Americans are now in the midst of the real aftermath of the unfortunate breast-baring during halftime at the Super Bowl: the political pandering that leads to ever-more-intrusive restrictions on liberties. The framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights tried to protect us from this, but the attitude of most modern politicians toward the First Amendment is — well, offensive and indecent.
The halftime incident did shock many people, and many expressed that shock in protests to CBS, which aired the program, and the Federal Communications Commission.
At the level of the private sector, action has already been taken. Janet Jackson was disinvited from a couple of public appearances and some of her live television appearances have inspired producers to use a five-second delay on those broadcasts.
What’s done can’t be undone, but steps have already been taken to see that something similar doesn’t happen again.
Problem handled, perhaps imperfectly but handled nonetheless.
A sensible person might think so, but most sensible people underestimate the opportunism of politicians and bureaucrats.
First FCC Chairman Michael Powell (who has been commendably trying to loosen ownership restrictions as unwarranted limitations on freedom) said he was shocked — deeply shocked — by the display. He promised to do something pronto, starting with forcing some FCC analysts to listen to a year’s worth of shock-jock Howard Stern’s jejune ramblings.
Then Congress chimed in, voting to raise the fines for “indecency” to $500,000 from $11,000 for performers and $27,500 for FCC license holders.
Of course, neither of these actions would have prevented the Super Bowl incident, but who cares? Our brave nannies have created the appearance of protecting us.
If anyone took the First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law … abridging freedom of speech, or of the press” — seriously, none of this would be happening.
But the country took a wrong turn back in the 1930s, when broadcasting was young. Instead of viewing broadcasting as the press with new technology, as in fact it is, Congress concocted the pleasing myth that “the people” own nature’s airwaves, arguing that the broadcast spectrum was limited and a referee was needed to control access. So broadcasting was made a second-class media citizen with a federal agency set up to oversee and censor it. The set-up continues, even as the broadcast spectrum grows exponentially.
Protecting children is the job of families. Adults have the full right to decide what is offensive to them and make their choices accordingly. Government should butt out.