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Jewish World Review April 27, 2001 / 5 Iyar, 5761

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
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Consumer Reports

Turning men into monsters -- WHEN I was in high school, I ate an entire stick of butter. I simply peeled the wax paper down the sides like a banana and munched away. Meanwhile, my buddy ate a family-sized jar of peanut butter with raw eggs on top. It took him hours with a plastic spoon.

We did it for a good cause, manning a booth at a local fair to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We called the booth, "We'll Eat Anything You Want if You Pay Us Enough." Even without a catchy title, we raised a fortune.

But in all honesty, we didn't need an excuse. You see, young males are disgusting and very, very stupid. Left unsupervised, young boys will stick car keys in electrical sockets. We will put aerosol cans in the microwave and stick our tongues to frozen flagpoles.

When in small groups, boys will dare each other to stop high-speed drills with their teeth. We will stand directly underneath beehives and wasp nests throwing rocks until, the next thing we know, our parents can be heard in the emergency room yelling, "That moron is not my child!"

And then there's fighting. There's almost no emotion that cannot justify a fight among teen-age boys. They will fight out of happiness, sadness, fear and love.

This isn't just my own experience. Except for a few men who spent their adolescence handcuffed to a radiator with an SAT practice book, I have never met a guy who didn't have at least a dozen stories of testosterone-driven asininity.

Don't take my word for it, science backs me up. The esteemed social scientist James Q. Wilson writes in the Moral Sense, "In every known society, men are more likely than women to play roughly, drive recklessly, fight physically and assault ruthlessly, and these differences appear early in life."

What brings this all to mind is the MTV show "Jackass," a bare-bones "reality" show on MTV. The host, "Johnny Knoxville," and some "colleagues" videotape themselves doing things so stupid and so disgusting, they approach metaphysical perfection. They eat eggs until they vomit. They orchestrate novel schemes that result in Knoxville being drenched in a variety of fecal matter. They get hit by cars, and they crash bikes and skateboards into trees, pavement and walls.

"Jackass," the highest-rated show on MTV, is enduring a storm of criticism because despite innumerable disclaimers, kids are copying it. The latest "victim" is a 16-year-old whose friends videotaped being hit by a car. Before that, there were two separate instances of young boys setting themselves on fire. One kid says he read the disclaimer but thought he had found a loophole. "It said, 'Do not attempt to try this at home.' It didn't say not to try your own stunts," he explained to Entertainment Weekly. So, instead of using gasoline and a flameproof suit. He used bug spray without a flameproof suit.

As Bill Cosby said of all children: "Brain damage!"

But the fact is that "Jackass" is not an aberration. It is merely the latest installment in a long-running story. And while there are many people to blame - parents, the network, the producers, the idiotic "victims" - the one group that's avoiding blame are women or, more specifically, feminists.

It's hard not to notice how what passes for "male" culture has become increasingly disgusting since the rise of women's liberation. So-called men's magazines have gone the way of the industry leader, Maxim, whose motto is "Sex, Sports, Beer, Gadgets, Clothes, Fitness." Movies like "American Pie," "Road Trip" etc. - as hilarious as I thought they were - make "Animal House" look like Shakespeare. Hip-hop culture's treatment of women as "bitches and ho's" hasn't gone away.

The reason why feminists deserve some blame is simple. By announcing that they didn't need men, they liberated men from responsibility to behave like gentlemen. When feminists popularized the idea that women enjoy sex as much as men and feel no guilt about having it, they took the pressure off of men to work really, really hard for it.

When men were told that fathers aren't that important, a lot of men said "Great!" and traded in their 50-year-old wives for two 25-year-olds. When a host of once all-male institutions were opened to women, society lost some vital training grounds for creating gentlemen.

This isn't to say that women's liberation wasn't worth it. But there are consequences to everything. In the space of a few decades, a carefully evolved system that channeled male energy into productive outlets was thrown away.

When the chains that kept women "down" were cut, the chains that kept men "responsible" and therefore civilized were cut, too. Once that happened, "Jackass" was inevitable.

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11/06/00: Conventional wisdom turns with the polls
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11/01/00: Electoral college ensures democracy
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04/18/00: Not much difference between TV journalists, TV actors

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