When I was younger, I remember wholeheartedly embracing that whole freedom of speech thing. After all, those of us raised in the 1990’s are members of the first generation to live in an America with legal flag burning and Banned Books Week at our school libraries. Growing up, I couldn’t wait for my chance to denounce book burners, praise flag burners, and set fire to anything standing in the way of free speech.
After Justin Timberlake revealed Janet Jackson’s jewel-covered breast at the Super Bowl halftime show, I was pretty pissed off at reactionary responses like the 5-minute broadcast delay at the Grammy’s and the FCC’s crack down on language and sexuality. I wanted to ridicule the people who are so thoroughly convinced that Janet Jackson’s breasts, Eric Cartman’s mouth, and Grand Theft Auto are accelerating America’s spiral into indecency, corruption, and violence.
Janet and Justin’s faux-sex play was risqué and amusing until it turned into a striptease. Then it was downright sinful. The only sin that I’m aware of is how wounded the two pop-stars were after the whole thing blew up in their faces. They could have looked into the cameras and said, “Yeah, you saw a little skin. Now you think we’re worse than Hitler. And you want us to grow up?” Instead, they cried, apologized, and vanished back into the annals of pop culture.
I don’t care if Janet planned this event to hype her upcoming album (in stores March 30), if she and Justin were going for shock value, or if something legitimately went wrong at the last minute. America shouldn’t give a damn about something this trivial. But then I realized, neither do I.
I just don’t care about Janet’s boobs. As much as I want to defend her ability to express herself, I can find no legitimate reason to waste my time defending her right to act stupid on national television. If the best freedom of expression issue that America can fight over is pop-stars getting into sexy trouble at the Super Bowl, then I don’t want to waste my time and energy defending my first amendment freedoms.
Ditto Britney and Madonna. Yeah, that was kind of hot, but I can’t think of a reason to protect your right to sex each other up on MTV.
For that matter, ditto MTV. You just get worse every year. You were supposed to be fueling our rage to tear the world apart and reshape it to our liking, but instead you force-feed us Cribs and Newlyweds in an attempt to make us fill our emptiness by buying more from your sponsors. Do you really think you’re justified because you tell us to use condoms and vote?
Ditto Toby Keith and The Dixie Chicks. We like to listening to country western music when we’re plastered and square dancing, not when we’re contemplating the future of our nation. I’m all for artistic freedom, but America likes country music because it lets us relax and act silly, not because it makes us fight about controversial political issues.
Ditto Al Franken and Ann Coulter. If the best political commentary you have to offer is “Republicans suck,” and “Not as much as Democrats suck each other,” then screw this crap, I’m moving to Mexico.
Ditto thetruth.com and all those “harmless?” anti-marijuana adds. Your clever attempts to hyperbolize drug use in America are just filling us with more misinformation than Philip Morris spewed at us in the first place.
Ditto internet pornography. You were supposed to be free and hardcore, not a maze of members’ only sites and ads for the penis enlargement industry.
Ditto www.princeton.edu. You have such potential as a center for student resources, but all you ever do is post summaries of “historic” discoveries and upcoming displays of our political correctness. While alums and prospective parents are undoubtedly enamored, we students just stumble through your huge bandwidth of crap before getting to webmail or blackboard.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed off that some 70% of America was offended by Janet’s knockers. I’m pissed off that politicians are trying to build moon bases and ban gay marriage while social security is disintegrating and a staggering number of Americans can’t afford housing and healthcare. I’m real pissed off about banned books, censored movies, and dead puppies. And I don’t actually hate anti-smoking campaigns, Newlyweds, or nipple jewelry.
CBS has every right to censor Janet and Justin, suck all the fun out of live television, and air season after season of Survivor. I’m a little unsure why we need a federal agency to label just what passes as debauchery on television, but I’m even more confused as to why celebrity stupidity is the only issue able to incite debate over the importance of free expression.
As tempted as I am to denounce all forms of censorship, I’m having more and more trouble finding free speech worth defending. I really want to find reasons to light the world on fire, but it just isn’t the same when Janet and Justin are all I have left to fight for.