If the world is going to hell -- and who wants to argue that point? -- it must be the fault of MTV.
MTV is loud, ugly, crude, nasty, raw, occasionally violent, sometimes sexist, often in poor taste.
In other words, it's your basic rock and roll.
I don't have to tell you what rock music has wrought. Elvis shook his pelvis, young girls swooned and s-e-x swept the U.S.A. John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and our moral compass has been spinning wildly ever since. Ice-T produces "Cop Killer," and how long before there's rioting in the streets?
Some folks in Olivia, Minn., a rural outpost about 100 miles west of Minneapolis, have seen enough. They're ready to take action.
"MTV is taking away the innocence of our children," says Lynne Wiger, a member of the Citizens' Advisory Committee, which acts much like a PTA for the school district around Olivia. "It puts things in kids' minds that we, as parents, don't think they're ready to handle."
Wiger, who says she listens to contemporary Christian music, and some of her friends tried to get the music video station taken off the local cable system. Though Midwest Cablevision refused, it did offer a compromise -- for a $15 fee (down from the normal $25) parents can block MTV.
And so, letters were sent home with schoolchildren urging parents to watch MTV for a half-hour, three times a day. If they agree that MTV is a public nuisance, they should pony up the $15.
Well, I confess I have watched MTV before. I've seen Madonna in various stages of undress in virtually every setting, including church. I've seen countless examples of gratuitous sex, and that's just in the beer commercials. I've even seen George Bush, representing the Great Unhip, attempt to woo Generation X.
And yet, to enhance the greater public good, I was still willing to take the MTV Challenge, 30 minutes or so at a time. I hope Mark Knopfler approves.
Saturday, 2:28-3:12 p.m.: It's the Superstar Countdown, and we've clicked in for the last half of Michael's romp through "Billie Jean." Not his kid? Absolutely. And then it's on to No. 1 -- "Thriller," the only video with a disclaimer. Jackson, who turns into a werewolf, says he's not endorsing the occult. Hmmm.
The next superstar group is Def Leppard. I make it through four songs. In only one, "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?" is there any sex -- while the band plays, we spy a woman in lingerie, who gets increasingly naked and finally is seen wrapped in a sheet. Otherwise, it's a lot of loud singing, louder guitar playing and unintelligible lyrics. Yeah, rock and roll.
Saturday, 6:43-7:15 p.m.: It's the news -- The Week in Rock, with hosts Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren. OK, they're not Huntley-Brinkley, but they're not bad. There's a long feature on hate rock that's pretty good. There's a silly hunting feature with Ted Nugent, who says, "The ultimate environmentalist will be a hunter." I'm thinking, Kim Hunter? In a Robert Plant interview, he defines the modern rock band: The lead singer is someone unbearable with blond hair they make into a star; the lead guitarist is thin and wears black. Are you youngsters out there listening?
Sunday, 12:25-12:57 a.m.: OK, the Headbangers Ball. This is not "Yo! MTV Raps," but there has to be some serious gratuitous sex and violence here. Start with the Cult's "Fire Woman." Lots of hair tossing, back bending, guitar flashing, but no sex. In Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart," we get one cleavage shot, but mostly cars crashing into burning heaps. Nine Inch Nails follows with "Down In It," a lot of raw energy and electric disaffection. Still no sex.
We flash to a man-in-the-street interview. Question: If you were given a million dollars, but the world was going to end in five days, what would you do? Two young women said, "Party, party, party." Most guys say they'd buy cars and look for women, which is pretty much what they'd do regardless. Deep thinkers, huh?
And then the alarm rings. As it turns out, I get a pretty tame day. No rapping. No Guns N' Roses. No Madonna. No California girls. Nothing really degrading.
Still, MTV's not Barney. I'd say it's a PG-13 network, which young kids probably shouldn't watch. But is it a threat to the republic, or is it just music?
I don't know. When I was a kid, and the Rolling Stones were on Ed Sullivan, they were forced in the name of public morality to sing, "let's spend some time together" instead of "let's spend the night together." Let's just say it didn't help.