If you’ve been alive and of voting age over the past 20 or so years, then you’ve been aware that young people have been urged up the wazoo to get out the vote, that their voice was the one lacking in politics and sorely needed if real change could ever be expected to materialize.
MTV has been especially big on getting today’s youth to vote as part of their ongoing Choose or Lose campaign. Until this year, it seems.
Last night was arguably television’s biggest night of the year for young people with the airing of MTV’s Video Music Awards. It was also one of the biggest nights in four years for the Democratic Party, as President Obama spoke in primetime to accept his party’s nomination.
Was the scheduling conflict just that, or was it a sign that politics have fallen out of favor with the young and hip?
If you think maybe young people were actually watching Obama instead of Rihanna last night, you’re wrong. NBC News reports today that the hashtag #dnc2012 was in fifth place on Twitter for the evening, while #vma easily took first place.
Voting was actually on the minds of Twitter-users, but only insofar as One Direction and Justin Bieber were concerned (#voteonedirection and #votebieber were also ahead of #dnc2012 last night).
If you listened to Joe Biden speak, few would blame you for switching over to MTV for a little more ear candy, but it’s hard to imagine why MTV would have chosen any night over the last two weeks — with both the Republican and Democratic conventions happening — to program against politics if they want to encourage young people to get educated, involved and make a difference in how the country is shaped.
Last winter, MTV announced plans to drop it’s “Choose or Lose” name for its election-season coverage, according to The New York Times. Instead, MTV is calling it it’s election coverage the “Power of 12,” which is meant to encourage those 18- to 29-year-olds in the network’s demographic to get involved by wielding whatever power they think they might have.
The Times also wrote that the name change is “in part, a statement about the cynical mood of the youth voting bloc. While young people turned out in unusually high numbers to support Barack Obama in 2008, MTV’s research into ‘Choose or Lose’ found that many felt they had lost anyway.”
The Power of 12 “implies that choosing is not all that matters, and that ‘voting is one step in the process.’”
Which makes good sense. But is programming against the president another step in aiding and abetting in the longstanding indifference of young people and trying to urge them to use their power responsibly? Was programming the VMAs on the same night as Obama’s speech a test administered by MTV to see how committed young people are to educating themselves about their choices in the political process? Was it, perhaps, a nod to how obsolete live TV is becoming and a bow to the exponentially great power of access to information online?
The New York Times cites a Pew Research Center poll that found 18- to 29-year-olds were backing President Obama more than any other demographic group, “yet they were also paying less attention to the campaign than any other.”
MTV made sure of the latter last night, although not so much the former. Young people certainly have the power, and last night they made a choice, it’s just too bad that programming executives at MTV chose the night that they did to offer something sweet for dinner. After all, it’s not impossible but still tempting nevertheless when you’re in you 20s to choose vegetables over candy when both are being offered as the main course.
MTV chose and lost. Voting is just one step in the process, but so is doing your homework and hearing what our leaders and potential leaders have to say, which is hard to hear over the din of a flashy awards show.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
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