, the newspaper fancies it has come up with Something Quite Profound. "Many Who Voted for 'Values' Still Like Their Television Sin," the newspaper headlined, arguing that "the supposed cultural divide is more like a cultural mind meld." Why? Because "Housewives" and "C.S.I." are both blue- and red-state hits. This is supposed to mean something: namely, that "values voters" -- that ill-defined and slim slice of polling data that, the debunked story goes, alone re-elected George W. Bush -- are watching sex- and violence-drenched "entertainment," and that this is a paradox. Why, the newspaper wonders, would all those "values voters" become no-values viewers?

It's a faulty premise. Not only does it depend on a zero-sum vision of free will and personality, but it also implies that pulling the lever for "traditional" marriage or against abortion eliminates curiosity, boredom, bad taste and maybe even sin from the human condition.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).