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Jewish World Review Feb. 6, 2004 / 14 Shevat, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

The Investigation | The name is Spade. Sam Spade.

I got the call right after the Super Bowl half-time performance. It was Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Powell. He was outraged by the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake stunt. He said America deserved better. He hired me to investigate the matter.

I met Timberlake at his palatial estate, but he stuck to his slippery story. He said it was an accident. Yeah, he was supposed to yank at Jackson's bustier, but he had no idea it would spill her endowments before 100 million people.

I visited Jackson at her mother's home. Unlike Timberlake, she sang like a canary. She said it WAS planned. She said she was sorry if she offended anyone - not just sorry, you see, but sorry IF she offended anyone. She was emphatic that no one else was involved.

I wasn't convinced. It was time to pay a visit to MTV Group President Judy McGrath. See, MTV is the sister company of CBS, and CBS broadcast the Super Bowl. But it was MTV that organized the half-time production. McGrath said Jackson and Timberlake arranged the bustier stunt on their own. She said she was disappointed they didn't tell anyone.

McGrath's demeanor enraged me. Sure, I might not tie her directly to the bustier incident, but this woman was guilty with a big G. She deliberately broadcasts lascivious programming to lure teens to her channel - programming that promotes risky and destructive behavior of every kind.

You see, McGrath knows that young teens are impressionable. They're longing to fit in, be hip, be accepted. MTV promises them hip-ness - if only they buy the useless products the channel hawks. If only they mimic the casual sex, excessive drinking and other self-absorbed behavior MTV liberally promotes. But McGrath wouldn't budge.

I knew I had to dig deeper. And I knew exactly where to go.

"Mr. Tagliabue, I think the NFL is guilty on multiple counts."

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I explained how the NFL wrote the book on crass commercialism. They kicked off the 2003 season with a big celebration on the Washington Mall. Sure, the Mall forbids commercial activity but a $10 million NFL payoff changed that rule. The NFL then exploited the war in Iraq for its own gain - a bizarre event that featured Britney Spears, who had just locked lips with Madonna.

The NFL knew when they hired MTV that the half-time show would be garbage. Even if Jackson didn't display her chest jewelry, they knew Kid Rock would desecrate the American flag. That Nelly would grab his pelvic region. And that Timberlake would bump and grind with Jackson.

No, the NFL knew that MTV would stage a shock-and-smut show designed to lure coveted young male viewers. Then CBS could charge a premium for its advertising, a premium that would be shared with the NFL. But Tagliabue wouldn't crack.

As I drove home, I mulled the situation over. Then it hit me. At first, it appeared that the stunt backfired, but it did NOT backfire. To wit:

Janet Jackson's new album was released the day after the Super Bowl. The publicity surely helped her increase sales. Ditto for Timber-twit.

MTV came off even hipper and edgier to the teen audience it craves. Surely they're tuning in more now than before the Super Bowl.

The NFL can pretend to be outraged when in fact the stunt generated increased interest for everything NFL - particularly among the coveted young male audience.

Heck, even FCC Commission Powell was able to score points off the incident.

Suddenly the whole scam became clear to me. The stunt worked exactly as planned. Everyone who stood to gain did gain. And who stood to lose? Well, everyone.

The America culture is growing coarser by the minute. Americans are losing their sense of propriety and good taste. Vulgarity is hip and cool and the concept of class is slipping from our grasp a little more every day.

THAT is the real crime that was committed here. But nobody asked me to investigate that one.

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01/23/04: Weighty adjustment
01/16/04: Bucks for betrothals
01/09/04: Decisions, decisions
01/02/04: Making New Year's resolutions for others
12/27/03: Holiday Pork
12/19/03: FOUND! The captured-Saddam transcript
12/12/03: Peace, Man
12/05/03: Who are you, Miss Manners?
12/01/03: Joyless, selfish children
11/21/03: Thanksgiving, updated for our times
11/14/03: Hang in there, tubby America, your day in the sun will come
11/07/03: Morale at Veterans' Day
10/31/03: The Big Picture
10/24/03: A sorry bunch
10/17/03: Conversation with a typical poll respondent?
10/10/03: Men and women and brains
10/03/03: Iraqi Pork
09/26/03: They would not leave
09/19/03: A radical idea
09/12/03: Food Guide Pyramid has a "stupidity factor"?
09/05/03: Flag waving and football cheering
08/29/03: People who have it all, too often don't
08/25/03: Attack of the 'virus twits'
08/08/03: Why not have a whole slew of the world's dignitaries and leaders come by to visit you?
08/01/03: Do you really want to live until 500?
07/18/03: "Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
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06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2003, Tom Purcell