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MTV's dumbocracy

By Hans Zeiger
web posted October 11, 2004

MTV is airing Drew Barrymore's sad attempt at a documentary entitled "The Best Place to Start," along with several hundred other MTV appeals to get youth into the polls on November 2. It is the quintessence of dumbocracy, a rejection of responsible republican government, and an embarrassing demonstration of exactly why many youngsters shouldn't be voting yet.

Various modern causes that tout equality have made that comparison between the 1960s civil rights movement and their own plights and rights. Homosexual activists are the most notable hijackers of civil rights rhetoric. But the latest folks to invoke the egalitarian spirit of the civil rights movement are the youth vote activists of the Left who believe that too few 18 to 24 year olds go to the polls.

Drew Barrymore makes the parallel between the civil rights movement and the youth voting movement of today by making a sentimental visit to Selma, Alabama, where occurred a milestone 1965 march for the franchise and subsequent police brutality. Today's version of voter repression, she says, happens when politicians won't listen to young constituents, thereby causing youngsters not to vote.

The Twenty-first Century Youth Leadership project in Selma was the setting for an on-film forum involving Miss Barrymore, several young students, and Democratic Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders. "Name me five things you can do not affected by voting," Sanders demanded.

"Shopping," replied one student. "Who your parents are," added another. "Dying." "Air." "Sleeping." "Talking on the phone." When the brainstorm had concluded, Senator Sanders took no hesitation in announcing the verdict. "All of them were wrong," he declared.

Sickeningly, Sanders may be correct in his assessment that nothing we do is exempt from the interest of government. In the cases mentioned by the students, government regulates products we buy in the store; government can remove children from one home and put them in another; government regulates air pollution; and as the socialist State Senator pointed out, government can give us health care to keep us from dying. Senator Sanders is fond of an omnipotent government.

Miss Barrymore's conclusion from the whole matter is even more depressing than Senator Sanders'. "It's good not to be scared by the fact that they control everything," she told her young audience as if to comfort them at the monstrous rise of Alexis de Tocqueville's democratic despot, as if to soothe a potential realization that George Orwell's Big Brother is inevitable. Instead of fear, Barrymore recommends that young people get out to the polls to inject into the bulging veins of government another dose of power.

That government is enormous should be obvious. MTV's message - via the Barrymore program, Christina Aguilera's show contending that the sex lives of young Americans will be jeopardized if they don't vote, Alicia Keys' interruptions of reality television to urge young people to "Choose or Lose" - is that government's enormity and power is good when it is in the hands of the young.

So MTV is asking for all of the entitlements of governing without first seeking the complementary responsibilities. MTV itself is a good example of the irresponsibility that is entirely incompatible with self-government and thus foreign to the preservation of constitutional government.

In Miss Aguilera's program called "Sex, Votes, and Higher Power," the Higher Power is not God. It seems that the higher power is that which has control over sex lives. And since MTV's message is that the rights to sex, sex education, abortion, sex, homosexuality, and sex are contingent on whether the right person is in the Oval Office, gullible young people gain a sense that something mighty important about the flesh is at stake in this election.

Self-government having apparently dissipated in the MTV Generation, or at least that part of the generation that tends to be showcased on that channel, the plea is for an all-powerful government that gives first favor to the "rights" of sexually maniacal, undereducated youths.

Because MTV understands, in a way, that without self-government and limited government, the state must be powerful. And if that power can be used to give sanction to the very things that undermine self-government in the first place, it ought to be done with the full force of a generation. Since the rise of force is inevitable at the funeral of character, the battle to wield force becomes ever more divided. Conservatives would use government to make America more moral, and liberals armed with MTV would use government to make America more decadent.

But the placement of political power in the proper hands is not the key to setting America on course. We must fight there, but we must fight doubly hard in the battle for ideas and hearts. Therein lies the foundation of self-government so desperately needed if we are to revive constitutional government. We must strive, among other moves of culture, to put MTV out of business before we can hope for good government and ordered liberty. 

Hans Zeiger is president of the Scout Honor Coalition, a Seattle Sentinel columnist, and a student at Hillsdale College.

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