Much Ado About A Small Matter

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The baring of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show was certainly a cheap, low-class, vulgar stunt. But cheap, low-class and vulgar apply to the majority of popular entertainment and advertising in the United States.

What did the National Football League expect when it hired MTV to produce the show? The Westminster Choir? MTV stands for Mostly Tasteless Viewing.

That said, declaring a woman’s breast obscene and launching a federal investigation shows you how bizarre and crazy this country has become. If a woman’s breast is obscene, then what is the federal government going to do about millions of suckling babes? Perhaps arrest them all for participating in an obscene act.

It was a stunt. The Federal Communications Commission should simply fine CBS and MTV and be done with it. What is there to investigate? Presumably nearly 90 million people saw it. Whether it was planned or not is beside the point. CBS and MTV are responsible for the actions of their hired help. But it’s no big deal.

Surely, not even in TV land, is there anyone out there superstitious enough to believe that the mere sight of a bare breast will cause harm to his or her body or soul. Surely we have gotten beyond the point where anyone considers a naked human body to be obscene. After all, religious people believe it was created in God’s image.

Sometimes I think scientists should quit searching for intelligent life in outer space and see if they can find any on this planet. President Bush, who has gotten us into two undeclared wars, is worried about athletes taking steroids. Odd, since when he was a baseball club owner, he apparently had no interest in the subject.

Now Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, who is willing to let big corporations devour what’s left of a free press in this country, claims he was highly offended by a fleeting glimpse of a pasty-covered nipple.

Presumably the whole nation must now concentrate on one bare breast and a bunch of steroid-using athletes. They, by the way, are not the only people who have taken these drugs. Try police departments and the military, both now officially designated as heroes, or visit your local health club.

I suggest that there are other things besides bulging muscles and a bare breast that should concern the political leadership in this country. A few of them are: 35 million people living in poverty; the federal deficit; the U.S. trade deficit; the hemorrhaging of jobs to cheap-labor countries; the $2 trillion debt consumers are now carrying; the lack of a national health-insurance program; trying to find a way to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan; passing a fair and intelligible tax code that isn’t written by lobbyists for the rich; and stopping the massive migration, both legal and illegal, into this country.

As for the vulgarity on television, turn it off. As for the vulgarity in the movies, don’t go. Nobody in America is being force-fed this stuff. Perhaps it is we, the American people, who have become vulgar, low-class and without taste. After all, that’s where egalitarianism usually leads. The mob has never produced great literature, great art or great music. It has always produced pretty much what you see in the pop culture today — the mindless fawning over the untalented.

I’m reminded of a stern, unreconstructed Southern minister who opposed public education, arguing that if you teach everyone to read, all you will do is create a mass market for trash literature.

Hopefully, there are still Americans who are intelligent and well-educated, and who have the ability to set priorities, clearly define problems and organize people’s efforts to solve them. Hopefully, there are millions of Americans who, while they might have been offended by the inappropriate venue, recognize that a bare breast is not a national issue or a proper subject of a federal investigation.

Thank God for hope.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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