Congress Shall Make No Law Abridging the Freedom of Janet Jackson’s Boobies

Well, the intoxicating ride that was all the Google hits from “Janet Jackson + Breast Shot” is over with the sobering nausea of Sunday dinner with your parents while hungover: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Viacom president Mel Karmazin are appearing before a House panel on decency today. On one hand it’s the sort of idiocy that’s hard to get excited about. On the other hand, it’s so stupid that it would make a great reason to vote out a few dozen lawmakers. Imagine the pathetic stories they’d have to tell their grandchildren: “Well, I had a chance really to make a difference in the country but I was voted out because of my patriotic stand against Janet Jackson’s boob.”

The population at large will ignore the actions of the House panel because, well, because it’s hard to convert our collected groans into any political power. But the real mistake is for young voters to blame this political moralizing on the current administration.

“Indecency” is such a fruitful issue for politicians because they can talk a whole lot about it, throw millions of taxpayer dollars around “investigating” it and then forget about it once the fad passes (and judging by our downturn of Google hits, it’s passed). Besides the obvious problem of wasting money, time and resources, politicians’ zeal to investigate “indecency” makes you wonder if they’ve ever run across this phrase “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” Surely, there was a short civics course they had to take before they started their jobs?

The greatest damage they do is to the free market. By making businesses such as Viacom and the NFL beholden to imaginary content standards, politicians cripple the system. If Janet’s tit were so offensive, the public would let the advertisers know by hitting them where it hurt — the wallet (which they did) — and we wouldn’t see boobs on tv for a long time (which we won’t). As it is, politicians and activists like L. Brent Bozell III of the Parents Television Council who get their panties in a bunch from something as benign as a bare breast beg the question: “Why is a female breast offensive?”

Was Janet’s breast really offensive? Haven’t we all seen breasts before? You would assume that a family-values conservative like Bozell would support breast-feeding children, thereby exposing them to nude breasts when they’re only infants!

So it had to be context. I guess mixing a football game with scantily-clad women just doesn’t makes sense to these people. “What?!? Unchecked machismo? There’s no place for that on a football field!”

Unfortunately, I’ve already heard the gripes from my peers that the heavy-handed moralizing from this administration is very disturbing. It is to me too. Only I wouldn’t blame that on the Republicans. It was good ole Al Gore who cemented my opposition to the Democrats when his wife took her conservative family-values group, the PMRC, to Congress to complain about rock music. George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle didn’t roll out the welcome mat to their party with their crack-down on Murphy Brown and Ice-T. Then there was Bill Clinton who suggested a government-issued content monitor for television called the Clipper Chip. Or what about Joe Lieberman who bragged that he was the first to call for hearings (read: “waste tax dollars”) on video game violence.

Should anyone take such offense to the idea of the government getting involved in halftime shows that it drives him or her to the polls, simply voting against the party in charge by voting for the other major party is the wrong response. The problem with playing pragmatic politics is that you’ll only get a different version of the status quo. Lucky for Americans, we have a legal principle — the First Amendment — that protects our freedom of speech. All we have to do is hold politicians’ feet to the constitutional fire. It isn’t in their proscribed scope to investigate halftime titties, video games, television violence or rock music. So tell them all to butt-out, but do it on principle. Support candidates not just because their party isn’t the status quo but because their principles are in-line with those of the constitution.

Otherwise, we’ll be hearing about the House panel to investigate Britney’s Brazilian wax. (We wish…)

###