MTV’s Essential Role in America’s Decaying Global Image
by David McQuade
I don’t make a habit of writing about someone who is no longer here to defend himself. But with the passing of notedly progressive media mogul Sumner Redstone last month and the mounting CUTIES controversy from Netflix, which I canceled yesterday, it’s a good moment for some overdue national reflection.
As MOVIEGUIDE® regularly points out, life imitates art more than we care to admit. Redstone, the late chairman of MTV parent CBS/Viacom, knew this and boasted about his “womb to tomb” media strategy insisting, “I knew MTV would go around the world and change everything, and it did!”
There’s no other way to say it: MTV and its corporate sponsors sold out American families and an entire generation. If you lived through the 1980s and ’90s, you were witness to the profound impact MTV had on our cultural slide. It’s reasonable to believe that we would not be living the nightmare of abject relativity we are now experiencing without MTV’s corrosive, generational influence.
As if being the engine for cultural decay wasn’t enough, MTV simultaneously turned millions of its viewers into a dumbed-down, politically useful tool with its infamous “Rock the Vote” to the Marxist left campaign. The moral relativists it nurtured into adulthood are now filling congressional offices, corporate boardrooms, newsrooms, and faculty lounges.
Responsible adults in the room would have done well to listen when a late 1980s PBS special, THE MERCHANTS OF COOL, warned that MTV and its complicit, enabling sponsors “grab kids below the belt and reach for their wallets.” Anything to sell sugar water, I suppose.
You may be saying to yourself, “Yes, but the over-sexualized ’80s brand that took in over a billion dollars a year has run its course in America,” and you would be right. Few under the age of 20 seem to care about MTV any longer.
However, it’s the damage to America’s image that MTV has inflicted abroad that should be top of mind, in places where the network is naively thought of as still relevant. A world-away where most have never even met a good and decent American like you, perception is a dangerous reality.
In the year following 9/11, Boston University conducted a telling poll of teenagers around the world, titled The Next Generation’s Image of Americans, which should have sounded an alarm.
Among the universal perceptions uncovered among the world’s young people was that “American women are sexually immoral” and “Americans are generally quite violent.” Not exactly the image our “One Nation Under God” once hoped to project. The words “own worst enemy” come to mind.
Many expressed their fears to travel to “violent America.” (I can only imagine their fear today witnessing the left-wing mob’s lawless meltdown in America’s major population centers.)
The survey revealed “a highly negative image of Americans” and concluded: “Terrorist threats and international repercussions are likely to continue for the foreseeable future because of the next generation’s image of Americans.”
MTV’s viewer demographic starts at 12 years of age, according to MTV. Perhaps more than any other American media company, MTV has had a profound impact on the next generation’s image of Americans because it precisely targets that age group during a vulnerable stage of cognitive development.
SKINS, the underage sex, drugs and booze-fest that MTV foisted on the world’s 12-year-olds, was a prime example. The series was not simply an isolated lapse in judgment by some morally challenged MTV programming director. Rather it was fully intended to push the envelope further just when you thought it had nowhere else to go.
Thankfully for your children, it turned out to be far too indecent for many U.S. legislators and advertisers—and that takes an awful lot. So instead, the demented series starring underage children was run all over the world with the help of American advertisers.
MTV thinks nothing of children having sex in front of cameras while helping fuel the global crisis of pedophilia and sex trafficking among sick, voyeuristic adults.
However, SKINS, not at all unlike JERSEY SHORE, NEXT, A SHOT AT LOVE WITH TIA TEQUILA, and countless other stunningly over-the-top series, turned out to be the fruit of a deeper root—a planned subversion that lies at the very heart of MTV’s business plan.
They haveadmitted as much.
The company warned of its subversive agenda nearly four decades ago in its self-published coffee table book, On Air: The Visual Messages and Global Language of MTV. They wrote, “We’ll need to push the envelope a little further each year to keep our audience.” That turned out to be an understatement.
The post-9/11 cleanup of the Twin Towers had barely begun when Judy McGrath was installed as Chairman of MTV Networks to oversee its ever-increasing global footprint.
Almost overnight, she “pushed the envelope further,” and MTV became more overtly sexual and notedly friendlier toward alcohol and drug abuse. The loss of civility on her lineup of drunken and often violent “reality shows” was at first shocking, then commonplace.
The well-earned complaint from the music industry at the time was that MTV ceased to be “music television” at all.
The incremental trashing of America’s image and the undermining of long-held Western values was nearing completion in the eyes of a watching world thanks to the profit-over-people agenda of Redstone and McGrath—ideal partners in cultural crime.
At last count, MTV and its affiliates are still available in 164 countries with dozens of international language feeds, mostly propped up by greedy American brands that lack conscience and are willing to throw the next generation under the bus.
However, if the post-9/11 Boston University poll taught us anything at all, it would be that much of the world doesn’t necessarily buy into the MTV “cool factor” regardless of how determined we are to shove the valueless and profane lifestyle down their throats.
American advertisers eager to be branded “cool” drop off dump trucks of cash at the door of MTV, which keeps dutifully pushing the envelope further each year to millions who already perceive America as toxic and dangerous to their young.
Of course, in the process, they’re throwing their own children and grandchildren under the MTV lifestyle bus to make a buck, but their estates in the Hamptons are impressive, no doubt. “Sorry kid, an executive has to do what an executive has to do.”
In hindsight, Boston University’s international poll was well worth heeding.
At least some of the post-9/11 teenagers who had a “highly negative image of Americans” are now fully grown, gun-toting, bomb-making Jihadists. For decades, we’ve been living in that future of “international repercussions and terrorist threats,” which have become so painfully ubiquitous.
I’m not here to justify Jihadist Iran or other extremist terrorist organizations—you don’t fight evil with more evil, but why must we insist that our number one export, American media, continue to hand them the moral high ground they so desperately seek as justification to destroy us?
Dr. Mateen A. Elass, a Saudi national now living in the U.S., thoughtfully posed the question, “Where does this intense antipathy come from?
“Radical Muslims regularly chant, ‘Death to America! Death to the Great Satan!’ The fact that such chanting can take place indicates the brewing of a storm for which America is the tallest lightning rod. Why? Devout Muslims see the U.S. as exporting immorality. The international marketing of our movies and TV programs paints a lurid picture of American life for the Third World.”
There you have it, and “exporting immorality” has turned out to be a clear and present danger and a real national security threat.
Still, Redstone and McGrath considered it profitable and therefore perfectly acceptable to portray 14- and 15-year-olds doing drugs, drowning their hopelessly nihilistic worldview in deadly amounts of alcohol and having knock-down, drag-out fights and commitment-free, rapid-fire sex with one another.
Again, perception is reality. That means the rest of the world has no idea how decent, generous, kind and good-hearted you and your family are. Thanks to MTV International, they perceive that our once morally strong “shining city on a hill” has slipped into the slimy sewer, and they don’t necessarily want to follow us down.
As depraved as MTV may appear to millions of God-fearing Americans, we can’t begin to imagine the contempt ancient fundamentalist cultures hold for a nation that would showcase such appalling behavior to their innocent. That would include CUTIES, Mr. Hastings of Netflix. Please man up for the sake of your own children and for America’s national security.
We indeed need to “Make America Great Again.”
To be clear, I’m a fan of that statement and the sentiment behind it, but the perception of hundreds of millions around the globe is that America’s cultural decay is a fast-metastasizing cancer that must be cut out if the world is to survive.
Part of actually making America great again will be a decided return to the values that made our One Nation Under God the exceptional lighthouse and breadbasket of the world we once were, and to export those values again, rather than those of the late Sumner Redstone or of Netflix.
Editor’s Note: David McQuade founded cable channel Z Music Television, “The Positive Alternative” to MTV, and has worked extensively in the television and film industry for over three decades as an executive and media strategist.