MTV & Politics (1 Viewer)

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    Optimus Prime

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    Interesting read and theory
    ====================
    Everyone has a theory about why American politics today is so awful.


    I blame MTV.

    More specifically, I blame the music channel’s “Rock the Vote” campaign in the early 1990s. That’s the moment when the tastemakers of popular culture decided the widespread perception that politics isn’t cool was a problem to be solved.

    Politics had to be made cool. And therefore not boring.


    Call today’s politics whatever you like, but it isn’t boring. I can hear the defenses of “Rock the Vote”: That’s unfair! Politics and entertainment have long overlapped — even Richard M. Nixon was on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” in 1968 saying “Sock it to me?”


    But there’s a difference between politicians trying to be entertaining and politicians seeing their role as primarily being an entertainer. Here’s where “Rock the Vote” comes in.

    The organization by that name, founded in 1990 by a music industry executive to combat censorship of song lyrics, teamed up with MTV ahead of the 1990 midterms to get out the youth vote.

    But the campaign didn’t fully kick into gear until two years later, with the goal of persuading young voters to take a break from obsessing over Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men and actually care about voting for Bill Clinton.


    Oh, those last three words weren’t explicit, but it wasn’t hard to discern MTV’s preference among the presidential options of the 68-year-old World War II vet incumbent, the nutty billionaire Texan with the charts, and the cool guy in dark sunglasses who played the saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show.”…….

    In a vivid example of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions, one “Rock the Vote” public service announcement in 1990 featured Madonna rapping, “If you don’t vote, you’re gonna get a spanking.”

    Never mind that some segment of the target audience might have paid good money to get spanked by Madonna. If your ad campaign requires pop culture’s preeminent sex symbol to make saucy allusions to S&M to persuade people to take their civic duty seriously, you’re not taking your civic duty seriously.


    A few years later, John F. Kennedy Jr. came along with George magazine, “a lifestyle magazine with politics at its core,” giving political figures (Gerald Ford, Madeleine Albright, Pat Schroeder) the Hollywood treatment — when it wasn’t doing the same for actual celebrities (Kate Moss, George Clooney, Madonna — her again).

    Almost every page and profile and article screamed at readers: Hey, Americans! We know you think politics is boring, but look how cool and fashionable and fascinating these people are!


    With celebrities dressed up on the cover as Betsy Ross (Barbra Streisand) or Abraham Lincoln (Harrison Ford), and the inside relatively devoid of discussions of government policy, George offered a version of politics for Americans who weren’t that interested in politics. Lots of sweet frosting, almost no cake………

    Getting a lot more Americans interested in politics is not the same as getting a lot more Americans knowledgeable about the workings of democracy or government.

    It has brought the worldview associated with sports-talk radio to politics; you’ve got a team and you want that team to win, and the other team is always the worst, and the refs are always unfairly treating your side. Heaven forbid you concede that the other team played a better game……..


     
    Jim Geraghty is senior political correspondent of National Review. Gen X guy who probably grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh (the real problem, and started in the 80s, before MTVs 90s Rock the vote, and still DeFacto going on today).

    Of course, he blames MTV. Meanwhile opinion and commentary have replaced actual reporting since the "Fairness in Broadcasting" Act in '87 game them the ability to not be held accountable for purposeful mistruths and propaganda.

    I'll concede his last point though, Republicans have absolutely masterminded playing the propaganda game. Convincing poor people to vote against their interests, and convincing them that lazy welfare queens and immigrants are why they can't climb the socioeconomic ladders.

    Hat's off to you Jim, you win again.
     
    I did notice the National Review connection. But I do think the theory of trying to make politics sexy and cool for the younger hipper kids has some merit as does the idea that you can tie that theory to MTV.

    I was in high school at the time (92 Rock the Vote) I don't know it there was anything comparable in 84 or 88

    I definitely remember the hype around the George magazine roll out

    It's kind of a Blue Ocean approach, appealing to a casual audience who wasn't paying close attention before

    You can argue that the NFL has done it with Red Zone and Fantasy Football, in video games hardcore vs casual gamers is damn near a civil war






    george 1.jpg


    george 2.png


    george 3.jpg
     
    But it didn't start with MTV in the 90s, that just generational memories.
    Nixon on Laugh in, Regan on The Johnny Carson Show
    Kennedy and Marylin Monroe
    Politicians have used pop culture to seem "cool" and draw in young voters literally since the beginning of time.
     
    I still think there is a difference between sitting on Johnny Carson's couch and the Rock the Vote campaign
     
    Y'all (you and uber conservative blogger Jim Geraghty) are really seeing this through some revisionist history.

    The Rock the Vote campaign was not about making politics cool, it was a response to a legislative attack on their industry. Uptight conservatives were banning hip-hop songs with lyrics they did not approve of. It was a direct response to censorship and perceived violations of the first amendment.

    In 1990 music got ratings and if your music had a curse word in it, you now had to be an adult to buy the cassette.

    It was a HUGE deal.

    Geraghty is selling some repurposed revisionist propaganda. MTV wasn't trying to solve "making politics cool," record executives and music artists alike banded together to fight legislation that would hurt their industry.
     
    Almost every page and profile and article screamed at readers: Hey, Americans! We know you think politics is boring, but look how cool and fashionable and fascinating these people are!


    With celebrities dressed up on the cover as Betsy Ross (Barbra Streisand) or Abraham Lincoln (Harrison Ford), and the inside relatively devoid of discussions of government policy, George offered a version of politics for Americans who weren’t that interested in politics. Lots of sweet frosting, almost no cake………

    Getting a lot more Americans interested in politics is not the same as getting a lot more Americans knowledgeable about the workings of democracy or government.

    What turned politics into the shirt show that it is today wasn't Rock the Vote, George or any other shot lived campaign. It was a combination or Fox News, right wing radio and social media. Nobody today (or even then) thinks politics is cool, entertaining or fashionable.

    It has brought the worldview associated with sports-talk radio to politics; you’ve got a team and you want that team to win, and the other team is always the worst, and the refs are always unfairly treating your side. Heaven forbid you concede that the other team played a better game……..



    What did that was right wing radio, not MTV and Rock the Vote.
     
    Hell Barry Goldwater did more to 'make politics cool" than MTV did. He literally created the whole conservative movement by Flying around in his privately owned Boeing 727 attending rallies with crowds like he's a rock star. Leaving them all in a lather with sayings like "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
     
    It has brought the worldview associated with sports-talk radio to politics; you’ve got a team and you want that team to win, and the other team is always the worst, and the refs are always unfairly treating your side. Heaven forbid you concede that the other team played a better game……..

    If you REALLY think MTV rock the vote did that, you need to go read up on Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon.
     
    Hell Barry Goldwater did more to 'make politics cool" than MTV did. He literally created the whole conservative movement by Flying around in his privately owned Boeing 727 attending rallies with crowds like he's a rock star. Leaving them all in a lather with sayings like "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
    You do realize you're talking about a man who opposed and openly stated he was against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, not because supposedly he was a racist or was against desegregation or integration, but because he felt the legislation would be "legislating morality". Even though most Republicans in House and Senate supported and passed both historical socially progressive laws, Goldwater's opposition lost him the 1964 election, hurt his historical reputation, his extremist Cold War-rhetoric about using nuclear weapons against the Viet Gong guerillas in Vietnam or the Soviet Union in another similar Cuban Missile Crisis-situation. Goldwater scared voters back then and he'd likely frighten most voters today with his alarmist rhetoric. He wasnt an electable conservative, unlike Richard Nixon, Reagan, or George H.W. Bush.

    I would argue instead that William F. Buckley was the one that kind of made " conservativism cool again" because he was bright, articulate, very charismatic, was prone to using over-the-top sensationalism in his speeches, interviews with liberal or conservative academics, filmmakers, authors, politicians, scientists, he even interviewed Bobby Seale once on his CBS TV show, The Firing Line and amazingly enough, it was a very candid, intelligent, thoughtful and civil conversation. Go look it up on YT, Highly recommended. I'll get blasted for saying this, but Buckley was also sort of a Rush Limbaugh precursor, except far more intelligent, not as divisive, or controversial with his views or how he expressed them on-air, in speeches, or in interviews.

    Sure, he told Nixon he had no real support in Senate during the last dark days of the Watergate crisis, but considering he'd never really liked or cared for Nixon anyway, much less during his presidency, his attitude probably was satisfied that he was on his last legs politically, all he did was tell a man who was figuratively drowning, he'd be dead, politically soon.
     
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    Y'all (you and uber conservative blogger Jim Geraghty) are really seeing this through some revisionist history.

    The Rock the Vote campaign was not about making politics cool, it was a response to a legislative attack on their industry. Uptight conservatives were banning hip-hop songs with lyrics they did not approve of. It was a direct response to censorship and perceived violations of the first amendment.

    In 1990 music got ratings and if your music had a curse word in it, you now had to be an adult to buy the cassette.

    It was a HUGE deal.

    Geraghty is selling some repurposed revisionist propaganda. MTV wasn't trying to solve "making politics cool," record executives and music artists alike banded together to fight legislation that would hurt their industry.
    Conservatives werent the only ones getting uptight about obscene rock and rap lyrics in the mid/late 80's and early 90's. There were more then a few centrist and liberal Democrats who supported that legislation censoring those lyrics, not just in Congress/Senate, but on school boards, state legislators and city councils. I don't remember Ted Kennedy or Tip O'Neal making too many positive, uplifting comments of support for Guns and Roses, Public Enemy, the West Coast gangsta rap scene, or even Frank Zappa for being 1st Amendment bastions. Frank Zappa, by the time he died, had kind of come to the realization that the Democratic Party was just or likely to be as pervasively corrupt, but moreso inept or incompetent as the GOP could be or was.
     
    none of that has anything to do with the premise of the thread though. My whole point is the premise of

    Everyone has a theory about why American politics today is so awful.


    I blame MTV.

    More specifically, I blame the music channel’s “Rock the Vote” campaign in the early 1990s. That’s the moment when the tastemakers of popular culture decided the widespread perception that politics isn’t cool was a problem to be solved.

    is incorrect and revisionist.
     
    I just want to clarify I don't buy the premise of the article at all

    I put the blame squarely on Rush, Newt, Fox, Facebook/Twitter, with Southern Strategy and Moral Majority thrown in, and I've posted as much (I'll admit I don't know a lot about Goldwater)

    So, I completely reject the 'it wasn't Rush and Newt, it was MTV instead' argument

    But I thought the campaign to get more young people involved was interesting and trying to glam up or celebrityfy politics

    And I still think that while Laugh In, Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows were always there it still feels like Rock the Vote was on a different level to me

    The issue of music ratings driving the campaign is a point I hadn't considered before
     

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