Monday: 09/09/02

VH-1 Uber Alles
On October 20, 2001, the Concert for New York City, a musical benefit for the families of the victims of 9/11, takes place in Madison Square Garden. VH-1 airs it live.

During the concert, surprise guest Hillary Clinton is booed (and cheered) when she appears onstage. In January, VH-1 releases a DVD of the event. This version of the event includes no chorus of boos upon Senator Clinton's entrance: VH-1 technicians have edited the booing out.

On January 18th, 2002, an outraged reviewer writes: "I watched this whole lousy show and the greatest part of the whole thing, reason enough to buy it, (and as a New Yorker who doesn't like Carpet baggers with husbands who cheat on their wives, I was actually looking forward to getting this DVD just to have the true NY feelings about the "queen" available to show my friends) was ALTERED. What did the people who protect this woman from the truth do? ......they altered the history like they wanted to alter the Fire Fighter monument....hello 1984."

On July 12th, 2002, ABC's John Stossell did a story on the alteration as part of a 20/20 special on media distortion, saying, "Some politicians appeared, including Senator Hillary Clinton. And people in the audience booed her. Booed and heckled. But then MTV's channel VH1 re-ran the same concert and made it into a DVD...The booing has been removed. Now and forever on the DVD the crowd applauds Senator Clinton."

In truth, it would have been more accurate for Stossell to say, "And people in the audience booed her. Booed and heckled. And some other people in the audience cheered. But then MTV's channel VH1 re-ran the same concert and made it into a DVD...The booing has been removed. Now and forever on the DVD, we only hear applause for Senator Clinton."

But Stossell's report is on media distortion, so his distortion seems appropriate enough.

On August 30th, 2002, Media Research Center features a blurb about the Stossell piece, noting that "Senator Clinton was booed when she walked on stage last October at a rock concert in Madison Square Garden to benefit 9/11 victims. It was shown live by VH1 but, as ABC's John Stossel illustrated in a July 20/20 special on media distortions, when the Viacom-owned cable channel replayed it sound technicians replaced the booing with cheering and applause. And that version is the permanent record VH1 put onto its DVD of the event."

Here, of course, is an amplification of Stossell's interpretation of events. It's not clear that VH-1 "replaced" the booing with cheering and applause: instead, it simply sounds as though VH-1 has edited out the booing. (Listen to the clip at the Media Research Center and judge for yourself. Also keep in mind that it's difficult to say which cuts in the two sequences are ABC's and which actually appear on the DVD. Finally, did either Stossell or Media Research Center actually bother to contact VH-1 to ask if, in addition to removing boos, it added cheers? If they did, they don't say so.)

But while it's unclear how much cheering, if any, VH-1 may have added, it's certainly clear that it did remove the boos.

And a story like that can't stay underground forever, no matter how many major networks devote time to it. On September 6th, 2002, mere months after the ABC broadcast, blogger Eugene Volokh uncovers VH-1's whitewashing of history, and contextualizes the incident to suggest its full import: "I suppose one shouldn't expect great history from VH1, but isn't there still some expectation of accuracy when someone distributes what purports to be a DVD of an actual concert? Or has the whole music business become Milli-Vanilli-ified?"

Over at, Comrade Reynolds seconds that emotion, exclaiming, "Pretty much, I think."

In other words, this isn't just a story about the way entertainment media companies distort important moments in history, and then how news media distorts those distortions. It's also a story about how truly corrupt and fake and evil the music industry is, even when it's doing nice things like throwing benefit concerts...

Now that the bloggers have broken the story wide open, Big Media gets involved. "Instapundit has an astonishing story via the Volokh blog," gasps NRO Contributing Editor Andrew Stuttaford. "When Hillary Clinton walked onto the stage at the post-9/11 rock concert headlined by Paul McCartney she was booed by the audience, many of whom were firefighters, police officers and their families (I saw the show live on TV that night). It appears that, so far as VH1 is concerned, these folks are allowed to risk their lives for us, but they are not permitted to express their opinion. The DVD of the event reportedly now has Hillary walking on stage, but to cheers, not jeers."

Here's where things get really shocking. "In this context, it's worth checking out The Commissar Vanishes, an excellent book that shows one aspect of how the past was doctored in Stalin's Russia," Stuttaford writes. "In essence, history was continually amended in keeping with the Party line. The inconvenient faces of those who had been purged or otherwise fallen out of favor were, like Hillary's jeers, simply edited out of the photographic record."

For a long time I've had a sneaking suspicion that VH-1 was more than just a barely-watched cable channel with a mandate to endlessly recycle the most disposable moments of pop culture, that it was, in fact, the true chronicler of our times, a Tacitus in Hammer pants, meticulously crafting a vast portrait of the best, most important, and most revealing components of contemporary American culture, so that the generations who come after us will have a comprehensive record of what we were like. But I have to admit that even I had no idea that VH-1 is actually the secret ruler of our land, a Stalin in Hammer pants, ruling over us with an iron fist, squelching dissent at every opportunity (but I guess that's what that totalitarian censorship of Late World With Zach was about!), and brazenly changing History to suit its own nefarious ends.

When I first heard about the alteration of the video, my response was something like, "Hmm, I wonder why they did that. Well, it was an event meant to honor victims and victims' families, a huge outpouring of goodwill to those who were hit hardest by this devastating act of evil...maybe VH-1 thought the people who booed Hillary Clinton might, upon reflection, feel embarrassed about their actions. And instead of memorializing those actions, they erased them."

Of course, even that would have been damn presumptive on VH-1's part, because when the concertgoers booed Clinton, they probably meant it. But thanks to the investigative efforts of Volokh, Reynolds, and Stuttaford, we now know the alteration has much more sinister implications than the mere impulse to retroactively impose decorum on a charged event. We know that such alterations are actually part of a much larger effort on VH-1's part to retain control over America (and the music industry) by turning our past into a montage of lies and propaganda. Indeed, VH-1 says Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" is one of the 100 greatest dance songs of all time, but the way I remember things, it really wasn't all that popular. And that's just one example. Mark my words, if we don't start fighting back now, it won't be long before VH-1 despot Fred Graver and his history-murdering henchmen replace the Lincoln Memorial with a statue of Lenny Kravitz...

-- G. Beato

09/08/02: Sloppy Second-guessing
09/06/02: Friday Follow-ups
09/05/02: Bury Them Deep
09/04/02: White Gold
09/02/02: 24 Hour Party People
08/29/02: Slender: Liberal Lies About Ann Coulter

Also recommended:
Cooking With Bigfoot

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