Why Conservatives Should Watch More MTV

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/09/01/why-conservatives-should-watch-more-mtv/

Twenty-five years ago, when MTV played mostly videos, defeated presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan delivered his “Culture War” speech before the Republican National Convention on August 17 at the Houston Astrodome, where he feared for the “soul of America.” Twenty-five years later, when conservatives have ceded all control of the culture war to the Left, MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMAs, itself a bizarre oxymoron for an outlet that plays no videos) is now a forum about politics and the course of the country. Conservatives should watch more MTV. Take heed Buchanan’s observations. And fight back.

For decades MTV has contributed to the cultural degeneration of America, and today it is more pronounced and emphatically symptomatic of the culture wars felt by, and waged against, conservatives.

Launched on August 1, 1981 (“Ladies and Gentlemen, Rock and Roll”), the fledgling network Music Television (for those wondering what MTV stands for) was first carried by cable operators in Kansas City, not on the liberal coasts of New York or Los Angeles. Remarkably, conservative cable operators (where are they now?) often refused to carry the channel during the early years, reported npr.org. Perhaps with good reason.

In the 2011 book I Want My MTV, John Taylor, bass player for Duran Duran, commenting on early video content, is quoted as saying:  “All this stuff like Culture Club was the result of an underground, progressive, liberal, London art school sensibility.”

By 1992, however, an unscripted soap opera (The Real World) and a character named Bill Clinton became programming staples, nodding to its future direction. Gifts to cultural regression later included Beavis and Butt-HeadJackass, and The Jersey Shore. About the latter, Snooki impressed producers in 2008 by her candid — celebrated? — talk about sex and alcohol for a show about “Guidos and Guidettes.” Her years of embarrassingly bad behavior (2009-2012) were rewarded by, among other things, a paid appearance ($32,000) to speak to students at Rutgers University in 2011 (where she advised students to study hard but party harder) and as a participant on Dancing With the Stars (which was announced on the selectively prim and proper Good Morning America) in 2013.

Rob Tannebaum, author of I Want My MTV, told National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, on a whimsical trip about the golden years of the cable station, “MTV quickly realized and learned that narrative television, even reality TV, rated better than music videos.”

For years MTV’s reality programming has glorified moral relativism (watch the dreadful Teen Mom and the appalling Undressed). But now the company believes it is a moral arbiter to correct all that ails our culturally sensitive society.

A culture that has been largely led by progressives for over a half a century. Of which MTV has been a big promoter for the last 36 years.

Conservatives constantly complain about universities being incubators of progressive preening and pedagogy (where “white shaming” is the newest rage). But it starts well before the first delicate snowflake lands on a college campus. It starts with MTV, and it is time conservatives start paying attention.

MTV is the greatest cultural influencer of young people today.

According to marketing blogger Brandon Gaille, MTV reaches 387 million people world-wide and is considered the number-one media brand globally. In 2015, he wrote that “It is the one channel where people in the 12-34 age bracket continually tune in to catch up with what is coming next in pop culture, music, and fashion.” Furthermore, he added, the network “provides a variety of programming, ranging from politics to reality TV, and it is all targeted to the young adult demographic.”

Its reach of young people is staggering. Over 47 million people follow MTV on Facebook, three times as many as those who follow Fox News. One in three U.S. citizens falls into the 12-34 age demographic, accounting for over 90 million people.

MTV’s sway may be wider than currently understood, too. Notwithstanding a steady decline in television ratings — VMAs showed an 18% drop in viewership from 2013 to 2014; Adweek reported last year that the network lost half its 18-49 audience from 2011 to 2016 — it makes a greater impact on ubiquitous social media. Which is more difficult to measure.

For the average MTV viewer, Gaille observes, the largest annual expenditure, unsurprisingly, is on personal computers, tablets, and smartphones. As of Gaille’s 2015 writing, ratings for computers and mobile devices were not reflected in Nielsen ratings, “which is where many of the 12-34 key demographic consume media content.” (Nielsen in 2017 received accreditation for such digital measurements.)

MTV’s president, Chris McCarthy, 42, is progressivism’s newest cultural and political warrior. He is also proof that the personal values of powerful cultural decision makers can be newsworthy and wildly, unduly influential. Last month he told The New York Times that the station is “about amplifying young people’s voices,” adding “we shouldn’t be telling people how to feel.” But telling people how to feel and what to do, like the federal government, is exactly what MTV is doing. Subtly and not so subtly.

Ever since the first VMAs debuted in September of 1984, award winners received a trophy called a Moonman. No More. In politically correct 2017, McCarthy asks the Times, “Why should it be a man?” As only a progressive can describe a miniature silver statue, “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.” It could be a conservative in disguise …

At this year’s VMAs, held this past Sunday in California, no one, apparently, got McCarthy’s feelings and doings message.

Sadly, it is now taken for granted that elite entertainers use award ceremonies, however briefly, as a vehicle to express opinions and level grievances. No longer content on simply being recognized for questionable talent, today’s award winners (and special guests) are now social commentators and news broadcasters for young people. This year’s VMAs unrepentantly dissolved into a progressive political platform.

Pink told the story of her 6-year-old daughter feeling unattractive because she believed she looked like a boy. As CNN reported, “The singer said she used it as a teachable moment to discuss androgynous artists who have found success, including herself.” The program also showcased Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV, a descendant of Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Nervously, he lamented, “We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate.” Citing a “moral duty” to speak out against “America’s original sin,” Lee called on “all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.” That statement implies white privilege and channels white shaming.

Not to be outdone by our ever-inclusive, multi-diverse cultural correctness, MTV, like today’s grade-schools, chose to honor all six videos nominated in its — seriously! — “Best Fight Against the System” category. All artists received little Moon Persons for their “groundbreaking” efforts.

The technicolor irony is that MTV is the system.

The ratings for this year’s VMAs are a compelling, if not revealing, story. Only 6.5 million brave souls watched the show — linear viewing — across 11 Viacom networks on traditional television (down from 10.3 million viewers in 2016). But as deadline.com reported (“MTV Focuses on Social Successes”), the 2017 VMAs clocked 62.8 million video streams on Facebook. The 2015 show drew only 4.4 million streams.

Conservatives are largely to blame for allowing these cultural excesses to flourish and become mainstream, and for allowing them to go unanswered. Especially guilty are those running for political office under the pretentious slogan “fiscal conservative and social moderate.” On fiscal matters, they have not corrected any of the $20 trillion in national debt. And on social, hence, cultural matters, they have retreated and surrendered any sense of resistance.

Twenty-five years after Pat Buchanan’s much-criticized speech, the moral and cultural cesspool has clearly been realized. MTV has eclipsed higher education as a new, larger, and more troubling progressive front in the ongoing culture war.


James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journalnewenglanddiary.com and nationalreview.com.