Next month, sandwiched somewhere in between Britney Spears' videos, Trojan condom ads, booze-drenched Mardi Gras parties, soft-porn soap operas, and reruns of vulgar stunt shows, MTV will broadcast a "global town meeting" featuring Secretary of State Colin Powell.
According to Variety magazine, the 60-minute forum will be carried on MTV channels reaching nearly 380 million households worldwide. "I look forward to speaking one-on-one with young people from across the world in this unique forum to discuss world affairs," Powell said.
Couldn't the State Department have found a "unique forum" that wasn't so abysmally beneath the dignity of America's top diplomat?
Powell should have followed in his boss's classy footsteps. During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush wisely declined MTV's invitation to participate in its vacuous "Choose or Lose" election special -- a "unique forum" where teens grill presidential candidates about such vital international issues as their underwear styles and musical tastes.
Bush's campaign advisers were right not to dignify the left-leaning entertainment channel with the GOP candidate's presence. (Recall that MTV threw two inaugural balls for Bill Clinton and hosted a cocktail party for Hillary Clinton, but later refused to recognize our president during the 2001 inaugural celebrations.) Bush was also right to avoid cheap pandering to the youth vote. By contrast, Al Gore participated approvingly in a televised "Choose or Lose" forum that hyped his, uh, sex appeal and prior drug use. During the broadcast, a young MTV "news" anchor narrated a glowing biographical segment on Gore, which noted that "he's into PDA (public displays of affection with wife Tipper)" and that "he listened to rock, rode a motorcycle and even smoked the herb (marijuana)."
The segment illustrated Gore's youthful drug experimentation -- a hit with MTV viewers, no doubt -- by showing a grainy video of a Gore look-alike exhaling smoke. What will the producers do to get viewers interested in Afghanistan? Show al Qaeda look-alikes sitting around their caves exhaling opium smoke?
MTV understands well that the medium is the message. So should Powell. Any coherent message he wants to send to young people about the war on terrorism will be drowned in a medium that specializes in moral equivalence and cultural rot. I remind the State Department that among the cherished entertainment milestones MTV boasted about during its 20th anniversary celebration last year were:
-- Crotch-grabber Michael Jackson denying allegations of child molestation in 1993 from his Neverland Valley Ranch.
-- Canadian "comedian" Tom Green drinking milk directly from a cow's udder.
-- Singer Diana Ross "copping a feel" of rapper Lil' Kim's exposed breast at the 1999 Video Music Awards.
-- A spring break special hosted by bottom-of-the-barrel talk-show host Jerry Springer, in which "three couples take it all off (except for some decorative whipped cream) and strut their stuff."
-- Rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard riding in a limousine with an MTV camera crew in tow to cash a welfare check. (The Wu-Tang Clan rapper, a convicted felon who has fathered 13 illegitimate children, was imprisoned last summer for possession of crack cocaine.)
And the cesspool continues to swirl. MTV touts the latest installment of its dumb stunt show, "Jackass," with the following description: "Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass crew horse around in a large pile of (excrement) culled from a local stable." On its Web site, MTV posts sexually explicit pictures from the "steamy" soap opera "Undressed," alongside Hustler-style episode summaries: "Tiki bets Bart she can hook up with Chuck. When Lola introduces Sandra to the 'boyfriend,' Sandra has her first orgasm. When Tucker moves in, Tucker and Lauren get together."
This is the kind of romper room into which the State Department has decided to send one of the world's most widely recognized and respected dignitaries. What kind of herbs are they smoking over there? Powell's hook-up with MTV is an embarrassment to the White House, and to all young Americans interested in a serious forum for discussion of the war on terrorism.
Do us a favor, Secretary Powell. Pull the plug on this totally uncool performance.