The eruption over Beyonce’s singing, or lack thereof, of the national anthem in real time at last month’s inauguration is only tangentially about politics. Yet it offers some insight into this whole syndrome.
After the flap wouldn’t go away for nearly two weeks, Beyonce confirmed she had sung to a prerecorded track because she didn’t have time to practice. She said that, without the possibility of a proper sound check, “I did not feel comfortable taking a risk.”
Maybe that’s precisely it. As the singer’s comments suggest, one result is that a country built upon bold actions is becoming, in the harsh spotlight of a real-time, hypercritical conversation, more averse to risk and more likely to seek refuge in the packaged and the surer thing.
That leads to more packaging – and, potentially, less transparency – in a society that insists it wants to be open and real. Will people just keep on tuning out a public sphere that they perceive as fake? That’s an outcome that would seem to benefit no one.