U.S. pop culture seen as plague

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Part Five of Five:

Robert H. Bork remembers his ambivalence in 1989 as the Berlin Wall came down and dungarees and rock music poured into the former East Germany.

“You almost began to want to put the wall back up,” says the former Supreme Court nominee, a tart critic of American popular culture.

If there is one proposition on which Western European elites and radical Islamists, American social conservatives and snobby latte town aesthetes all seem to agree, it is this: American popular culture is a subversive thing.

The critiques are both secular and sectarian, and they gained intensity in 2004.

French President Jacques Chirac, during a visit to Hanoi in October, accused the United States of spreading a “generalized underculture in the world.”

This juggernaut of crassness, if unchecked, he suggested, will stamp out whatever folkways and native idiosyncrasies lie in its path.

“All other countries would be stifled to the benefit of American culture,” Mr. Chirac warned, speaking in a city once under French dominion. “If there was a single language, a single culture, it would be a real ecological disaster.”

For Islamic fundamentalists, American pop culture beckons the faithful to depravity.

Sayyid Qutb, a founder of political Islamism, spotted the subversive potential as early as the late 1940s. Not in Manhattan or Hollywood, but in Greeley, Colo. At a church dance. While a disc jockey played the swing-era classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

“The dancing intensified,” wrote Qutb, an Egyptian then studying America’s education system, in his influential book “Milestones.” “The hall swarmed with legs. … Arms circled arms, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of love.”

After love, license. Followed by perversion. Then chaos.

‘Global theme park’

Things have gotten considerably racier since Harry S. Truman was president — and American pop culture has become ever more pervasive.

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