By John Leo, Used by permission
May 1995 – Which corporation is doing the most to lower standards and further degrade what’s left of American culture? When this question came up at a New York dinner party last summer, there was a vote or two for Viacom and Paramount, a lot of talk about Madonna and strong support for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Network, with its lineup of increasingly moronic sitcoms for the cognitively challenged.
After a half hour of good-natured wrangling, we had a consensus winner: Time Warner. Here’s how to reach this rather obvious conclusion on your own: Whenever a new low is reached in the culture, check for the corporate name behind it. With amazing frequency it will be Time Warner.
The schlocky Jenny Jones Show, the first show on which a guest who was humiliated later was charged with murdering his humiliator, is a Time Warner product. The most degrading commercial picture book about human sexuality may be Madonna’s $49.95 porn book, which, I am told, pictorially indicates that she is game to have sex with everything but babies and folding chairs. It was published by Time Warner, and (surprise!) chosen as an alternate selection by Time Warner’s once respectable Book of the Month Club.
In the movies, the all-time low for cynicism and historical lies (Oliver Stone’s JFK) and for graphic, wholesale serial killing presented as fun (Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers) were both produced by Warner. In the category of movie nihilism for children, my vote goes to Warner’s Batman Returns, a dark and sadomasochistic film pushed hard to kids through a tie-in with McDonald’s.
But it’s in the music field that Time Warner does most of its damage. C. DeLores Tucker, chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women, says Time Warner is “one of the greatest perpetrators of this cultural garbage.” She may be understating the case. From the rise of 2 Live Crew and Metallica, through the national uproar over Ice-T’s cop-killing lyrics, down to Snoop Doggy Dogg, Nine Inch Nails and Tupac Shakur, the sprawling Time Warner musical empire has been associated one way or another with most of the high-profile, high-profit acts, black and white, that are pumping nihilism into the culture.
Like a junkie quivering toward a fix, Time Warner simply can’t resist cashing in on the amoral singers who work tirelessly to tear the culture apart, glorifying brutality, violence and the most hateful attitudes toward women the public culture has ever seen, ranging from rape to torture and murder.
After the Ice-T fiasco, Time Warner pulled in its horns a bit and turned down a few recordings, including one about a killer stalking President Bush. But those feeble PR-oriented efforts were in areas where the pressure was coming from: police and public officials. The company did nothing about the woman-hating, racism and all-round mayhem.
In fact, Time Warner companies have worked notably to lower the already low standards in the field. When BMG and Sony balked at signing the loathsome Dr. Dre, a Time Warner affiliated company, Interscope, was there to sign him. When David Geffen, to his credit, refused to sign the out-of-control Geto Boys (who sing lyrically about slitting women’s throats and cutting off their breasts), a Time Warner label picked them up. It helps to have a fat checkbook and no standards.
Last week Time Warner bought another chunk of Interscope, the hottest record company around, and now owns 50%. This is the cultural equivalent of owning half the world’s mustard-gas factories. One Interscope talent, Nine Inch Nails, sings about self-loathing, sexual obsession, torture, suicide and dismemberment. Another huge seller, Dr. Dre, is author of the immortal line: “Rat-a-tat and a tat like that / Never hesitate to put a nigga on his back,” which author Nathan McCall says is “Plain and simple…a boastful call for black men to kill each other.”
Time Warner puts out a lot of benign or harmless music, too. But it makes huge profits by bombarding the young with destructive messages.