America has a way of exploding in disproportionate horror at momentary offenses. Or at least certain Americans do — the sort who make a lot of money by pretending to be cultural shepherds, and spend a lot of time bleating in terror at the possibility of a flash of nudity on national television. Won’t someone think of the childrens?
Seriously, when has the U.S. looked dumber and more reactionary on the world stage than the January, 2004 kerfuffle over the appearance of Janet Jackson’s boobie shield, or whatever the hell that thing was, during the Super Bowl halftime show?
The country went bananas — or, at least, those portions of the country claiming moral superiority and the guardianship thereof, meaning that a bunch of Republicans had a new stick with which to beat them decadent, coke-snorting child molesters in Hollyweird, and pander to their terrified constituents with stories of how those godless liberal bastards were deliberately staging these provocative little accidents to erode America’s soul one boobie at a time, or something.
Eventually, the Federal Communications Commission slapped CBS with a $550,000 fine for broadcasting the scandalous non-flash, Americans had closure on their long national nightmare, and George W. Bush was re-elected later that fall. Way to go, moral guardians.
Anyhow, long story short: It seems that certain Americans have come to their senses. Not the moral guardians — they’ve long since bargained those away in exchange for their soapboxes — but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which just threw out the FCC’s fine, saying the commission “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in response to what was (a) an accident for which CBS could not have planned and (b) not really all that offensive, in the final analysis.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not arguing that CBS is a poor little Mom and Pop operation that deserves to be protected from the big, bad FCC. But l’affair boobie shield was an empty scandal kept alive so a few people could score some cheap political points, and it’s gratifying to see that four years later we’ve come a little bit further down the road to being grown-ups.
I expect John McCain and Barack Obama will be making statements about this later today. After all, wasn’t Super Bowl XXXVIII the darkest day in the history of American culture? I seem to remember that being the collective wisdom at one point.