- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

I really didn’t want to go there, but I can’t resist the peer pressure. So go there I must with Miss Janet (out of “Control”) Jackson and her “Nasty” boy Justin Timberlake.

No question, the Super Bowl peep show was “off the hook,” as the MTVers used to say, but somebody should have used “the hook” like the dreaded cane on “Showtime at the Apollo” long before the American audience started booing.

Years before Miss Jackson’s unexpected exposure, Madonna crawled all over Christ nailed to the cross and sold millions of records. Britney Spears being symbolically stripped by two men during an NFL extravaganza on a stage on the Mall came long after Mick Jagger swaggered around on a stage, suggestively licking his lips and singing “Brown Sugar.”

We really “have come a long way, baby,” but who knew we’d slip so far down the filthy drain so fast? Has it been lost on everyone who is screaming about the MTV-produced halftime show during the sanctimonious Super Bowl that MTV has been producing lewd and loud programming aimed at impressionable children and teenagers for decades?

Come on, it’s all right for Nelly to sing “It’s getting hot in here, let’s take off all our clothes” nonstop on MTV and Black Entertainment Television, both products of media conglomerate Viacom, but not for Justin to make “you naked before this song is over” for two seconds during the network “family” viewing hour?

If it’s not appropriate viewing for children and families, it shouldn’t be aired anywhere. Right?

But I haven’t heard anybody raising a ruckus about the daily diet of dirt being dished out to children, not only on cable but even during the network news rundown.

While I would not lift a single finger to defend what Miss Jackson and the MTV Crude Club did in shoving and showing their wares during their Super Bowl performance, I’ve got serious issues with the hypocrisy and hullabaloo that this cultural controversy has wrought.

Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, Kid Rock, P. Diddy and the like are merely symptoms of a more pervasive problem in society. It is a problem that speaks to our lack of decency and decorum. Remember those? The things you wouldn’t want your grandma to find out you did behind her back? Unlike what Miss Jackson sings, we’ve become a country with a culture that’s out of control.

It’s not just push-the-envelope rock stars and pop icons who pose the morality issue. Our children are exposed to crooked corporate raiders, double-talking politicians, bad-boy athletes and abused or drugged-out daughters.

Turn on the tube day or night, Sunday through Sunday, and it’s sex, war, guns, drugs and thievery all in the name of self-indulgent or insecure fame and greed.

Forget Michael Jackson, even Martha Stewart can’t make the cut as a decent role model these days.

In the real world, Justin and Janet — whatever their miscalculated motivation — just committed a “my bad.” (That’s “oops, sorry,” for doing or saying something real stupid, to us old fuddy-duddies.) But, the beat goes on because we let it.

No one has suggested that these individuals, not just their networks, ought to be fined or punished. No one has suggested that their records be boycotted or the performances canceled. Don’t even dare mention the “C” for censor word.

Federal Communications Chairman Michael Powell was so “outraged” by Sunday’s show that he called for an investigation. Families “deserve” better programming, he correctly insists.

Congress is rightly considering stricter sanctions and regulations not only of the public airwaves but of private cable networks. The networks, private and public, should face huge fines but they should have been imposed before the programming got so crude.

Pay attention people. Anybody been channel surfing lately? Does anyone know what constitutes “in poor taste” anymore? “Pay-per-view”-ers who were so “shocked,” on Sunday ought to be ashamed. They buy and watch far worse on 200 channels-plus courtesy of cablevision and satellite dishes.

How many parents honestly monitor what their children are watching 24/7? Since when is it not vulgar and tasteless for children to be exposed to scantily clad women, crotch-grabbing crooners, gyrating duos and foul-mouthed celebrities and commentators and cherubs during prime-time network television?

We’re just getting more of what we pay for, and at a very high cost. Why else would more households be tuned to cable than network TV? With each passing season, the raw and “reality” shows get sexier, sleazier and more surrealistic. Smut sells because we’ve allowed it to sell.

Too bad it took an exposed Miss Jackson on the boob tube to force this necessary action that worried parents have been seeking for decades. We need to hit the greedy media producers and performers, who lack moral responsibility, where it hurts most but will do the most good — in their pocketbooks.

Wrong, wrong, wrong was the “wardrobe-malfunction-costume-reveal.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, too, are all those who now want to condemn only Miss Jackson’s exposure.

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