A Dose of Reality for MTV, or the 1 Percent Monetizes Protest Against the 1 Percent

This is the true story of seven strangers volunteering to sleep on the ground and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being revolutionary and start getting frivolous.

Yes, MTV has put the word out that it is casting a “Real World” season to be set at Occupy Wall Street, the primary force that currently gives the network's target demographic meaning and direction.

Occupy Wall Street protesters may get a new platform to voice their opinions after MTV's “The Real World” reality TV show posted a casting call reaching out to supporters of the movement. The casting call, posted on Monday this week by “Real World” production company Bunim/Murray on website Craigslist, stated they were “seeking cast members to tell their unique stories” and specifically asks people if they are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement and in their 20s.

Let's be clear about one thing: MTV is not committed to salient programming any more than MSNBC is committed to meaningful progressive discourse. These are, remember, subsets of gigantic media conglomerates whose sole focus – whose sole focus – is the accumulation of wealth for their stockholders. Valuable additions to the national character are merely incidental to this drive: people interested in provocative programming are a demographic, and media corporations will cater to any demographic that will earn them advertising revenue.

Viacom, which owns MTV, was perfectly happy a few years ago to fire hundreds of employees, inflict payment delays on those who remained and institute hiring freezes for potential newcomers, all just in time for the holidays, if it would help out with the company's bottom line, which it did. That is the precise trajectory to expect from a massive conglomerate: contribute to the decimation of an economy just shocked by horrific duplicity and fraudulence from its financial sector and then, a few years later, when everyone gets so fed up with the situation that they take to the streets, capitalize on their fury by exploiting the protesters.

Already Viacom has spend big sums of money during the still-young 2012 election cycle to buy off politicians who can help its effort to consolidate its power, limit the range of available media voices and earn windfall profits for its corporate ownership. And once the election is over and Viacom has helped place its allies on both sides of the aisle, it will continue to spend tons to lobby for the type of policies that will secure its election victories.

“The Real World” once served as an important voice in a number of the struggles that arouse the passions of the Wall Street occupiers. I remember being a child and watching the show's first few seasons. Among the scenes televised was New York's Kevin Powell's eloquent and inflammatory argument that, race being inextricable from power in the United States, it was impossible for black people – the race most historically disempowered – to be racists (this at a time when Chuck D, Louis Farrakhan, and others were routine recipients of charges of “reverse racism” from the white commentariat).

I also remember Los Angeles's David Edwards being kicked off the show for exerting his physical force in a way that threatened the sexual autonomy of the women in his cast, and I remember San Francisco's Puck Rainey kicked off the show for his outlandish behavior, especially against the disease-stricken Pedro Zamora, whose life served as an important galvanizer in an America just climbing out of its horrific AIDS epidemic and whose death was a poignant casualty in that struggle.

A few years after those groundbreaking seasons, though, “The Real World's” edge had gone along with the quality of the network's other programming, and the show became just another vehicle in trite reality television's eventual conquest of the airwaves and demolition of many screenwriters' livelihoods.

Don't be surprised if MTV's cameras are greeted with underwhelming warmth at Liberty Plaza Park. Protesters there have already shouted down camera crews – not just from Fox News, which was predictable, but even that of the sympathetic Cenk Uygur, of the “Young Turks,” whose broadcast one protester insisted on disrupting, accusing the host of producing “protest porn.”

Bre Lembitz, 21, tells me that, were she cast, “I would take a vow of silence right after I joined, to make the show extremely boring. Everything I say can and will be used against me in a court of MTV.”

Hero Vincent, 21, is similarly enthusiastic about the idea. “If they gave me money to do it,” he says, “I'd start my own show in order to badmouth that one.”

One wonders how much good footage Occupy Wall Street will allow the media behemoth to capture. If the answer is “not enough to produce a series,” then the network will really learn what it looks like when people stop being polite and start getting real.