I think cultural standards have changed. I think for-profit entertainment with massive corporations running our mainstream entertainment have caused artists to become cowards. Before, if you risked offending someone with a song, or a joke, or a piece of well-written fiction, the audience wasn't so fragile. They wouldn't burn you at the stake over it, kill your career. Sometimes, you just became a niche market of ardent supporters.
Look at the controversy surrounding Kramer and Tracy Morgan. Look how fast they were dismissed from the party. Look at the problems the Rush Limbaugh show had, or even 12 years ago with Bill Maher.
You have to search to find someone who isn't saying the same things over and over again. That adds to the collective consciousness. Controversy is the death of a lot of entertainment now.
Therefore, we hear and see the same old, tride-and-true things every day. Even shows I like (Newsroom, Smash) are formulaic. The celebrity culture around someone like Mel Gibson or Britney Spears means every word, every inch and pound, every movement is followed and it leads to the same scrutiny that kills any truth in politics. Every politician now lines up to say "This celebrity represents the worst in society." The country is also divided pretty evenly, so you can't get away with anything that might offend half of the country.
When was the last time we had a show like "All in the Family?" We don't need a lot, just one. We don't have any (and why I want a new Star Trek show).
Our attention is divided by the internet, netflix, cable channels galore, having to work all the time to make ends meet, etc. This means that shows getting 2-3 million viewers can stay on the CW. 10 million is a lot. Everyone multi-tasks and no one wants to sit through a sermon or a lecture, much less an intelligent piece of fiction. And who has the time anymore?
Romanticize or not, we had indie artists in the 1990s. Someone at least was allowed to comment on how bad we had it. We had movies like the Blair Witch Project that came out of nowhere. We had something outside the mainstream. We had innovative movies that changed the way stories were told. When was the last time we had a blockbuster hit that didn't rely on a superhero premise?
Part of being an artist is taking risks--saying things that could offend, saying things that could lose your audience, trying to be ahead of your time, and being good at your craft while doing it. This is worse that the Blacklist, in my opinion. That was just the government, not an entire country coming down on you.
They burned Lebron James' jersey in the street and all he did was change teams. How is he supposed to stand out there and say anything deeper than "Schools good, violence bad?" he's not an artist, but he's hurting his brand, his money, his audience, by standing up and saying anything that someone might disagree with. He's no Muhammad Ali.
So money, our vehement, divided politics, celebrity gossip, divided attention, all threaten to make these people unemployed. That's not a strong environment for controversy or to say something meaningful. And this is true from artists and performers to journalists, musicians, etc.