The 'Flash' Seen 'Round The World
Craig von Buseck
"With freedom comes responsibility," I declared to my public speaking class at Old Dominion University last Saturday. "In the famous free speech case, Schenck v. United States (1919), Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, 'The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.'"
"Often in a free society like ours," I continued, "one freedom is balanced by the tension of another freedom, and by responsibility to the general welfare of society as a whole."
The very next day, my family, the nation, and the world -- some 100 million viewers -- witnessed a flagrant disregard of the balance of freedom and responsibility. I'm talking, of course, about the 'flash' seen 'round the world when pop singer Justin Timberlake exposed the breast of Janet Jackson on live television, only seconds after singing, "gonna get you naked by the end of this song."
In case you missed it, this was just the extreme raunchy ending to the envelope-pushing spectacle that CBS, MTV, and their cadre of pop icons foisted on the American public -- and, by the way, the world.
Earlier in the show, the singer Nelly gyrated in a sexually-charged manner that included grabbing his crotch several times as an entourage of cheerleaders behind him performed a mock strip-tease. In the lyrics of his song (please forgive me for being graphic, but I quote this to make a point) he promises that he is "looking for the right time to shoot [his] seed."
Then it was Jackson and Timberlake's turn to simulate sex with their clothes on -- that is until the former boy-band star decided to tear Jackson's clothes off.
As millions across the nation howled their disgust and disdain, officials from the NFL, CBS, MTV, and Timberlake himself hurriedly issued feeble explanations and anemic apologies.
"We are extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show," said Joe Browne, the NFL's executive vice president for communications and public relations. "They are totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the show. It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime (emphasis mine)."
"CBS deeply regrets the incident," the network said. "We attended all rehearsals throughout the week and there was no indication that any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended."
The outcry from all segments of society is warranted -- but it is late in coming to a culture that has allowed itself too much freedom, and not enough responsibility.
Sadly, if it weren't for the display of nudity in prime time -- while millions of children were watching -- the previous lasciviousness of the halftime show probably would have gone without comment. What brought forth the outcry was when the celebrities stepped over the nudity line. All that proceeded during this morally-offensive halftime exhibition has been deemed acceptable by the majority of people in our sex-crazed society.
If that is not the case, then the so-called 'moral majority' has kept its mouth tightly shut about the issue of sex and the media.
This is how far we have descended in the past 40-plus years of the cultural wars. The Middle-American frog has been boiling away in the societal pot, and has only begun to scream because the heat was suddenly and dramatically increased. What is sad is that the frog, in many ways, has been lulled into thinking that the boiling water that is killing him is actually a good thing -- a guise veiled under the vaunted banner of freedom of speech and expression.
But freedom of speech -- like all the other freedoms guaranteed by our constitution, and won at the price of the lives of hundreds of thousands who have suffered and died in war to protect it -- must be balanced by the other freedoms we enjoy, and by the responsibility of sober-minded Americans.
After the Super Bowl the CBS switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree as the frog began to scream. Phone calls from angry viewers flooded in -- normal Americans, infuriated that their homes had been invaded with licentiousness without their consent, and without warning.
CBS had tried to hush the incident, quickly cutting to a commercial at the end of the halftime show, and not mentioning it, other than a vague reference from commentator Greg Gumbel. But when it became apparent that a public relations nightmare had unfolded they quickly issued their statement.
Again, my point is that the rest of the MTV space-aged cabaret show that CBS officials did see during the week before the Super Bowl obviously didn't seem to bother them. It was only after the public outcry at the new level of "freedom of expression" that CBS back-pedaled.
MTV and Timberlake soon followed suit.
"I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction," Timberlake said, coining a new and unique euphemism. "It was not intentional and it is regrettable."
"The tearing of Janet Jackson's costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance," MTV said. "MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it."
MTV's morally-relativistic rhetoric is telling -- they don't apologize for what happened, they apologize that it offended people.
Few people in this country believe these lines coming from CBS, MTV, and Timberlake -- that is, in the part of the country that still believes in unchanging moral values. These weak admonitions sound like the pleas of a philandering husband caught in bed with a floozy for the ump-teenth time.
The insincerity is getting old.
That appears to be confirmed in the cable music channel's pre-Super Bowl promotion of Jackson's appearance -- in which MTV promised "shocking moments."
Well, they delivered what they promised.
After the Super Bowl, MTV communicated an entirely different message than their public apology to their online audience regarding what happened at halftime. On its Web site they happily paraded the headline 'Janet Gets Nasty!' "Jaws across the country hit the carpet at exactly the same time," the Web story triumphantly announced. "You know what we're talking about . . . Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and a kinky finale that rocked the Super Bowl to its core."
They didn't just 'rock the Super Bowl', but the families of this nation, and the people of the world who no doubt watched in amazement at American excess. It is no wonder that many religious people around the world decry the moral decay that is vigorously exported by the American media machine. To many, this is just another example of how America is 'the great satan'. A sad indictment of what began as a Christian nation.
And this incident goes to the core of the battle that is raging for the soul of America.
But then, this is not surprising in a society where moral absolutes are passe', and where truth is relative. The media elite -- in a manner similar to President Clinton in the midst of "Monica-gate" -- no doubt look bewildered at each other as they sip brandy and smoke cigars, wondering when America will come out of the victorian era of puritanical values. When will middle-Americans become "enlightened" to the sexual revolution? In their world of moral relativism, they can justify their philosophical position (and corresponding actions) by convincing themselves that there is nothing wrong with this type of behavior as long as it doesn't hurt anybody. "If my behavior is morally pure in my opinion, then it is morally pure for everyone," they conclude.
But the point of moral absolutes is that some behavior does hurt people -- a lot of people. The type of sexual display we witnessed during the Super Bowl sends the undeniable message to young people that this behavior is acceptable, and should be a part of their lives. And so, young people, without any counterbalancing warning of the consequences of unbridled sexuality, eagerly indulge, knowing that no one but religious prudes like myself will tell them that it is not only wrong, but it is dangerous. Thus we have skyrocketing instances of sexually-transmitted disease (resulting now in death for some from AIDS or cervical cancer), unwanted pregnancies, wanton abortions, and a trail of shattered lives and broken individuals.
That's why civil societies have agreed-upon laws, to curb immoral and dangerous behavior. But those laws must be enforced by our government, and that has not been happening in the media arena when it comes to sexually-explicit content.
We have standards in life to protect the innocent -- like the millions of children who saw more than they should have during the half-time show -- from the unchecked lust and passions of sinful human nature.
The problem is that if you don't believe in the concept of sin -- that there is a God, who has set standards of behavior, not to keep people from having fun, but to protect them from the mental, emotional, and physical dangers inherent in that behavior -- then who is to say what is right and what is wrong. Where do you draw the line?
These are individual questions that must be answered individually. But when individuals flaunt the moral law, it affects the whole of society. That is where the rule of law, the oversight of governmental agencies, and the power of the people in a representative democracy come into play, determining the line between personal liberty, and the common good of society.
It is time for the frog to wake up, to hop out of the kettle, and to take action. Stop talking, and DO SOMETHING.
The responsibility for oversight lies at the door of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has promised a "thorough and swift" investigation into whether the halftime scene violated broadcast decency laws.
"It was staged," said Bill Johnson, president of the American Decency Association. "To think that this was just a coincidence is absurd. Right after the disrobing, the lights went out and the fireworks appeared. Coincidence? I don't think so."
The Christian Coalition blames the lack of oversight by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the past several years for the outrageous NFL Super Bowl half-time show. Coalition President, Roberta Combs said, "Although legislation introduced in Congress to increase penalties for repeated offenses to $7.5 million per offense is a good start, Christian Coalition agrees with Mr. Michael Copps, one of the FCC Democrat commissioners that station licenses for repeated obscenity offenses should be revoked.
"The FCC itself has to accept most of the blame for last night's immoral broadcast on CBS. The FCC, with a 3 Republican member majority, has refused to punish the television networks for allowing the use of the F-word (see a related story) and for other outrageous behavior during the past year. And these so-called entertainers have taken advantage of the lack of oversight by the FCC."
Left-wing celebrities and the national television networks have been flaunting the broadcasting decency standards for years. It is time for Congress to apply some oversight to the Federal Communications Commission which hasn't been doing its job.
Mrs. Combs declared, "Congress needs to move aggressively to pass legislation which will finally and severely sanction those individuals and broadcasting companies and stations which violate decency standards. The American people demand it."
The FCC has promised that it will consider whether decency standards were violated by the live Super Bowl broadcast that featured Janet Jackson's exposed breast.
And the people of this nation cry out, "Finally!"
Sadly it has come to this. Decency standards that should have been upheld, and propriety that should have been curbed more than a decade ago with the first nudity on broadcast television history on NYPD Blue, have continued to decline as the networks flagrantly test their limits -- vulgar language, open homosexuality, sexual innuendo, the list goes on and on.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell issued his own news release, decrying the "classless, crass and deplorable stunt."
"Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better," Powell added. "I have instructed the commission to open an immediate investigation into last night's broadcast."
That's just as it should be, said Focus on the Family Media and Sexuality Analyst Daniel Weiss -- especially since the FCC shoulders much of the blame for networks like CBS and MTV thinking they can get away with such sexually explicit envelope-pushing.
"(Since the F-word decision), we have seen a steady torrent of coarse, degrading and indecent material on broadcast television," Weiss explained. "The complete breakdown of enforcement by this agency is virtually guaranteeing that this torrent will soon be a flood."
Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, said Powell and his fellow commissioners should have an easy time deciding whether the broadcast broke the law.
"What will the FCC have to say," he wondered, "about a young man purposefully grabbing a female's breast? Is this not patently offensive 'sexual activity' when tens of millions of children are watching?"
Scream, my fellow frogs, scream.
What You Can Do About It
Call CBS and voice your outrage:
(212) 975-4321 -- ask the receptionist for The Super Bowl Complaint Line. They claim that all complaints will be passed on to an executive at CBS
Also, express your outrage to CBS, MTV, and Viacom - the parent company of both networks.
You can compose an e-mail message and send it directly to MTV Chairman Tom Freston, CBS President Leslie Moonves and Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.
Call each network executive, here are the numbers:
Voice a citizen's complaint with the Federal Communication Commission:
Let all five FCC commissioners know that you've had enough - CBS must be punished for its raunchy Super Bowl halftime show.
Send them an e-mail message or log onto their Web site
Chairman Michael Powell -- 202-418-1000
Commissioner Michael Copps -- 202-418-2000
Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy -- 202-418-2400
Commissioner Kevin Martin -- 202-418-2100
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein -- 202-418-2300
Contact Congress and ask them to enforce decency standards in the media:
Congress by e-mail or phone
Call the Super Bowl advertisers with your opinion:
PEPSI: (914) 253-2000
CHEVROLET: (800) 222-1020
FORD: (800) 392-3673
MONSTER.COM: (800) MONSTER
BUDWEISER: (800) 342-5283
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