Mike Huckabee, Chuck Norris, and the VH1 Effect

Over at TLF, Adam Thierer has a very smart post about the disconnect between Mike Huckabee’s values rhetoric and his endorsers. Thierer points to this bit from Huckabee:

“Over the past 30 years, a decline in moral character has produced a decline in the character of our society. Everything hinges on the men & women we choose to establish public policy. And their character depends on you. There is something you can do: you can live a God-centered life of high moral character, and you can support candidates who share your Christian standards.”

To which Thierer comments:

Why is Huckabee preaching the gospel of moral decline and cultural disintegration while also playing up endorsements from martial arts expert and actor Chuck Norris, professional wrestler Ric Flair, and rock-and-roll star Ted Nugent?

…But I’m just wondering, has Mike Huckabee listened to “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” by Ted Nugent? Does he know what that song is referring to? I wonder what the governor Huckabee’s favorite Nugent album is. Is it “Penetrator”? Or is it “If You Can’t Lick ‘Em…Lick ‘Em”? Or perhaps it’s “Love Grenade”? And has the governor listened to tunes on those albums like “The Harder They Come, The Harder I Get”?

And I’m also wondering if Gov. Huckabee has watched some of those old Chuck Norris karate movies like “Forced Vengence,” “A Force of One,” or “Silent Rage”? I loved those movies as a kid, but those are the sort of flix that the FCC and many members of Congress would like to see banned from television for their “excessively violent” nature. Is the governor OK with those movies?

Finally, does Huckabee realize that Rik Flair’s claim to fame in the professional wrestling world was that he was the ultimate “cut man”? That is, Flair was willing to be one of those guys who, in just about every match, would voluntarily cut his head open with a razor blade after being thrown out of the ring.

I’d like to believe that Huckabee doesn’t fashion himself part of the PTC crowd, doesn’t care to be seen as a moral scold aligned with the Brent Bozells and Jack Thompsons of the world. More likely is that Huckabee’s talk of character is meant to address the way social conservatives feel about the legacy of Bill Clinton as well as their uneasiness with Rudy Giuliani.

But I suspect, however, that if questioned, Huckabee would at least pay lip service to the Our Culture is Rotting crowd (as Mitt Romney already has) and might make some attempt, however half-hearted, to distance himself from the sometimes racy, violent oeuvres of his has-been celebrity supporters.

On the other hand, I’ve yet to see anyone from, say, FRC denounce any of Huckabee’s associations. And I suspect that if such denunciations were to come, they’d be fairly watered down. Why? Because at this point, all of them are viewed as harmless, washed-up, of little threat to anyone’s families or children. Norris, in fact, after his star turn in Walker: Texas Ranger, is viewed by many as having a brand image that’s somewhat wholesome. He’s not quite Disney, but nor is he Rockstar Games.

This is, in large part, due to the way the pop culture obsessions of previous decades are quickly being recycled into icons of kitsch. Call it the VH1 effect. What was racy, nihilistic, or bloodthirsty in the mid 1980s is now fodder for our generation’s special brand of appreciative snark. Jerry Falwell might have gone nuts over a violent Chuck Norris film during the Reagan era, but the man barely causes shrugs from Tony Perkins in 2007. We’ve gone from moral outrage to goofy, even slightly naïve and tender (the Chuck Norris Facts phenomenon carries the exact same spirit as the Napoleon Dynamite phenomenon), joking in the space of a few presidential terms.

It’s a strange generational affect. So many young men and women — people in my age cohort — are now nearly incapable of viewing their own cultural and political history through anything but the lens of irony. The Village Voice is a relic; now Gawker is the voice of the times. Is this what happens when bubblegum fad culture dominates for so long? People become so embarrassed by their past, but yet that’s what they’re stuck with, so they cover their attachments in irony and condescension?

Update: I see Reihan, iMac speed-demon that he is, has already written about this while I was slowly composing my post.