Magazine August 10, 2009, Issue

Here’s the Outrage

Sacha Baron Cohen in Brüno (Everyman Pictures)

It used to be so easy to shock the bourgeoisie. You could do it with paint, like Picasso; with words, like D. H. Lawrence; with (dubious) scientific data, like Dr. Alfred Kinsey; or with stand-up comedy, like Lenny Bruce. All you had to do was produce something explicit enough to roil their prudish sensibilities and wait for the outrage to come rolling in.

But that was before the bourgeoisie went bohemian and embraced transgressiveness instead of shunning it. And it was before the old middlebrow culture fragmented, as first cable TV and then the Internet hived consumers off into like-minded communities.

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Of course Obama hasn’t read the health-care bill — he’s probably still working his way through the stimulus.

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