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The War of Cultures...

By Electric Angst in Culture
Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 07:22:21 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

...It just got nastier.

Yes, that's right. MTV, the youth-destroying wing of the Viacom corporation, is looking to get on the air in the "Arab World". In the propaganda war, the US has just gone nuclear. I wonder what the reaction is going to be.


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The War of Cultures... | 45 comments (33 topical, 12 editorial, 1 hidden)
This is not good. (3.33 / 6) (#5)
by Apuleius on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 02:55:37 PM EST

In order to get the Muslim world to calm down a tad, and draw people away from the Wahabbi and fundie fringes, the US needs to point out that it is a country that not only has MTV, but also plenty of very conservative religious communities that are able to thrive without feeling threatened by MTV and the like. It would be better to broadcast the 700 Club. No, really.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Bad idea... (4.00 / 5) (#7)
by Electric Angst on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:12:47 PM EST

The 700 club would make them think we're the "crusaders" that bin Laden and crew are trying to paint us as. It'd be as bad as broadcasting American public access to them. I say we find cultural items that are actually high-quality. Send them poems by Frost, films by Kubrick, books by Hemingway, and the finer things, before we try and cram the shit-pipe of our culture down their throats.
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
I somehow doubt... (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 03:32:06 AM EST

...that 19th-century American literature would have much resonance amongst the Arab masses. Hell, their own writers and poets complain about how little attention they're paid, and they write in Arabic for a local audience. Egyptian writers routinely complain about how little-interested in "finer culture" current Arab society is; one author who was interviewed in the Economist a few months ago mentioned that of many novels and collections of poetry he's published, the only one to sell even a respectable number of copies was a tribute to a man who had died in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He saw this as evidence that no one was interested in art or literature anymore, just in politics.

As for films by Kubrick, perhaps; perhaps not. I happen to like the films, but I couldn't see a conservative culture much enjoying a movie like Full Metal Jacket, what with its whoring and cursing and such.

[ Parent ]

For future reference (none / 0) (#43)
by tyronefine on Sat Dec 15, 2001 at 10:23:42 PM EST

Send them poems by Frost, . . . the finer things

Robert Frost is to poetry as Thomas Kinkade is to art. HTH.

[ Parent ]

those people hate eachother. (3.50 / 4) (#12)
by autopr0n on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:33:42 PM EST

Think what your average American thinks of Islamic fundamentalists. Most Arabs probably feel the same way about Christian fundies.

I mean, it's not like people are going to go "Oh, another vicious monotheistic religion, those people really are just like us" when the people on the 700 club are talking about how evil Muslims are (yes, really) and shit.

[autopr0n] got pr0n?
autopr0n.com is a categorically searchable database of porn links, updated every day (or so). no popups!
[ Parent ]
Ummmm... (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by CaptainZornchugger on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 04:40:20 PM EST

The 700 club does feel threatened by MTV and the like.

Look at that chord structure. There's sadness in that chord structure.
[ Parent ]
It's harder to think of anything stupider they (3.22 / 9) (#6)
by alprazolam on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:09:21 PM EST

could show Middle Easterners. Barely clothed teenagers gyrating on screen in an obviously sexual manner? I mean it's not that I don't like it myself but I'm pretty sure that a lot of religous people in a highly modest culture are not only going to be offended but probably will end up angry. Admittedly I haven't seen MTV's non USian programming but considering the blatant stupidity of most of the shows, it's hard to imagine what possible good could come from propagating what's basically a negative view of Americans to the Middle East. What next, Jerry Springer?

Even worse if it's accepted... (4.66 / 3) (#8)
by Electric Angst on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:16:17 PM EST

It'll be bad if there's a purist revolt against it. It'll be even worse if they manage to convince an entire generation of Arabic teenagers that all they need to feel good or to acheive a certain lifestyle is the stuff they can't quite afford.
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
yeah... (none / 0) (#29)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 03:17:43 AM EST

...we wouldn't want to corrupt the youth. The current Arab television stations convincing an entire generation of Arabic teenagers that all they need to do to feel good or to achieve a certain lifestyle is to kill Jews is far superior, of course.

[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#41)
by yonasa on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 08:43:20 PM EST

"The current Arab television stations convincing an entire generation of Arabic teenagers that all they need to do to feel good or to achieve a certain lifestyle is to kill Jews"

Just out of interest here, but how accurate is that? I mean, part of the problem is that people tend to caricature channels they don't like since they've never seen them ('cos they don't like 'em...). Unfortunately the only middle eastern TV I've ever seen consist of:

1) Barely comprehendable soap
2) Less comprehendable singing
3) Boring as hell, Open University type programming about mining grit for concrete (from Iran)
(speaking not a word of Arabic, Persian etc probably accounts for this rather biased view... :-] )

Maybe there is anti-semetic programming, but it doesn't seem to be as crass as posts I've read suggest. The thing is, does anyone know better (or actually watches middle eastern TV programmes)? I'd be really interested to know if the anti-semitic content is directly presented, expressed in more insideous ways, or not really present.


I wish I was more eloquent
[ Parent ]

it's not MTV US (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 03:15:44 AM EST

Admittedly I haven't seen MTV's non USian programming...

And that is your problem. MTV tailors its programming to the sensibility of local cultures, so "barely clothed teenagers gyrating on screen in an obviously sexual manner" will obviously not be broadcast in the Middle East. For a more realistic model of what MTV in the Middle East is likely to look like, take a look at MTV India, which is currently one of the most popular television channels in neighboring (and overwhelmingly Islamic) Pakistan. So it obviously does work.

[ Parent ]

I see this as a Good Idea... (4.33 / 6) (#9)
by chipuni on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:19:41 PM EST

I'm going against the grain, here, but I don't see the problem. If they want to reach people in the Middle East, they'll have to play to that crowd. Can they play to a more conservative crowd?

The answer is yes. According to the article that you link to,

MTV has made significant inroads in India and Asia, with MTV India recently voted the most popular music channel in Pakistan.

Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.
MTV is corperate trash.. (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by Nyarlathotep on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 08:27:07 PM EST

but religion is worse for people. Saudi's will currently pay like $ 30-70 per hour for unfiltered internet access (porn, politics, etc.). I'm not shure there is much execpt langague and satilite locations keeping Saudis from totally unfiltered U.S. TV. I say let MTV broadcast the same trash in Arabic / subtitled over unencrypted satilite channels.

BTW> The only real objections that India would have to MTVs sex commercialism is that sex should be more creative (and religious).. :)

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
It's hard to get too worked up about this (4.45 / 11) (#10)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:22:33 PM EST

Yes, MTV is stupid (especially since the "M" supposedly stands for "Music"...did you know that?) but if the Arabs don't like it, let them turn it off. If you stop and think about it, which action treats them as human beings deserving of respect?

1) Broadcasting crap at them but putting channel changers on their TVs to afford them a choice
2) Deciding for ourselves what they'd like to see

In the end, the only democratic and freedom-loving choice is to let each person, American and Arab alike, to decide by themselves that Britney and N'Sync are brainless corporate drones.

Play 囲碁
Pretty sad (3.57 / 7) (#11)
by mami on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:24:55 PM EST

Why don't they try to broadcast WETA and CSPAN into the Arab World. Even in Europe they can't see those programs.

You can't even see the American version of CNN, which would give many Europeans a better insight. You get only the International versions, which don't reflect and cross over details, mood and discussions about U.S. affairs. Well, you see Oprah in India and I had a nice discussion with an Indian family, who described to me how TV has influenced family and community life in India.

One of the strangest things is to see how much Americans believe in their own marketing and propaganda skills. To tolerate American marketing efforts is something else than accepting them for their content. What do the Americans want to sell ?

I thought they want to convince the Arab World about the "value of their values". They better broadcast "something more valuable"...

Right on! (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by garbanzo on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 08:38:28 PM EST

I agree. Americans routinely overestimate the effect of media, both on others and on themselves--both good and bad. The truth is that advertising is effective primarily by saturation, not by any skill. Likewise, watching Beavis and Butthead never made any idiot set a house on fire.

Americans may not be alone in this, but they do it to excess, constantly. Right up there with the people's right to know is the media's right to jerk itself off.

Whereas I think that your suggestion has real merit (where the idea of blasting MTV crap would both seem and actually be very dumb). For that matter, show better news than the US version of CNN which I personally think is utter crap. I'd rather watch (eww) Fox News. I don't take cable (yes, I'm a loon, ain't I?) so I did not get to see much recent CNN until I was home with the family for a holiday. Paula Zahn is just about the worst, watched her anthrax fear-mongering for a couple mornings in a row and just thought it was pukey--in the absence of actual news, talk about opinions and conjectures and fear, etc.

Show them the News Hour with Jim Lehrer so they can see that (some) Americans actually want to hear more than one side of the issue.

sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

[ Parent ]
Soon to be a hit in Afghanistan... (4.00 / 4) (#13)
by WombatControl on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:38:37 PM EST

I have a feeling that the Taliban (if they last that long) would get a real kick out of Britney Spears' god-awful "Slave4U" song... well, until they saw what she was wearing. (or not as the case may be...)

It will work (3.77 / 9) (#14)
by ucblockhead on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 03:46:50 PM EST

Greed and lust beat religion every time.

And don't forget, one huge factor in the bringing down of the Berlin wall was the availability of TV fair like "Dallas" to the East German people.

But I disagree that it has "gotten nastier". This was inevitable regardless of what the US government wanted and regardless of what happened politically last September. This is just one little piece of the cultural waves that are sweeping over the world.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Hasn't MTV already made propaganda? (4.00 / 5) (#15)
by wji on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 04:07:32 PM EST

If I recall, MTV has little 30 second spots in between programming that show the 'facts' that our youth Ought To Know about the present situation. They list five little bits of propaganda about each 'important question'. Anyone seen them?

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
Doesn't that violate the Geneva Convention? (3.37 / 8) (#16)
by strlen on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 04:13:39 PM EST

I believe torture of civilians is outlawed under the Geneva convention. And I think the worst possible method of that is by the use of N'Sync and Backstreet boys.

Hmm.. in reality, as someone pointed out: Arabs are people too. If they don't like the trash that is MTV, and don't want to watch it, they can just not turn it on, or if they're afraid of their children watching it program the TV to block it or not get cable. Europe has MTV, yet France, Great Britain, others still manage to preserve a unique culture, architecture and life-style which is what still drives American touriststs there.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
Probably not (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Atsuko on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 12:31:41 AM EST

> And I think the worst possible method of that is by the use of N'Sync and Backstreet boys.

No joke. I seem to recall that some Canadian college students barricaded themselves in a building, protesting something. The police brought out a powerful sound system and blasted them with Backstreet and Britney 24/7 until they relented.

[ Parent ]

Seriously? (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Anoymous 22666 on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 03:40:08 PM EST

This is the kind of thing that makes me glad I got up in the morning.

I'd really appreciate it if you could find a source for that... I'd really like to read that article. :-)

I just farted... And I blame the fiction section. - Psycho Les

[ Parent ]
Reference? (none / 0) (#45)
by Kenshin on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 11:54:38 AM EST

Can you recall the Canadian university that did this, and when it approximately happened? Sounds like the authorities were pretty smart, most pseudo-intellectual radical-liberal university students are highly allergic to sugary, teen pop-culture icons like BSB & Spears!

[ Parent ]
What the heck? (4.00 / 3) (#21)
by eightball on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 10:55:31 PM EST

I haven't watched MTV in many, many years and don't care for it now. I barely did then, but many times it was the only thing on.

Going by what this article says, it actually looks like they are doing some positive stuff.
    it launched a global pen-pal service, encouraging a discussion of world events
sounds good to me. Isn't that what most people on this site want, more communication between different people so they can understand each other's positions

    [considering] include programming that would specifically encourage dialogue between MTV viewers in U.S. and those in Middle Eastern and other predominately Muslim markets.

Gee, lets get to know them instead of vilifiying them.. That's a good one.. My only beef with this quote is the use of the word market, since this is referring to viewers and not advertisers..
'Wow you are in the teenie bopper market!'

'Yeah way, the Gardner group says we totally synergize!'

I'm not saying, "Feed them our tripe and they will follow". If MTV has half of a brain, which I think they qualify to that at least, they market the entertainment to the audience. I think it a bit hasty to suggest that this will be just overdubbed American fare.

Communication is a two way avenue. (4.50 / 2) (#33)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 05:30:14 AM EST

It is nice and cossy to think MTV will help people communicate. The nice feeling goes away if you are an Arab or Muslim and then comes down the TV screen a bunch of things that you find moraly objectionable and nothing that represents your own way of life.

The only people that will identify with each other are the middle class teenagers of rich countries with the rich teenagers of poor countries that more often than not will aspire to be consumers of western goods without caring much about democracy or the rule of law.

The other immense majority of youth will not care a damn because they are too busy throwing stones to the Israeli tank down the street or preparing to fight the next jihad because their own country lacks any democratic means to express their anger and frustration to their impoverished situation.

If their repressive goverments are backed by the US, MTV simply becomes the futile thing it is meant to be.


[ Parent ]
LOL (2.75 / 4) (#22)
by Oblomov on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 11:36:11 PM EST

how the entertainment business might help convey a wider -- and more positive -- range of perceptions about America

Ha! Now that is funny. What's next, Velveta?

cheese in a can (none / 0) (#32)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 03:34:58 AM EST

Seriously, when my cousins from Greece visited the U.S. in the early 1990s, they were impressed as hell by that aerosol cheese. "What technology will those crazy Americans come up with next?" They even thought it tasted good.

[ Parent ]
EH? (2.80 / 5) (#26)
by Neuromancer on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 02:00:57 AM EST

In the propaganda war, the US has just gone nuclear

Excuse me?

You are comparing an MTV fad special on the middle east, to an enemy who raises their youth to hate the US and become suicide terrorists. You are then saying that we are "going nuclear," which implies that we are somehow carrying our propaganda to a new extreme, that somehow is greater than one which causes thousands to pledge to suicide bomb the US.

I'm sorry, I guess I don't follow your logic. I'm not trying to sound like a jerk and thrash your post like a piece of trash, but well, think about this. This is NOTHING compared to the propaganda on the other side of this war.

hmmmm .... quite bad news (3.50 / 4) (#27)
by streetlawyer on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 02:45:11 AM EST

Since I have a couple of pals who work for MTV Europe, and since our side has already established the principle in this war that it's OK to bomb TV stations which show things you don't like, I have to confess to being a little bit worried about this one. On the other hand, you have to admire their guts ...

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
While it may be popular to hate MTV... (3.75 / 4) (#30)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 03:25:10 AM EST

...I've yet to see a convincing argument that MTV is "youth-destroying." Mostly it's just fashionable to hate MTV because it's fashionable to like "underground" music these days.

Perhaps most of this is due to being uninformed about the various MTV channels in existence, as most critics seem to be only familiar with one of the four MTV channels I'm currently aware of (there's probably more). What's known as "MTV" in the US is generally not a music video channel, showing game shows and the like instead, with the occasional token music video. This channel is unlikely to be what MTV has in mind for an MTV Middle East. Currently existing foreign versions of MTV tend to be more like the US's "MTV2." MTV Europe is somewhere between the two (back in 1996 when I lived in Europe for a few months it was 100% music videos, but I understand it's changed a bit lately). MTV India is nearly exclusively music videos, and does not for the most part play American music videos. It also happens to be one of the most popular television channels in neighboring (and overwhelmingly Islamic) Pakistan. This would clearly be the model for a Middle Eastern MTV, as it's already successfully gained popularity in a mixed-ethnicity and mixed-religion market without causing (as far as I have read) any significant offense.

Brilliant! (4.12 / 8) (#37)
by jabber on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 01:12:35 PM EST

Cultural diffusion has worked very well in the past centuries. Why not make use of it here and now??

Upon conquering a foreign Capitol, Egyptians used to take possession of the children of the ruling monarch, and return with them to Memphis. They would leave the sitting monarch in power, but placated, for fear of their children's welfare. Once the monarch was old and weak, their children were returned, having received a thorough Egyptian education. This way, the lineage of the monarchs wasn't interrupted, but a pro-Egyptian leaning was created in a short time.

Romans did a similar thing, kidnapping barbarians as slaves, educating them and their children in the ways of Rome, and returning them to head up Roman settlements and regional military forces.

Christians usurped pagan holidays as a means of converting the heathen. Let them celebrate on the same day, just with the new faith.. You didn't think that the Christmas Tree and Easter Bunny had anyting to do with Jesus, did you?

The Colonial Brits have been bringing Indian children to the UK to be 'civilized' and exporting their educational and military systems to all corners of the globe. Soviets did this too, by requiring all children in the Eastern Bloc states to learn Russian from the 4th grade up.

Americans have also been doing it for decades, unless you think that McDonalds, Levi's and EuroDisney do not spread American culture and American values while profitting from the French, German, Italian and wherever else they have a franchise.

This is a brilliant maneuver on part of the US.. After the Arab girls and boys get a few years of Britney in a Burka, singing "I'm a Slave 4 U (SA)" and Eminem screaming "Will the Real bin Laden Please Stand UP!" they'll prefer speaking English to their own language.. They'll eat burgers during Ramadan, sneak Marlboros on their pilgrimage to Mecca and gladly let us have all the cheap oil we want, so long as we keep pumping their minds full of Jackass, Real World and Allah only knows what other crap..

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Brilliant move? (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by datarat on Sun Dec 16, 2001 at 02:05:36 AM EST

"This is a brilliant maneuver on part of the US.. After the Arab girls and boys get a few years of Britney in a Burka, singing "I'm a Slave 4 U (SA)" and Eminem screaming "Will the Real bin Laden Please Stand UP!" they'll prefer speaking English to their own language.. They'll eat burgers during Ramadan, sneak Marlboros on their pilgrimage to Mecca and gladly let us have all the cheap oil we want, so long as we keep pumping their minds full of Jackass, Real World and Allah only knows what other crap..

I'm constantly puzzled by this perception that anything an American company does overseas is at the behest of the U.S. government.

Do people really believe that George Bush sits down with the board of Viacom and says "we need to subvert their culture, so what can you do?"

Unfortunately, I couldn't read the article. I guess I got there too late because CNN pulled it.

Nonetheless, I suspect that if I were a broadcaster in the music business and I heard about a market where television and radio were forbidden, and mere HOURS after that ban was lifted people were putting radios on the windowsill...

Let's just say there's a demand just waiting for a supply...
-datarat "An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist is afraid it's true"
[ Parent ]
wah wah (2.75 / 4) (#42)
by Ender Ryan on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 10:39:15 PM EST

Those evil USians are broadcasting their filth into Muslim lands! They are trying to destroy Islam, Britney is the Devil! She will be punished!

OMG, give me a break. I hate MTV as much as the next sane person, but if you are trying to say that this is somehow a terrible thing... If they don't like it, they can turn it off.

I do it every day! It's really not that hard! All the liberal "cry me a river" bullshit they try to feed me, guess what, I don't watch it! I change the channel, or I turn it off.

I've had access to many foreign shows throughout my life. I've watched some of them, and some I didn't, because I thought they sucked. I'm sure Afghanis are smart enough to do the same... unless you have a reason to disagree with that?

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

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The War of Cultures... | 45 comments (33 topical, 12 editorial, 1 hidden)
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