This week, the internet and media has been bombarded by tweets, articles, and videos of the now infamous Miley Cyrus ‘twerking’ performance at 2013 MTV Video Music Awards this past Sunday. At last count, nbcnews.com reported that the controversial performance inspired over 300,000 tweets. Celebrities have been speaking out, both in shock of Cyrus’ performance and in praise of her audacity.
Brooke Shields has famously called the young performer’s VMA act as, “desperate” on TODAY Monday. Nick Cannon tweeted:
“Remind me never to let my kids into showbiz…thanks”
While Justin Timberlake responded:
"It's the VMAs. It's not like she did it at the Grammys, Like, let her do her thing."
I am not writing about whether or not a 20 year-old singer crossed a moral red line. I am writing because of the apparent misbalance of moral outrage and response between these two events that happened at roughly the same time. It is nothing short of ironic that an act that at worst, upset a large number of people, seemingly trumps a war so increasingly violent that it now threatens to draw to draw the rest of the world into it.
Such a conflict could take the violence and spread it throughout the world, or lead to the loss of more lives than many had planned. It is a nightmare scenario that could affect the world as we know it, and yet its ‘twerking’ that we can’t stop talking about.
A number of disturbing questions arises from this comparison. Why isn’t the media paying more attention to developing Middle East situation, instead of a performance that will most likely be forgotten by next month? What does our fascination with other peoples’ morals, over the deaths of human beings half- a-world-away say about us as a society? Do we care more about our own morality than the suffering of others? And so on.
A friend said to me that perhaps the misbalance exists because some girl grinding on a stage is an easier moral redline to understand, than something as complex as the Syrian Civil War. However, I would find it more disturbing if this turned out to be more about personal preference than a simple case of manipulation by the media powers that be, or news getting lost in the white media noise.
Whatever Miley Cyrus’ reasons were for choosing the performance she gave Sunday night, they were exactly that; her choice. Right or wrong, she lives in a society that once she’s of age, she or Madonna or anyone else, can decide the course of their lives and live with where that their choice takes them. Not one of us is forced down that path with them.
The Syrian chemical attack, while clearly a choice made by someone, is an action that maybe the exact opposite. True, there is moral outrage and there should be. But how the world chooses to respond, and the reaction to that response, can drag us all down a path that we may not choose. The aftershocks from that will be far greater impact than a controversial musical performance.