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’s Euthyphro as a guide for the format of the dialogue (Persons of the Dialogue, Scene, etc.)

Persons of the Dialogue

Robert Bork Jean-Jacques Rousseau Snoop Doggy Dogg (b. Calvin Broadus)

Scene: MacArthur Park, Los Angeles

Bork: What 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.

Rousseau: I 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. That is why I cannot say whether my words will support you or Mr. Dogg. We will have to allow Snoop to present his theses. We may both be academics, but I fear my argument may be contrary to yours.

Dogg: I 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.

Bork: 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.

Dogg: What do you mean?

Bork: Let me present an example of one of your “songs” that I have cited as indecent in the past. In “Horny” you “sing”:

I called you up for some sexual healing
I’m callin’ again so let me come get it.
Bring the lotion so I can rub you.
Assume the position so I can f… you. (1)

Your lyrics are indecent in so many ways. 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 mornin)
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. I 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.

Dogg: I’ve got to respond to your attack. You just don’t get my music. I speak to the people of the ghetto, the black poor. My people. All they’ve 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”? They can’t! 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.

Rousseau: I 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). I continue on to write, “Who doubts that the best play of Sophocles would fall flat in our theatre? 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 me.

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 any country. 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 behavior? 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 stuff. 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?

Rousseau: Yet again, I must agree with Snoop. His 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 effect. 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.

Bork: Where you see passion, I see simple and stark indecency. The aims behind the message are irrelevant if the message itself is obscene and unacceptable. Even some 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).

Dogg: You 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 can. 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.

Rousseau: 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 mystique. 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.

Bork: And that is exactly why I feel that this must be censored. As these “songs” promote this kind of behavior, our society will decline. The 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 rests. 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. A 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 society. 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 marginalized lives. 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 suburbanite. 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 neck. That’s the way it is, there’s nothing that a bunch of rich white men in Washington are going to do to change it. 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 like. It’s important that they see my downtrodden brothers and understand how they live. My message tells the people something they should hear.

Bork: You 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 “culture.” Furthermore, your second point is clearly flawed. If anything, hearing about the “ghetto” through your obscene and indecent “songs” is only causing a gradual moral decline. The people who hear your message only become further desensitized and numbed to obscenity. They gradually become more accepting of the morally bankrupt culture and lifestyle (14).

Rousseau: This truly is an enigma! Does pop 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 this Earth.

1: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P123
2: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P125
3: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P124
4: Rousseau, The Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, P17
5: Rousseau, The Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, P19
6: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P125
7: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P132
8: Rousseau, The Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, P26
9: Rousseau, The Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, P18
10: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P131
11: Rousseau, The Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, P35
12: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P140
13: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P142
14: Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, P139
15: Rousseau, The Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, P20
Snoop Dogg’s arguments have been complied and extrapolated from several interviews from MTV, Spin, and Stuff Magazine.

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