Shots are being fired in the outskirts of Baghdad. American, British and Iraqi soldiers are falling dead in the desert-meets-metropolitan landscape of the city. Civilians die. Buildings collapse. Surely, no one could argue that war is hell.
But MTV is trying to fix all that. As if its rejection of all actual music in favor of fresh-faced, Generation Y-aimed reality programming weren’t proof enough that the execs at MTV sniff glue, MTV has decided to lighten the international gloom of waging war by excising all images of war from its European broadcasts.
Let’s think about that.
MTV, a network known for espousing progressive viewpoints and encouraging its young audience to engage in political issues, doesn’t want European kids to think about the war. Instead, they should listen to the latest releases by Europop noisemakers like t.a.T.u. without worrying about the bloody battles being waged on a continent not too far from Europe itself.
This means, had you grown up hearing the slogan “I want my grainy, three-years-out-of-date MTV!” you would no longer be able to see such tangentially war-related music videos as the ones for Radiohead’s “Lucky” or Outkast’s “Bombs over Baghdad” – or even Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” as it contains footage from the film “Armageddon,” which references a yet-to-occur biblical war in its title. Forget politically active artists like Rage Against the Machine and Sheryl Crow. And one can only imagine if the ’70s funk ensemble War had made music videos, they would also now be verboten.
The worst of MTV’s choices for blacklisted musicians is new-wavers and ’80s icons the B-52s. They’re out because the B-52 bomber is apparently such a traumatic icon of war that it has rendered indecipherably weird songs like “Rock Lobster” unfit for young ears. Fred Schneider, the B-52s’ frontman, responded to the utter stupidity of his banning in an April 3 New York Times article.
“I guess MTV doesn’t have a research department, because from day one, we’ve said in interviews that our name is a slang term for the bouffant hairdo [band-mates Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson used to wear] – nothing to do with bombers,” Schneider said.
Banning the benign B-52s for such a ridiculous reason is like banning Kid Rock because his name kind of sounds like “Iraq.” Besides, even though American tunes sometimes take time before achieving popularity with overseas audiences, the period in which the B-52s would have been played on MTV Europe passed sometime in the mid-’80s, thus necessitating both an overly delicate sensibility and a time machine to be offended by the airing of the video for “My Own Private Idaho.”
It’s especially painful that a network that often promotes social engagement would shun the war. Although the homelands of the teenagers watching MTV Europe may have declined to join the Coalition of the Willing in its invasion effort, the war is geographically closer to them than to teens in America, on whom no such restrictions have been placed. Whenever the original American MTV chooses to actually show music videos, it’s not even shying away from material blatantly related to the nation’s Middle Eastern involvement. The video for System of a Down’s appropriately titled “Boom!” features footage of peace marches and was directed by Michael Moore, one of the most politically opinionated men in Hollywood.
The decision is peculiar, illogical and totally unfair to both politically eager European music lovers and the B-52s. War is the very definition of a breakdown in human relations, but such measures aren’t going to help. In the meantime, fight censorship by listening to the B-52s.
Drew Mackie is the Daily Nexus county editor. He roams if he wants to, without wings, without wheels.