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There are fnords on television. In The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Robert Anton Wilson and Bob Shea define a fnord as a subliminal hint littered everywhere in modern society designed to inspire a sense of rising panic, fear, and revulsion in whoever sees it. They say that fnords are everywhere we look, except in advertisements and television commercials.

Sometimes it's possible to see a fnord just by its sheer obviousness, its sheer prominence in our line of sight. Sometimes a fnord is so huge that our subconscious can't edit it out entirely. The fnords are very easy to detect on television.

There is a huge fnord on MTV: female VJs seem to change every few weeks; Kurt Loder has been doing MTV News since its inception. Another fnord is the way loser rock bands have suddenly become the new MTV/VH1 flavor of the month. Videos by bands like Crazy Town, Semisonic, Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, the Goo-Goo Dolls, Barenaked Ladies, and Three Doors Down manage to litter the video rotation without getting non-video exposure of any kind. The obvious attempt to make this weak-ass rock accepted without giving any of the musicians an identity is completely blatant. MTV has been in cahoots with the record industry since before MTV's inception. The tactic is as time-tested as it is overused: litter the airwaves with a musical genre, without giving the bands any exposure that might carry them into legitimate stardom, and then, after the genre is friendly and non-threatening, break out some new band.

They did it to grunge. The did it to gangsta rap. They did it to girl bands (anyone notice that now that Lilith Fair has driven the franchise into the ground, girl bands are out of the spotlight AGAIN?). They did it to R&B. They're doing it to boy bands now. They're doing it to teenage girl idols for a second time. They did it to "electronica" (remember when Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were footsoldiers of a new revolution in music?).

But MTV is slick. They know that people are catching on to their game, which is why they're filling the flavor of the month with fnords, trying to hide the fact that music videos are just CD advertisements. They even bury the videos at the edges of their programming schedule. Since when did VH1 (Video Hits One) start playing six hours of Behind the Music every day? Does MTV think that Say What? Karaoke is relevant? Let's not forget Carson Daly and TRL. People who actually want to see music videos sit on MTV's channels for hours on end without seeing anything resembling real music-- why? Because music doesn't sell records-- having the latest flavor of the month show up on TRL to hang out does. MTV has decided that kids don't want to appreciate music, they want to buy CDs from their glamorous friends.

But it's all a con game, because the machine doesn't work without musical talent to feed to it. Manufactured bands such as *N'Sync and the Spice Girls only stay in fashion so long, and then you need real music to create stars. That's why loser rock is sitting on deck, played after hours with no media exposure. Because in a year or two, when all the kids get bored with Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, MTV needs to have a new cash cow ready to trot out for the slaughter. The fnords are there to tell the kids "stay away, we're not ready for you to like this yet", but the music is there because the kids have to get used to it before MTV can sell it to them.

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