There are many things in short supply these days, but cheapness and vulgarity are not among them. They’re everywhere right now — in politics and pop culture, among the royals, within the legacy media and across social media. Most obscene is the cheapness and vulgarity that has pervaded the conflict between Israel and Hamas and its accompanying explosion of global antisemitism.
It would be easy to attribute this collective rot to mere coincidence, but it’s more a case of compounded indecency. And nowhere more so than at the top. The coarse bravado of then-candidate Donald Trump a decade ago metastasized during his presidency into the corruption and cravenness that now dominates — and could possibly derail — his third stab at the White House. Even as Trump lays relatively low, his relentless legal circus continues to confirm he’s little more than the “carnival barker” ex-president Obama said he was back in 2011.
A similar — if not greater — sense of ick courses through the Biden family as it navigates Hunter Biden’s recent firearms and tax indictments. The charges are louche and lavish and detail Hunter’s bacchanal sex and drug romps — with the selfies to prove it. It’s the first son in prime OnlyFans-mode, and nothing could be more vulgar.
Then there’s Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of tastelessness, who’ve resorted to a game of third-party cat-and-mouse as they rage yet another race war against the Windsors. Once again biographer Omid Scobie has proven a useful idiot — and interlocutor — catapulting the Sussexes back into black-sheep status just as the rest of the family prepares to celebrate at Sandringham. Imperiled and outcast, Harry and Meghan exist within a doom-spiral of pettiness and irrelevance in which the only relief — however fleeting — are minor missteps such as the Photoshop fail now cursing their in-laws’ holiday card.
Or what about disgraced former Congressman George Santos, the hardcore image-inflator recently removed from Capitol Hill for spending campaign finance contributions on Botox, Hermes accessories and pornography? As the New York Times wrote last week of his brief fib-filled tenure, “in the end, it may have been the luxury goods that brought down George Santos” — and not his heavily manufactured résumé. Unsurprisingly, Santos is likely headed for a second career in reality TV.
And, of course, there’s Kanye West, who’s back on the global “look-at-me” circuit with recent appearances in Miami and Dubai alongside wife Bianca Censori, her cleavage and those twenty-second-century cat suits she favors. So vile are these two that Venice police reportedly investigated them after a particularly lewd escapade on a gondola last summer.
Cheapness pervades City Hall in New York, too, where Mayor Eric Adams is now so embroiled in simultaneous campaign-finance and sexual misconduct probes that potential replacements are already being discussed if he’s sent packing. It’s a truly #basic about-face for a mayor who, while often slick, never skewed sloppy — and has been in office for barely two years.
Alex Jones is back on X, Tucker Carlson is back in action, and the Saudis — with their endless flow of petrol-dollar — have snagged yet another top global athlete with a nine-figure payday. Sex, drugs, money, corruption — they’re sloshing through every cultural sphere right now unchecked and unchallenged — if not outright celebrated.
Sloth, sloppiness, stupidity — they’re the raw ingredients for the epidemic of cheapness and vulgarity that has come to define the current wave of Israel-hate and antisemitism as well. This wave knows no limits in its absurdity. There’s the attack this week on Zara, which has raised the ire of pro-Palestinian activists convinced that a current chaos-filled ad campaign aesthetically references the carnage in Gaza. After the requisite protests and vandalized storefronts, Zara pulled the ads — despite the baseless allegations of battlefield cultural appropriation.
The clamor around embattled Harvard president Claudine Gay also feels decidedly low-level. Rather than celebrate the news that she’s keeping her job, Gay’s relief was overshadowed yesterday by accusations of both plagiarism and being a “DEI-hire.” Whether they’re actually true (spoiler alert: they probably are) is almost irrelevant. The fact that such claims could even exist in reference to a Harvard president reflects the fundamental sordidness of the entire matter. In other words — like Santos’ fabulism and Hunter’s indiscretion—the entire President Gay antisemitism affair should never have happened in the first place.
Then there’s Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah, while neither Jewish nor Arab, writes with a sense of Israel obsession that borders on the creepy. It’s certainly extreme in its focus — a piece mere days after Hamas’s initial attack was laced with churlish references to the Holocaust while accusing Israel of atrocities even before the nation had finished burying its dead. Since then, Attiah followed up this nasty initial salvo with column after column filled with anachronisms and over-reaches that masquerade as championing Palestinian lives, but are little more than the gussied-up jargon and intersectional clichés that have rendered America’s extreme left so silly and insincere.
How else to describe Attiah’s most recent piece last week blasting Beyoncé — yes, Beyoncé — for daring to exist as a human and artist without publicly rebuking Israel. The singer’s silence, writes Attiah in a typical outburst of wokey dribble, “says a lot about the immense cultural power — and structural powerlessness — of black women.” Uhm, okay — whatever.
She then spends acres of column inches tsk-tsking Beyoncé for profiting from black liberation while remaining silent on Palestine. The real question should be why Beyoncé must say anything at all? Taylor hasn’t. Harry hasn’t. Bella and Gigi, yes — but they’re Palestinian, or at least half. Much like my own cousins, Beyoncé is fundamentally a nice church girl from Texas — she’s entitled to her opinion, even if her opinion is not to have one. And readers are entitled to Attiah simply doing better. As bodies burn by the thousand in Gaza and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu skirts responsibility for the Hamas attack, there are real villains in this saga, and Beyoncé is not one of them. Worst of all, Attiah’s postmodern drivel is so wooden and academic that it’s the one thing far-lefties insist they hate most: out-of-touch and elitist.
Ultimately, whether it’s Hunter Biden or George Santos or Beyoncé-bashing, the world deserves better than this moment of seemingly endless cultural drek. The cultural decline that has stoked Trump and Hunter — and Santos and Attiah — will only sink further, particularly as the presidential contest revs up. Perhaps the best thing they can all do is spare us the cheap shots and vulgar missives and simply watch from the sidelines — in silence.