MTV marathon to air names of hate crimes victims

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Is there anything on television that hasn't been done? Yes, in fact, and for proof, viewers need only watch MTV beginning tonight. And watch. And watch.

Until sleep, boredom or the sheer numbing weight of it all forces them away from the set.

The "List" � shorthand for a 17- hour marathon in which the names of hundreds of hate crime victims will be scrolled � is, nonetheless, a risk for MTV (which, after all, has taken risks before).

After five minutes, viewers simply might say, "I get it," and move on. Viewers might forget all about the movie, "Anatomy of a Hate Crime" (concerning the Matthew Shepard murder), which launches MTV's "Fight for Your Rights" campaign tonight.

Or viewers might simply say, "what hypocrites."

Isn't MTV, after all, the same network that effectively promotes the music of Eminem, whom critics charge effectively promotes hate crimes with his lyrics?

Sure it's a risk. So what? MTV hasn't got enough money in the bank to take a flier every now and then? And what a flier it is: The list, culled from FBI, Justice Department and police reports, as well as various human rights groups, runs to several hundred names, dating back nearly a decade.

Each name will be accompanied by specifics of the crime, but in some instances, only a first name will be given to protect the privacy of victims.

A variety of artists will read the names and crimes (not, presumably, Slim Shady). The list will air, commercial-free.

"In March we started polling viewers and found out that discrimination was a huge issue," said Stephen Friedman, MTV's vice president of strategic partnerships. "Since our audience is most likely the victims and aggressors, what better way to highlight this?"

Of Eminem and other artists who might conceivably be part of the problem, Friedman says:

"MTV's standards department makes sure we'll never air his homophobic and misogynist comments and we wouldn't be relevant to our audience if we banned him altogether.

"We do censor the hateful stuff, but we're not going to censor the artist. So our answer is to always show the other side."

For 17 hours no less.