The parties engaged in this conversation tend to fall into two groups. The first we’ll call “The Moralists.” These are the people who are offended by pop culture because it violates their sense of right and wrong. The second group we’ll call “The Non-Moralists.” These people are defenders of pop culture, arguing that art should be judged by artistic, not moral, standards, including (and especially) works that seemingly have little or no socially redeeming value. As the curators of popular culture, it falls on critics to defend artists against crowds of angry people, no matter the vileness of what the artist said or did.
In fact, critics will often argue that art is supposed to piss people off—though that won’t stop them from condemning the public for reacting to “offensive” art exactly the way it’s supposed to. One of the best examples of this kind of defense was written by respected music critic Ann Powers, whose justly celebrated essay “In Defense Of Nasty Art” was published way back in 1997, a time when Oscar-winning composer Trent Reznor and old-timey gangsta rap were driving the nation’s moral guardians into a tizzy.”