The nation is at war. Osama bin Laden remember him? is still on the loose. Government at all levels has money woes. The nation faces a record $521 billion deficit this year. Schools are in crisis. Traces of the deadly poison ricin have turned up in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's personal mailroom. It's a presidential election year.
And the nation is riveted on Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl half-time show.
Here's a sampling of what editorial writers and columnists around the nation had to say this week:
From The Daily Leader in Brookhaven, Miss.: ....While all the fallout (no pun intended) is from the so-called Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," other parts of the halftime show were downright disgusting, too.
Nobody is saying anything about the sexual content of the song lyrics. Neither the doomed Jackson-Justin Timberlake duet nor the words of crotch-grabbing rapper Nelly have a place on prime time, family television.
Even singer (and we use that term loosely) Kid Rock's attempt to show his patriotism was in vain because of his flagrant misuse of the American flag. Those familiar with simple flag etiquette know that to cut a hole in a U.S. flag and wear it as a serape is not the proper thing to do. Decorum is lost on most of today's overpaid and over-publicized entertainers, though.
Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell has called the Jackson-Timberlake debacle a classless, crass and deplorable stunt.
We think that's a good way to sum up the entire halftime show.
From columnist Cal Thomas: ... Janet Jackson, a member of America's most dysfunctional family, bared a breast during her onstage gyrations. There were the usual network apologies to "anyone who was offended." Jackson's singing partner, Justin Timberlake, should get the award for the ultimate in disingenuousness: "I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction. ... It was not intentional." Sure. Why, then, was Jackson wearing a pasty, instead of underwear that might have limited her exposure during the "malfunction"?
... There were so many commercials for erectile dysfunction medications, one might have thought it has become an epidemic, on a par with AIDS or cancer. Other commercials featured a flatulent horse igniting a candle that blows up in a woman's face; a dog that bites a man in the crotch until he surrenders his beer; and a chimpanzee that puts the moves on a woman and then asks if she has a problem with back hair.
... CBS should have expected trash. Anyone who watches even a little MTV knows that raunch and roll is standard programming fare. If you hire people like these, you're not going to get gospel music.
From the Daily News in Lebanon (Pa.): So, we were watching the boob tube Sunday with a goodly fraction of the world when the device really lived up to its name. Celebrities understand that exposure is what helps them become and remain celebrities. Janet Jackson provided an object lesson, among other things, of that understanding. ...
Ironically, we'd lend more credence to the idea that the exposure was accidental had there been more of it. Jackson, however, was wearing a piece of body jewelry roughly the size of a Chihuahua on her featured part, a fair indication that she might have meant to show it off. ...
If there's a lesson to be learned, it's one that should have been known for a long time: On live TV, anything can happen. During one brief segment of the most-watched show of the year, almost everything did.
From columnist Matt Towery: ... (T)he only thing about the halftime show that could be described as sensational was the letdown. It wasn't just that Janet Jackson looking and sounding too much like her brother Michael for my comfort gave the world a bawdy now-you-see it, now-you-don't peek at her breast. I was even more disappointed that the whole show demonstrated a haughty and self-indulgent lack of respect for the many families and children watching it.
I'm no prude. ... But did anyone listen to the lyrics of some of these songs? I thought the Super Bowl was supposed to appeal to the best in us to American talent, skill, hard work and competitiveness. Instead, on Sunday we got an in-your-face salute to everything you know your kids hear on the radio but hope they don't understand. The customary innuendo of popular music became a defiant collage of risque visuals.
... Don't these Hollywood idiots realize that real live men and women in our military have gone through hell this past year? Have they no concept of how these servicemen and women cling to radios and televisions in these far-off centers of fear and violence, hoping for one small gesture of hope and respect directed toward them? Couldn't the halftime show have found a minute or two to salute them?
Some final thoughts: There is irony in our collective outrage. Imagine an alien being trying to grasp it all. Baring a breast covered by a pasty for a millisecond is definitely taboo. But grown men getting paid big bucks to charge and knock each other down to get an oval-shaped ball from one side of a field to another is great entertainment. Some cultures might call it violence; not ours. It's fun. It's sport. It's ... weird. Isn't it?
And here's what we all know, but don't like to talk about: While the Super Bowl halftime antics may have been distasteful, they still sell and celebrities and networks know it. How many people turned off the tube after witnessing the raunchiness? If this kind of stuff didn't have an audience, it wouldn't have made it to the Super Bowl. We do get what we pay for, and Americans have shown time and time again they're more than willing to pay for sleaze. If we're truly interested in cleaning up network TV, we should start by turning it off.
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