It’s been a full business week and Beyonce singing live over a track of her own background vocals at the inauguration is still leading the news cycle as if it’s an issue of great national importance. Tonight’s “20/20” episode is titled, “Culture of Deception,” in which Beyonce will be featured alongside college football star Manti Te’o and disgraced cancer surviving cyclist Lance Armstrong as deceitful swindlers of the innocent and unsuspecting American public. In D.C. this week, conservative politicians are trying their hardest to villainize and humiliate Hillary Clinton about the Benghazi attacks and it seems that more than ever the nation is on a collective witch hunt. But for what exactly?
On September 11, 2001 the majority of Americans were instantly unified around resounding common sentiment–they shared a collective hatred for Osama Bin Laden. For 10 years there was a national villain, an identifiable enemy who stood in defiance of what our country stands for and believes in. Bin Laden’s capture and death in May 2011 marked the end of that unifying diversion for America. The subsequent ends to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have even more so reduced the ability for Americans to deflect their frustrations on to foreign enemies and now, we’re left to look at our internal messes: a gridlocked Washington that seems only to agree on getting nothing done; a slowly (many would say too slowly) improving economy; and a gun-violence problem that has claims the lives of innocent citizens daily that was most recently punctuated by the Sandy Hook killings.
The country is faced with some truly solemn and troubling national issues and America is looking for someone to blame. Is it the newly re-elected President Obama? Hilary Clinton? George W. Bush? Who’s done it? Who’s left us with all this hardship? Sadam Hussein is dead. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Who’s the enemy now? Insert: Beyonce.
In the absence of a clear bad guy, the nation is searching for a scapegoat and deflecting our crippling need for a national villain onto athletes and entertainers. Somehow Beyonce, who dared sing the National Anthem over a pre-recorded track at inauguration has offended our American values. (I’m going to make the important distinction here to not use the term “lip-syncing” which would indicate that Beyonce was not singing live, which is untrue, but somehow no one wants to point that out.)
Surely, we could spend our days discussing the lackluster filibuster reform deal that Harry Reid just shook hands on, or the pending Debt ceiling talks, or our ailing public school system, but who wants to spends their days having all that heavy conversation? And then along comes Beyonce, with her well-documented desire to be perfect, choosing to sing over her own vocals and nation is collectively outraged! Finally we all have something to agree on: Lance Armstrong is a fraud; Manti Te’o is a fraud; and Beyonce is most fraudulent of all!
Over at TheRoot, Keli Goff suggests that Beyoncegate is a result of the singer’s contradictory image with that of the First couple, citing her sexuality and Pepsi endorsements as reasons that she was unworthy to perform at the inauguration in the first place. (She then goes on to question Beyonce’s “actual talent” and calls her selection a “misstep” which just reeks of “hate” though I profusely try not to use that term in intelligent debate.)
And while people will continue to suggest the Beyonce uproar is about the “violation of the spirit of the presidential inauguration,” or the politics of Beyonce as a role model, let’s just call this out for what it really is–a great big national distraction from the daily homicides in Chicago; the ongoing devastation of Hurricane Sandy; the Newtown murders; and the never ending political ineptness in Washington. It is an opportunity to rally around a perceived, or completely imaginary threat to our American way of life.
Perhaps this unrelenting obsession at outing our pop-culture icons as liars and deceivers is revealing one self-evident American truth–we love to have an enemy. And in the absence of a true American antagonist, we’ll take whatever we can get. This week it’s Beyonce; next week it’ll be someone else.