I was delighted in the fall of 1992 to discover a new VJ on MTV, named Kennedy, who declared herself a Republican during her first week on the air under friendly questioning from a fellow VJ. Asked whom she was voting for, she said “Bush/Quayle” with a smile—she was proud not only of the Bush part. mind you, but even of the Quayle part. The other VJ, the scruffy and annoying Steve Isaacs, looked startled and abandoned the subject of politics.
But it was too late. I had to know how this Republican had found herself on America’s decadent and painfully liberal/ Green/multiculturalist network—where, I should note, she’s done a swell job and been the most energetic and zany of all MTV’s jockeys, without grating on the nerves (lacerating the spinal cord might be more apt) the way other would-be lovable MTV personalities like Pauly Shore do. I was pained to discover she won “Worst VJ” in Rolling Stone’s annual readers’ poll, but I take this to be simply another sign of the depravity of our times.
I spoke briefly with Kennedy, and she confided that she: one, bears a tattoo of an elephant; two, has a big crush on Dan Quayle; three, possesses a treasured audio tape of Quayle telling her she looks great in purple (and that she “rocks”) from her days as a DJ in Oregon—where her dad, by the way, is a Democrat; four, has never heard of National Review (I didn’t ask about Chronicles); and five, fears that most conservatives arc boring and fall into the rationalist trap of thinking “right-wing means left-brain,” the left side of the brain supposedly being the logical hemisphere.
The next time I saw Kennedy on the air, she was wearing a fetching costume by Jean-Paul Gaultier (who has created outfits for Madonna), wielding a whip, counting to ten in German, enthusiastically introducing a “Blocktoberfest” of Guns n’ Roses videos (telling Axl Rose that if he’s out there watching, he’s a pal), and ripping up a picture of Sinead O’Connor while telling viewers to “fight the real enemy” in a parody of Sinead’s Pope-shredding faux pas. The most exciting thing the other VJs do is ask us to recycle aluminum.
Clearly, Kennedy is a valuable asset in the Ongoing Struggle no matter how zany she is. But alas, she is one oasis in a desert of liberalism. Perhaps, though, that’s the way the public wants it. MTV may be produced by the liberal pseudo-intelligentsia, but you’d better believe they’re doing their darnedest to give mainstream America what it wants, messianic recycling ads and all. Indeed, at the same time it’s imparting liberal political messages, MTV is the very embodiment of planet-spanning postmodern capitalism, doing a wonderful and profitable job of giving us mindless, politically apathetic consumers the entertainment we crave.
The leftism/capitalism paradox of MTV is one that exists in rock music itself. Rock and roll was the bete noire of 1950’s social conservatives, but it also represents exactly the kind of creative, life-affirming, postmodern, and highly profitable energy that leftist social engineers can’t hope to control (or to replicate through the National Endowment for the Arts). Rock’s individualist-populist attitude is inherently nonleftist even when the songs themselves contain leftist sentiments—though it’s more exciting when one stumbles across explicitly conservative rock lyrics, such as Jesus Jones’ celebration of the collapse of communism, “Right Here, Right Now”—complete with a nod to Francis Fukuyama: “Right here, right now/There’s no other place I’d rather be / Right here, right now/ Watching the world wake up from history.”
Other explicitly nonliberal pieces of rock history include Oingo Boingo’s denunciation of soft-on-crime liberalism, “Only a Lad”; Duran Duran’s antisocialist revolution song, “New Moon on Monday” (that’s what they say it is, anyway—and as an early-80’s New Wave band they definitely represented a union of capitalist flash and pop culture free-spiritedness that would have been considered contradictory by the hippies of a decade earlier); dance band KLF’s references to libertarian science-fiction writer Robert Anton Wilson; numerous songs by Rush (who are Canadian Ayn Rand fans); and the much-maligned Guns n’ Roses, who should get an award for being the first rock group to criticize the Maoist Shining Path of Peru (in their song “Civil War,” which quotes an eerie proclamation of war from a Shining Path general).
No less a rock star than Mick Jagger praised economist Friedrich Hayek and free markets in what may have been a self-written line of dialogue on Saturday Night Live. Like many rock stars, he and the Rolling Stones came to the United States in part to escape the excessive taxes of a moderately socialist England. What could be more in keeping with the spirit of the American Revolution than that?
But even if a rocker is singing about deadly ozone holes and the joys of casual sex, every time a scruffy, long-haired kid strikes it rich by entertaining the American populace, it has to be seen as some sort of victory for the American dream. Like Hollywood movies, rock and roll is recognized the world over as a distinctly American invention—defiant, fun, eternally new and youthful, like the young Republic itself.
It is no small thing for one nation to put its indelible stamp on a medium that may influence all the other cultures of the Earth for centuries to come. It is a benign and bloodless conquest, like convincing all the world to speak your language or adopt your philosophy. In the long run, that counts for more than the passing liberal fads and unrealistic values to which rockers pay lip service. Conservatives, as proponents of American culture, should be thankful we have rock and roll.
And, of course, we have Kennedy. She remains something of an enigma, though. A paradox within a paradox, MTV’s most conservative VJ hosts the network’s strangest gig—the midnight progressive rock show, Alternative Nation. When I see it now, I’ll regret the questions I didn’t ask. I didn’t really find out how much of a social conservative she is. For instance, would she put progressive rock video pioneer David Bowie in jail for sodomy (committed with Mick Jagger, according to Bowie’s ex-wife and the new Jagger biography)? Does Kennedy think modern pop culture is inherently liberal? Is she religious? And finally, if God exists and sees everything and that includes MTV, does she think He enjoys it?