Nicki Minaj and an actor impersonating the Pope at the Grammys. Image Source: Divided States.
The American entertainment industry did not need to fuel the widespread rumours - many of which are viciously racist and anti-Semitic - that top industry people are somehow connected to the Illuminati, Satanic worship and unfolding plots for world domination. The 54th Grammys became a classic example of how a row of events and images can be lined up online to look like the Prince of Darkness has come to visit. Following on Candlemas (aka Imbolc), and the already unsettling symbols used in Madonna's Superbowl extravaganza, wild chatter now suggests that the Grammys were the second in a series of giant public Satanic ceremonies heralding the end of the world. Because Whitney Houston's cause of death is still not determined, and the star was seen alive and well about an hour before her death, her sudden demise is now being linked to the dark symbolic content of the Grammy Awards ceremonies. Conspiracy theories that generally swirl around the entertainment industry merged quickly with theories about Houston's death. Hybrid conspiracies appeared overnight, like a new crop of mushrooms.
Over yesterday, some of the really intense chat forums even went so far as to claim that Houston was a sacrificial lamb, a critical lynchpin in some dark Illuminati ritual, bizarrely enacted in plain sight. One forum commenter plainly felt that bad magic had been set in motion: "Anyone else feeling depressed since last night. I could only watch the grammy's for a short time, it was too strange for me to sit through. Went to bed early, could not sleep, then when I did I had weird dreams. Today I am almost suicidal. Really horrible vibes going on....." For those debating conspiracy theories around Houston's death, even LL Cool J's prayer at the opening of the Grammys took on a sinister tone: "Heavenly Father, we thank You for sharing our sister Whitney with us." Yesterday, Chaka Khan claimed that the music industry was "demonic" in a Piers Morgan interview on CNN, which has fueled more Internet talk.
Nicki Minaj's Grammy performance; the LA Times claims she riled up Catholics and traumatized the rest of America with it. Image Source: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images via New York Daily News.
Demonic and anti-Catholic theatrics have long been used to generate scandal and hype to sell records. Madonna profited from this trope for decades. But plenty of other entertainers have also done so. Enter Nicki Minaj. If you did not know who this hip hop artist was before Sunday (she released her debut album in late 2010), you know now.
Nicki Minaj at the Grammys. Image Source: TV.com.
Catholic and anti-Catholic medieval theatricality is bound to pop up now, when the Internet is already humming with end-of-the-world fears. In the Middle Ages, similar anxieties sparked dances and plays full of imagery that the Catholic Church deemed frightening and morally threatening. (This is the famous history that discussed the Danse Macabre and doomsday cultures in the Middle Ages. This book depicts a mindset obsessed with the Art of Dying, that is, "the Ars moriendi and the Quatuor hominum novissima, ... [or] the four last experiences awaiting man, of which death was the first.") The very stuff the medieval Catholic Church scared up to turn its flocks toward virtue was later used by modern Satanists and dark occultists to fashion new religions in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Nicki Minaj's "controversial performance was called 'The Exorcism of Roman,' in keeping with her latest single, 'Roman Holiday.' At the end of the number, Minaj levitated." Roman Zolanski is one of Minaj's self-proclaimed evil alter egos. Image Source: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via New York Daily News.
Image Source: TV.com.
Judging from the Grammys, those new religions are alive and well in today's music industry. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am no fan of conspiracy theories, but I do discuss them as signs of Millennial opinion. And after watching the show a couple of nights ago, I am not surprised that the Internet exploded yesterday and today with Grammy rumours of black masses, Satanism, anti-Catholicism, Illuminati, Freemasons, and other bogeymen.
The rumours began with the morbid fact that the star-studded pre-Grammy Clive Davis party went ahead in the same building where Whitney Houston's dead body still lay upstairs. Thus, Clive Davis, who was Houston's famous mentor and who always honoured her each year at this particular party, provided a disconsonant image of celebration around the singer's death. Privately, he was apparently devasted, but his decision to go ahead with the party downstairs created a terrible mixed message.
The next night, the Grammys scarily unfolded like a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story (as: here), dragging America back to her Puritan roots. I have rarely seen such a blatant display of occultism in a mainstream, primetime American entertainment event. And I don't mean the benign, low key, New Agey stuff. The awards ceremony looked like a horror movie scene from Rosemary's Baby or Eyes Wide Shut. Are these images really necessary to demonstrate creativity? The ceremony scratched the surface of deeper issues at play around this event, from drug addiction, to creative license and artistic freedoms, to the moral standpoint of the artist.
Proponents of events as they unfolded, especially Minaj's act, would doubtlessly answer that the conventional symbols of evil are synonymous with free spirits. Nicki Minaj immediately defended her macabre Grammy performance by insisting that she must be free to create. To that I would say, go back to the Puritans again and read Milton, whose Paradise Lost (here) is the perhaps the most famous meditation on why the seductive theory about creative liberty, pursued alongside the abandonment of free will, deceives and spells disaster. Milton's masterstroke was to make Satan the ultimate anti-hero, who made his mind its own place, and could make a Heaven of Hell, and a Hell of Heaven. But Milton insisted that Satan's rebellion was a solipsistic illusion of freedom and in fact no freedom at all: it was slavery. In Milton's eyes, Lucifer's ethos could not be a banner of free creativity. It would be a sham that looked like liberty. Milton's was a very tricky distinction, between shouldering free will versus exercising the freedom to fall - and between engaging in the freedom to create versus indulging in the freedom to engender sin; these subtle contrasts, which appear to have eluded Nicki Minaj, are discussed at length here and here. Considering America's Enlightenment romance with liberty, it's also not surprising to see this age-old confusion about freedom running rampant in US culture.
Nicki Minaj in a faux confessional scene at the Grammys. Image Source: NY Daily News.
The Grammy Awards' Juju train quickly confused (dubiously modern) Pagan symbols of freedom with bondage and slavery. Nicki Minaj turned up dressed like a witch-priestess on the arm of an actor dressed as the Pope. Dave Grohl wore an upside down pentacle on his Slayer shirt and an upside down cross around his neck (both symbols are taken by adherents to be signs of freedom, to be mastered by no one but oneself). Then Niki Minaj exorcised her hyped evil twin alter ego, 'Roman Zolanski.' Finally, Canadian electronica artist deadmau5 closed the awards with a host of creepy, dead-eyed Mickey Mouse totems. Along with Houston's death, these performances overshadowed all the other personalities and performances at the Grammys, and created a perfect storm of disturbing cognitive dissonance - and claustrophobic entrapment.
Dave Grohl at the Grammys. Image Source: Broad and Pennsylvania.
In the rationally driven Information Age, the appetite for spiritual symbolism, peculiar worship and magic has never been stronger. At the same time, like a similarly-hyped magnetic pole reversal, the meanings of conventional values flip. Evil becomes good; good is dressed up as evil. Neither religious belief nor religious skepticism offers any protection from this shift, because human morality exists whether one believes in a divine creator or not. This mass inversion of moral perception is a sign that we just took an off-ramp. We're traveling on new highways.
Deadmau5 performance at the Grammys. Image Source: TV.com.
deadmau5 performance at the Grammys. Image Source: Gossip on This.
Image Source: Funky House Music.