In some previous posts, I suggested that the likely effect of the economic downturn might include some significant cultural changes. After the age of excess, I suggested, there might come an age of restraint, and that not of of this would be negative.
To a certain extent the suspension of Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand for making obscene telephone calls on a radio programme is the kind of thing that I meant. I do not particularly like Ross or Brand whose style of humour is pretty coarse at the best of times, but the spectacle of two middle aged men behaving like teenagers seems to have been pretty unedifying to a whole lot of people. Although some sources close to the BBC have suggested that the root of the complaint was "salary envy" at Ross's £18 million package, in many ways the whole idea of such a vast amount of money being paid to anyone seems, well so "last year". Ross's vulgar humour in any event is based on a certain level of cruelty which now seems rather dated and unnecessary.
The tolerance level for the bad behaviour of celebrities seems to be falling fast. Likewise, perhaps the tolerance for boorishness in general. The failure of Little Britain USA to attract Americans seems partly that the ideas behind the series now seem exceptionally tired, but also, perhaps, that Americans are not so eager for the kind of potty humour that La Walliams and Mr. Lucas have made their own. Being offensive is not, in and of itself, actually funny.
As the financial catastrophe brings down the curtain on the age of excess, perhaps the age of restraint may score a few more victories in the kulturkampf . It may even have already changed the political weather in the United States. The blatant insult to the intelligence that is usually the core of Sarah Palin's speeches seems to be going down exceptionally badly with the American voters. Meanwhile the fact that difficult problems- like the credit crisis- require complicated and often only partial answers seems to be accepted by the American people. It seems to be almost certain that the cerebral, even distant, figure of Barack Obama will triumph over a Republican Party that has been lead for eight years by an irresponsible frat boy.
In the UK, the shallow and vacuous figure of George Osborne has inflicted substantial damage on the Conservative brand. In Scotland the glib certainties of Alex Salmond have been revealed a simple nonsense. The age of restraint will favour the serious and the measured over the brash and the easy answer. Whoever can catch this new spirit will find a new connection with the voters, in the same way that it appears that Barack Obama already has.